So, according to my TikTok FYP, autumn is already upon us. My rational self knows full well that the fall equinox is still weeks away, but, I admit, the premature fall obsession is definitely taking hold. Stores are stocked to the hills with Halloween decor and pumpkin spice everything is back! Summer is slowly making its exit, and, for many bookish people, this is a much-desired change.
With all this fall excitement in the air, it’s difficult not to buy every fall candle in sight or spend an exorbitant amount of money at Spirit Halloween (definitely not speaking from experience). In the mind of this growing lure for everything autumn, this transition period is a great time to start planning out one’s fall TBR. Here’s a quick list of fall reading essentials (from assorted genres) to get you inspired!
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The minute I see a single leaf fall to the ground, I’m bolting to my bookshelf to re-read this absolute masterpiece. There’s truly no more magical time to read this dark academia classic than during the fall months! If you’re unfamiliar with Donna Tartt’s debut novel, this dark and engrossing story follows Richard Papen at a small, rural college in Vermont. Soon upon his arrival, he finds himself involved with a cultish group of 5 students studying Greek under the wing of one enigmatic professor. The result of this decision engenders a warped, chaotic, morally gray adventure, strung together in truly breathtaking prose.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Ellington Academy, an elite private school, was once the scene of one of America’s most notorious unsolved crimes. Both the founder’s wife and daughter went missing, with only one ominous clue left behind by an unknown assailant: a mocking riddle reciting murder methods. The note was signed “Truly, Devious.” In the present day, true-crime junkie, Stevie Bell, enrolls at Ellington, determined to solve the cold case. However, it appears “Truly, Devious” has never really left and death plagues the school once again. With two interweaving mysteries now in play, Stevie embarks on a journey of twists and turns, kickstarting Maureen Johnson’s ongoing thriller series.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
There are many classics befitting of the fall reading aesthetic, so it was hard to choose just one for this list. (I’m tempted to couple this pick with The Picture of Dorian Gray.) I’ll just say, to each their own! If you’ve never had a moment to check out the novel behind the universal horror icon, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a widely approachable Gothic staple told significantly through the letters and journals of the characters. The OG vampire story reflects on various central themes: the fear of the unknown, good and evil, sexuality, societal degeneration, etc. If the more gloomy fall aesthetic is your type of vibe, Dracula may be just the thing to complete your TBR.
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: fall is THE season for introverts. I feel emboldened to say so as a devout fall recluse for many years running. To acknowledge this fall loneliness (it gets the best of us all at times), I recommend The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. Part memoir and art history exposition, Laing discusses her experience with loneliness upon moving to New York City. Though this book doesn’t prescribe a cure to loneliness, it is a beautiful discussion of life and what it means to feel lonely, even viewing it as an “art” in and of itself.
The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
A classic of Norwegian literature, this 1963 release is a short but impactful read overcast by the frosty landscape of late autumn. In many ways, this emotive, chilling (pun intended) story reads much like long-form poetry. It’s a hypnotic story centering around two eleven-year-old girls, Siss and Unn, whose quick attachment becomes frozen in time when the latter unfathomably disappears. If you’re a fan of poignant yet minimalistic prose and immersive story settings, this is the perfect read to cozy up to as the cooler weather begins to creep in.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Another hot pick in the dark academia niche is M.L. Rio’s 2017 release, centered between two timelines. In present day, a retiring detective wants to know once and for all whether Oliver Marks committed the murder he just served 10 years in prison for. To get to the bottom of the truth, we journey back in time to learn about Marks’ youth studying Shakespeare alongside six other promising drama students. Embodying their stage roles even after the curtain closes, this atmospheric thriller explores a dangerous entanglement where acting and reality begin to blend together.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
I reread the Twilight saga last autumn and it was just marvelous. There’s something about rainy fall days that elevates this legendary supernatural romance and rekindles my preteen obsession. I don’t think this recommendation needs much background information, given it started a global phenomenon and all, but I will say that for us mood readers, a Twilight-inspired fall is most satisfying when accompanied by the iconic movie soundtrack. (Alexa, play Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine!)
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Ah, yes, the story that traumatized us as kids but now serves as an oddly comforting classic! Much like the Twilight recommendation, there are certain reads whose fall aesthetic overlaps with their popular movie counterparts. This wondrous dark fantasy is perfect for anyone who wants to experience the blueprint behind the animated movie as well as tread lightly into spooky season. (It’s quite an unnerving tale, but it is still indeed a children’s novella).
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
To round out this list is a wholesome autumn read, sure to catch every cat-lover’s eye. Hiro Arikawa’s endearing, emotional bestseller is perfect for times of change or transition. As the title suggests, it is a story about a travelling cat. Specifically, a cat named Nana, who is tagging along on a roadtrip with his owner, Satoru. Cruising through Japan, the pair enjoy the changing seasons and make some pit stops to visit old friends. All of us animal lovers will quickly fall in love with Nana’s storytelling, and feel invested in this bittersweet tale about love and companionship.
In all, fall is definitely a great season for mood reading. It’s a time to cozy up and indulge in dark classics, spooky thrillers, or happily revisit your comfort reads! Whatever your autumn aesthetic may be, I hope one of these books inspired you in your fall TBR prep. Happy reading!
For more book recommendation round-ups here at Bookstr, click here.