Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Like most modern girls, I have a moderate obsession with fall. It’s my favorite season, easily, and I spend the other 75% of the year complaining about how much I miss it. Also, in my little corner of the Midwest, fall usually lasts approximately 12 days. It’s unfair, I know, but it’s the sad truth.
WHINING ASIDE, we are currently in that perfect time frame, and the weather is everything I have dreamt of.
So today, as I drove home watching the sunset and gazing at the trees and their fading, changing, dancing leaves, I felt inspired to share a book list with you all! fall is fun because it encompasses so many things– bonfires, hayrides, Halloween, SWEATERS, apple cider and the living nightmare that is pumpkin spice, Thanksgiving*, soup. I have to stop because I’m getting carried away, but I think you see my point.
*Kind of. Do you still consider Thanksgiving to be in the season of fall? Because I do. I think? Will consider.
As a reader, I think there’s nothing better than an opportunity to cozy up on the couch with a book that feels just as much like fall as the view out my window. I’m going to have a few sections of book recommendations here, simply because I can’t put a book that I consider cozy next to a book that will spook me out of my wits. I just can’t do that!
Spooky Season Reads
The first half of fall is typically devoted to Halloween and all things haunted. I must preface this section by saying that I DO NOT like Halloween. Consider it a character flaw or agree with me, it’s your call, but know that I have a fairly mild sense of horror–I hate being afraid, so if I say it’s scary or thrilling, that may not be totally true of the reading experience you will have. That being said, here are some books that get in the spooky mood!
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
What a book! Until I read this (a book that sat on my TBR forever because I resisted buying it, then got tired of waiting for my library ebook hold to come up, then finally bought it because I have no willpower) my only exposure to Shirley Jackson had been “The Lottery,” a short story from my high school English reading list that stuck with me through the years because of it’s shocking ending.
In this brief novel, Merricat Blackwood and her sister Constance (and their Uncle Julian, but he’s frankly not as important as the sisters) live in a large estate home in Vermont. The house is described in very House of Usher-ian terms, an image that is encouraged by the fact that the home and its inhabitants are basically ostracized by the locals. Due to a mysterious tragedy that occurred in years before the setting of the stories, the townspeople are skeptical and sometimes cruel to Merricat and Constance. As events in the story unfold, some mysteries sort themselves out while others lay buried in the castle…
Tbh, I read the ending to We Have Always Lived in the Castle multiple times because I wanted to be sure I got it right. This is a similar experience to the one I had after watching Shutter Island and Inception. And Interstellar, come to think of it.
The Winter People, Jennifer Macmahon
This book spooked my pants off. I don’t care for ghost stories, honestly. I’m not into anything paranormal, and the times my husband forced me to watch the various Paranormal Activity movies resulted in extreme fear, paralysis, and restless nights. So I feel it necessary to reveal to you that this is a ghost story, but it’s also just a good story.
Ruthie is the main character of the story, a 19-year-old who lives with her mother in a rural Vermont town (off-the-grid, at her mother’s insistence). The farmhouse they live in was once the setting of a horrendous death (first of a daughter, then the death of her mother–also on the land). All sorts of shenanigans occur when Ruthie’s mother goes missing.
It’s chilling. And spooky. And very compelling.
This one is a bit of stretch, but bear with me. I finished reading this book earlier in the month, and it was just spooky enough– interesting, vaguely spirited, not scary. Ella Hawthorne, main character, moves into a new apartment after discovering her husband’s scandalous infidelity. Every night, there are ruckus sounds emanating from the next-door building’s basement, the location of a century-ago speakeasy. As Ella learns more about the past and the building, the origins of the sounds (and the characters who make them) enter the story.
Also featured: moonshine, flappers, backwoods criminals, private investigators, a love triangle, and sexual assault
The Broken Girls, Simone St. James
This was borderline scary for me, but I did enjoy it (three stars, nothing spectacular, still a good time). Haunted boarding school? Yes, please. Oh, also, there’s a dual narrative, which is am ALL about!
