I can really be a disturbing person. Nothing made me happier as a child then a blanket, a bowl of cheesy poofs, and a book about the Black Death. So I guess it comes as no surprise that Autumn is my favorite season, and since reading is basically my favorite thing to do, Autumn reading is the berries. Er…perhaps the gourds and pumpkins? Whatever. The point is, I’m jazzed. It’s nearly here!
Over the years, I’ve become attached to certain books that are just “fall” to me. For me, a fall book is back-to-schoolish, or spooky, or scary, or dark or historical or creepy or fantasy or some delightful combination of all of those things. My favorite fall reads include:
The Hound of the Baskervilles – At-mos-phere. Although I expected to enjoy this book the first time I picked it up, I didn’t expect to actually scare me. But it did! Scary plus tweed equals perfect fall read.
Dracula – The British just seem to have Autumn nailed, for some reason. Dracula is one of those books that I nearly want to hand to you, and then sit by you saying, “Isn’t it perfect for fall!?” But that would be irritating. All I can say is if you dig a dark and craggy novel, this would be the King.
The Secret History – The Secret History combines all sorts of elements that I love: mystery, academia, history, a secret society (of sorts), the shenanigans of the aristocracy. I actually read this book one Spring, but the entire time I was thinking, “Dammit I wish it was Fall!”
The Historian – If you read Dracula, and were sorry it was over, this may be the book for you. Exotic locales from Istanbul to Romania with mysterious goings-on, letters from the past…. It does move a little slowly, but if you dig atmosphere like I do, all you want to do is wallow in it anyway.
Harry Potter – Back to School, witchcraft, mystery all in one? And they are British, too. See? I’m onto something, here.
A Separate Peace – The creators of Dead Poet’s Society had to have read this book. There’s a large part of me that wishes I had begged to go to some red-bricked prep school, with crisp uniforms, and Boys. Lots and lots of boys. Our high school, like most public high schools in Ohio, once threw around the idea of uniforms. I was the only one who thought it was the best idea I’d ever heard. Plaid skirts, grey sweaters, and white french-cuffed shirts are pretty much my favorite things. It never happened. But reading this book my senior year sort of assuaged my underlying waspy tendencies. That, and attending Miami of Ohio (i.e. Bricks and Boys)
Jane Eyre – There’s a bleakness to Jane Eyre that in other books I would find distasteful. But the despair in Jane’s life comes not from the outside, but from her own integrity. And all on those windswept moors with all those British people and gothic tensions and mysteries to boot! Plus, it has that Autumny feeling of “I’m supposed to read this one. It’s a classic.”
BUT…that’s just the stuff I’ve read. Over the years, I’ve compiled some titles that in parenthesis state: Autumn? I highly suspect that these tales will lend themselves to my favorite season. I also happen to have an army of friends that feel nearly the same way as I about this splendid season, and have given me apropos suggestions. As such, I give you:
BOOKS I HAVE NOT READ YET HAVE BEEN EITHER TOLD OR I PERSONALLY SUSPECT WOULD BE EXCELLENT FALL READS
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Thank you, Jamie!)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. If I gather correctly, this is a fantasy novel based in Scotland. If one fabric beats tweed as a fall essential, it’s tartan. And people in fantasy novels are always cozying up to crackling fireplaces and drinking ale and eating stew.
London, the Biography by Peter Ackroyd. This is based heavily on my suspicions about British people and their command of Autumn.
Clan of the Cave Bear – perhaps I’m being too literal, but c’mon…Bears? Caves? Clans? That’s fall.
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard. According to Amazon, “In 1818, the notorious Vidocq, a master detective who’s rumored to work on both sides of the law, pulls 26-year-old Parisian doctor Hector Carpentier into a torture-murder inquiry. The victim, Chrétien Leblanc, died without revealing that he was on his way to visit Carpentier, news that comes as a complete shock to the doctor, as the dead man was a stranger to him. Vidocq soon discovers that Leblanc was actually in search of Carpentier’s late father, who bore the same name. The elder Carpentier cared for Louis-Charles, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette’s young son, who died in prison in 1795.” Craggy and dark European-ness works for me. Plus the last book I read of Bayard’s starred Edgar Allen Poe as a character.
Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm. “First published in 1911, Zulieka Dobson is the story of the beautiful young granddaughter of the warden of Judas College at Oxford. The entire student body falls in love with her, but she is aloof-she has never loved a man! This hilarious novel mocks sexual mores, British education, and everything along with it using outrageous humor.” British people. Academia. Hand me a cup of cider, y’all.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. “A masterpiece of modern Gothic literature, Something Wicked This Way Comes is the memorable story of two boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway, and the evil that grips their small Midwestern town with the arrival of a “dark carnival” one Autumn midnight.” The prosecution rests, your Honor.
The Dragonlance Chronicles : Book One, Dragons of Autumn (thank you, Mark!) Mark (a fellow director in Appetite Theatre’s Bruschetta Festival – come see it!!!!) says, “Dragonlance Chronicles is a trilogy: Dragons of Autumn Twilight is the first, then Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawning the opening of the first book describes the fall scene so beautifully, you’d think you were there!” If I wasn’t chained to this desk, I would be at Harold Washington right now.
Of Great and Terrible Beauty by Libby Bray. “A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy–jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.” And a perfect Fall, I think…
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. Why? I don’t know. I think,honestly, it’s because I get The Canterville Ghost by Wilde and The Canterbury Tales confused. But, it is a Great and Terrible Classic of the Literary Cannon!
Father Brown Stories by GK Chesterton. Anyone? This selection is based heavily on my feelings about British people and Autumn.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke. This was suggested to me a very long time ago…okay 3 or 4 years ago, by my friend Eva to whom I was ruminating about Autumn Reads. She then suggested this.
Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I know it’s a ghost story. And that’s really all I need to know.
Foucault’s Pendulum by Eco, Umberto
The Name of the Rose by Eco, Umberto. I’ve always had a suspicion that Eco’s work would blend nicely with changing leaves.
Belgrath the Sorceror by Eddings, David. Herein we begin to see where I associate Fall with Fantasy. The characters always seem to be harvesting nuts and berries and living in tree stumps and doing other foresty things. And then there’s always some sort of cranky evil person who lives in constant November Rain on some mountain somewhere. The only thing better than reading these things is if someone read it to me so I could knit.
Worm Ouroboros, The by Eddison, E.R.
Land that Never Was by Fitzgerald, Desmond
At Freddie’s by Fitzgerald, Penelope
Gothic Tales by Gaskell, Elizabeth. I found this about the author: “There’s something about a good Gothic tale that suits the autumn months particularly well. And while few would expect Gothic fun from a 19th century novelist specializing in “social problem” novels, Elizabeth Gaskell did in fact write some very effective spooky fiction. Textured, atmospheric, and subtly moralistic, these stories are just the thing for a long, rainy evening.”
The Wise-Woman by Gregory, Phillipa. “The Wise Woman (2002 Harper Collins) is a disturbing novel about a woman’s ambition to rise above her station during Henry VIII’s reign and the increasingly dark side of witchcraft she uses to achieve her goals.”
Hunchback of Notre Dame by Hugo, Victor. The craggy belfries of Paris and a gypsy woman, and oppressive religious figures? Cut me off a slice of pumpkin bread, friend.
Haunting of Hill House by Jackson, Shirley. This is, of course, the novel that the movie “The Haunting” is based upon.
Peace Breaks Out by John Knowles. This is the sequel to A Separate Peace that I have not read. But I suspect Fallishness.
At the Mountains of Madness by Lovecraft, H.P.
Prince, The by Machiavelli, Niccolo. This is personal baggage, but I was a Political Analysis minor, and somehow I escaped without reading Machiavelli. And I’ve always felt guilty about that.
Bell Witch by Monahanm, Brent. This is presently sitting on my kitchen table. Supposedly true tale of a haunting in Tennessee in the 1800’s. Save me a seat on that hayride, buddy.
The Library at Night by Mryid, A. What is more Autumny than a library at night?
Brimstone byPreston, Douglas
Black Creek Crossing by Saul, John
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson, Robert Louis
Thirteenth Tale by Timothy, Mary. Whatever logorithms are used in book recommending software, they all want me to read The Thirteenth Tale. Have you seen the cover? Perfection.
Eats Shoots and Leaves by Truss, Lynn. It’s a book about grammar. That’s September in a nutshell, right?
The Black Death by Ziegler, Phillip. See? I told you I was weird.
So that’s my list. I’d love to know what you like to read in the Fall!!!!