"Do I have recommendations" like do I have bones in my body
If you like books about reading books, intellectualism, decadence, and “the education of our heroes”:
- Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series (The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven, to be continued): A little boy discovers that someone is burning his favourite author’s books and a whole world of intrigue is opened up. Sort of feels like you’re reading something forbidden. Absolutely perfect writing and oh-my-god scenery and characters.
- Tom Stoppard, Arcadia: A play about a girl who discovers a new mathematical principle, among other things. Insanely good dialogue.
- Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch: A bildungsroman about a boy and a painting, which I’ve heard called “The Secret History but with art instead of Classics.”
- Carol Goodman, The Lake of Dead Languages: More about the horrors of high school than actual intellectualism, I guess, but it’s a good read. The main character is a boarding-school Latin teacher. TW: Mental health issues, suicide.
- Gregory Maguire: Wicked: Okay, hear me out. The book’s massively different than the musical. There’s about 500% more university hijinks, a questionable sex club, research everywhere, and 100% more bloodshed and character deaths. Plus philosophical ponderings about fictional gods.
- E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks: This is a YA book about a boarding school where a secret society of high school boys goof around and do pseudo-intellectual shit together, while a real intellectual girl gets sick of being told she’s not allowed in the boys’ club and decides to one-up them. Much lighter tone than TSH, but I love it.
If you like main characters who are total assholes and/or unreliable narrators:
- Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves: Sort of like a horror-novel mindfuck … but for intellectuals. Minotaur analogies included. TW: Rape, misogyny, mental health issues, generally really fucked up shit.
- Lev Grossman, The Magicians: A somewhat different tone, but this is basically what TSH would have been if Richard were learning magic instead of Classics.
If you liked hearing Julian and the Greek students rant about “beauty is terror” and you like to think about Henry’s role as a monster messiah:
- Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces: Literary theory, but it reads more like a manual for how to become a monster messiah.
- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray: Dorian will remind you of the Greek students in TSH, I’m sure. There’s a lot of “live forever” in here.
If you like Greek mythology and murder-myths with a side of homoerotic subtext:
- Aeschylus, Oresteia, trans. Richard Lattimore: Trilogy of Greek tragedies in which the House of Atreus is one big beautiful clusterfuck.
- Euripides, Bacchai, trans. Colin Teevan: Greek tragedy in which Bacchus drives a bunch of people mad and murder ensues. Sort of what TSH is based on.
- Seneca, Six Tragedies, trans. Emily Wilson: I especially recommend the Medea. There’s infanticide and infidelity, and Wilson’s translation of Medea’s caelum trahentem speech is to die for.
- Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red: A long-form poem on the myth of Heracles and Geryon reimagined as a modern love-ish story. Good introduction, too.
- C.P. Cavafy, Complete Poems, trans. Daniel Mendelsohn: Cavafy was a poet in Greece in the early 20th century whose writings often reference mythology. The homoeroticism isn’t subtext; Cavafy wrote openly about his relationships. Mendelsohn proves himself to be a bit of a sexist tool in the intro, but his translations are excellent.
And I’ll just throw in a bit of old-school English lit:
- Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway: This one makes me think of Camilla after Hampden. Among other things. TW: Suicide, mental health issues.
- James Joyce, Dubliners: A collection of short stories featuring unreliable narrators and men who emasculate themselves without even trying. I especially recommend “The Dead.”
If you’re interested in TV shows too, I’d recommend the first season (only) of NBC’s Hannibal (for poetic dialogue and monster-philosophy), Penny Dreadful (for a group of intellectual monsters/outcasts who keep sleeping with each other), and NBC Kings (for the dialogue and the deadly decadent court).