Books to Keep You on Your Toes
Thrillers. Mysteries. Slasher stories. I consider these to be a bit different from the above category; to me, Halloween is all about ghosts and goblins and witches and the like, but fall itself is a season of the weather that feels just a bit sinister. Here are some books that will match the mood.
If you love slasher films, this is basically the bookish equivalent of one. The premise of this story is simple: there is a group of girls who have been dubbed the “Final Girls.” They are all the sole survivors of brutal murderous attacks, hence the “final” part of their collective title. Spurred by the death of another final girl, the main character (another Final Girl) goes back to the scene of her own tragic past, where she encounters more than just memories of that horrific night.
This one is fantastic because it combines the whole, thriller/murder mystery vibe with a vaguely haunted/paranormal feel. It’s set in Dublin, and though I have not read the rest of the Dublin Murder Squad Series, I can assure you that they are a hit in contemporary mysteries. I have aspirations to read the rest of them in the future.
Anything by Megan Abbott
I am a MAJOR Megan Abbott fan. My first Megan Abbott read was a BOTM selection, and I quickly read several others. My favorites are below, and I recommend you read them! They are slightly chick-lit-ish, but they’re also just really fun and kind of dark and moderately scandalizing.
- Dare Me: A darker version of Bring It On. Awesome.
- The Fever: Think of the Salem Witch Trials in a modern high school setting.
- You Will Know Me: I think this is my favorite one. A scandal on a major gymnastics team. Murder. Lies. Drama.
- Give Me Your Hand: Never would have thought I had an interest in science laboratories, but if she’s going to write about them, maybe I will?
Fun Reads for Fall
Kate Morton, all of the above
I think Kate Morton is the perfect author for fall reading. her books are totally atmospheric, 100% enveloping and consuming. They are slow, but beautiful. Sometimes I think the books that feel the most like fall are the ones that make me nearly actually feel the temperature, the setting. Kate Morton is VERY good at that. Also, her books are chunksters; I don’t normally love that, but if you’re looking for a long book to disappear into for a few weeks, she’s a good option.
The Distant Hours. This one, in my humble opinion, is PERFECT for the season. It’s dark in mood and setting, so it would also be ideal for a cool winter read, but I just love something about reading a book set in a murky, almost dismal location when the seasons start to change and the days are turning darker more quickly and much earlier.
Gosh, I love Sarah Addison Allen (anyone else feel like I spend the majority of my blog posts just gushing over authors? No? Cool.) Everything she has written is beautiful and fun, and I think they really do fit in perfect little seasonal reading times: Garden Spells, The Peach Keeper, and Lost Lake for summer, The Sugar Queen for winter, and First Frost for fall.
You wouldn’t believe it from the title, but this book is set around the time of the first frost of the year. The Waverley sisters each have a story to come in this book, beginning with the appearance of a mysterious old man in their small North Carolina town. She writes characters with such personality, it won’t be a forgettable family. You must read this, and if not this, anything else she’s written because it’s so fun.
Jenny Colgan, love her. She’s just a fun read in general, but this one feels perfectly like fall to me. It’s not actually set during the Autumn season (more a passage of time over the course of a year), but it’s set in Scotland along the Ness (yes, that Ness, home of the folklorian [yes, I know that’s not a word] monster), and the imagery and setting is just wonderful. It’s a breeze to read, as well.
I just read this in the past few weeks, and it was a pure delight. This is more child/middle-grade focused, so it could also be a fun read-aloud for your family! In this story, a little boy (main character) fears witches, as any logical little boy should. His grandmother tells him all the stories from her homeland, and tells him they are absolutely true–he also knows that he simply must believe his grandmother (she goes to church regularly, which means she can’t lie). Believe it or not, he and his grandmother find themselves at the location of a major conference for real life witches, and hi-jinks ensue.
Now, you are under strict doctor’s (or blogger’s) orders to take to your favored reading locale and devour these before the snow and dreariness chill of winter set in. I will personally be grabbing a hot mug of coffee and warm blanket before curling up on the couch, but to each your own.
Until next time, happy reading!