8 Intriguing Books About Secret Societies

Trust no one.

Cloak-and-dagger rituals. Esoteric histories. Enigmatic cliques shrouded in secrecy. We love a good book about a secret society. And in the following intriguing reads, shadowy factions are everywhere you turn, from a mysterious campus circle steeped in Greek myths to an ancient occult brotherhood threatening the world order.

By Brandon Miller

The Maidens

By Alex Michaelides

A secret society at Cambridge University is at the heart of this page-turning new thriller by Alex Michaelides, bestselling author of The Silent Patient. Students across campus adore Greek tragedy professor Edward Fosca, especially a secretive group of female students known as The Maidens. But not everyone is a fan. When a member of The Maidens is murdered, Cambridge alum Mariana Andros is convinced that Fosca’s behind the killing, and she’s determined to bring him down.

Foucault’s Pendulum

By Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco’s 1989 novel follows an academic named Casaubon who joins forces with two editors in Milan to concoct a false occult history that links the Knights Templar to mystical phenomena from around the world. But what begins as a game soon spins out of control when actual occult groups accept the trio’s hoax as fact — and are willing to kill to unlock its secrets.

The Secret History

By Donna Tartt

This celebrated novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Tartt stands as one of the best books about secret societies. The narrative follows a group of eccentric students at Vermont’s Hampden College who, under the tutelage of a charming Classics professor, develop their own way of living outside the lines. When new student Richard Papen joins the crew of misfits, he soon uncovers the darkness lurking within the group.

Ninth House - Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House

By Leigh Bardugo

In this Locus Award finalist by Leigh Bardugo, school dropout Galaxy “Alex” Stern finds herself studying at Yale University on a full-ride scholarship. She’s endured dead-end jobs and shady drug-dealer boyfriends, and she even survived a horrific murder spree that remains unsolved to this day. So how exactly did she end up studying at one of America’s most prestigious universities? And why has her mysterious benefactor tasked her with infiltrating Yale’s shadowy network of secret societies?

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

By Robin Sloan

In this dazzling 2012 novel by Robin Sloan, a laid-off web designer named Clay Jannon lands a job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. The little San Francisco shop is undoubtedly peculiar: Few customers stop by, and those who do never make a purchase — instead they check out obscure volumes from the store’s darkened corners, citing a longstanding agreement with the enigmatic Mr. Penumbra. Convinced that the bookstore is a front for something far bigger and more mysterious, Clay and his friends set out to uncover the truth about the shop and its elusive owner.

Angels & Demons

By Dan Brown

Bestselling author Dan Brown launched his blockbuster Robert Langdon series with this 2000 mystery thriller. Langdon, a Harvard symbologist, is commissioned by Swiss researchers to look into a puzzling symbol seared into the torso of a murdered physicist. Langdon’s investigation leads him to the Illuminati, an ancient secret brotherhood that has resurfaced to unleash a weapon of mass destruction on its enemy, the Catholic Church.

The Rook

By Daniel O'Malley

Daniel O’Malley puts a brilliant spin on the secret society novel in this funny and compelling espionage thriller. Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a London park surrounded by dead bodies, unable to remember how she even got there. Armed only with a set of strange instructions, Myfanwy soon learns that she’s a high-level secret agent called a Rook, tasked with protecting the world from supernatural dangers. And as if that weren’t enough, a mole has infiltrated the operation and wants Myfanwy dead.

The Seven Dials Mystery

By Agatha Christie

From legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie, The Seven Dials Mystery — first published in 1929 — is one of five books to feature Christie’s Superintendent Battle, a clever English detective. In this novel a practical joke goes awry after a murder occurs, which leads to a second murder and a quest to uncover the truth about a mysterious secret society known only as The Seven Dials.

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