At last!! A book post! A list post!! A get-ready-for-the-best-time-of-year post!!!
As a bibliophile, nothing makes me happier than snuggling up on my couch with a cup of tea and a good book. In celebration of this best of seasons, here is my list of best books to read while the leaves turn and the pumpkins ripen.
1. Jane Eyre
The ultimate brooding gothic tale for when the (ideally chestnut) leaves begin turning and the heather moors begin howling with a lonely, weeping wind…ahem. This classic is so broody and atmospheric, it’s an incredible read to enjoy in autumn! Or any time of the year, as the strong female lead is an inspiration to principled (and brokenhearted) women everywhere.
As Halloween rolls around, a good scary story wouldn’t go amiss. Be forewarned— just because this classic was published in 1897 doesn’t mean it’s for the fainthearted. I was amazed at how scary this story is! Many scenes are utterly chilling. Do yourself a favor— forgo any stories about vampires that sparkle in the sun this autumn (or ever), and revisit this original grandaddy of all vampire tales.
3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
These are some of my all-time favorite stories. They take me back to being five years old, snuggled between my parents in their bed while my dad read these stories to us aloud. His tattered hardcover, thick as a brick, still lives on his shelved headboard. I can easily return to the sitting room of 221 B Baker Street any time of year, but there’s something particularly nostalgic and fitting about visiting our friends Holmes and Watson when the air is crisp and cool. Check out The Hound of the Baskervilles, in particular, to be transported to the spookiness of the lonely English moors.
4. The Hobbit
“Far over the misty mountains cold…” the dwarfish song begins. And away we go, into forests, mountains, caverns, and glens with our company of heroes. You might not be a Hobbit sitting next to a hearth fire, pipe smoke swirling around your head, ale or tea in hand, but nothing beats reading Tolkien while the shadows fall on an October evening.
5. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
As “A Christmas Carol” is to Christmas, so too “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is to Halloween. This is another story particularly close to my heart for personal reasons. On a family trip to New York when I was eight years old, we took a day trip upstate to Tarrytown, the real-life town Sleepy Hollow was based on. We visited the little historical church and then, among riotous hardwoods exploding in breathtaking reds, oranges, and golds, we wandered the ancient graveyard (perhaps one reason why I’ve always, always adored graveyards). The caretaker greeted us, and then to our delight, treated us to an insiders-only tour of the graves, pointing out all the graves of the real-life people the characters in the story were based on, including (and most impressively), the Headless Horseman’s! I still have the photos I took with my disposable camera buried in a box somewhere. We’ve seen so many interpretations of this beloved story (indeed, the Tim Burton film makes my list of Best Films for Fall), but there’s nothing like reading it in its original form to evoke Halloweens of yore.
6. To Kill A Mockingbird
Some might argue this isn’t actually an autumn story but a summer story, as much of the plot takes place in a sweltering courtroom in midsummer. However, anyone familiar with this story knows that its contains an undeniable back-to-school theme, as well as an…ahem, important scene…that takes place in the fall. That’s all I’ll say, although if you haven’t read this story yet, heavens, please read it immediately!
7. A Separate Peace
For anyone who prefers a return-to-school theme rather than a Halloweeny theme, this superlative story about friendship, jealousy, and identity hits the spot, bringing the reader home to a boy’s boarding school in New England during World War II. It remains steadfastly in second place on my list of all-time favorite books (The Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupery is the only book that tops it for me) where it will undoubtedly remain.
8. The Moon Bridge
This children’s story (suggested as grade five reading level) set in San Francisco during World War II might not contain pumpkins, turning leaves, or any of the classic icons of autumn, but it is a moving and beautiful book that begins with a new school year. This is a wonderful story for children and adults who don’t mind reading excellent children’s literature, and touches on friendship, war, and the U.S. Japanese internment camps of World War II in an age-appropriate way.
9. The Witches: Salem 1692
Finally, some non-fiction! We are back to a witchy theme, though. This book, as you might have guessed, discusses the astounding and disturbing events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials, a series of prosecutions and executions, fueled by rumor, hysteria and group-think, in colonial Massachusetts. The book is really interesting, and is written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Stacy Schiff. It can be a little dry at times (full disclosure, it doesn’t have outstanding reviews on Goodreads.com, and a slight textbookish-ness was the most cited reason), but I found it fascinating and heartily recommend it for history lovers.
10. A Wrinkle in Time
This Newbery Award winning book is the first in the acclaimed Time Quintet. It literally begins: “It was a dark and stormy night.” We join the main character, Meg, who is wrapped in her quilt as we are wrapped in ours and follow her and her little brother, Charles Wallace (and many other delightful characters), through time and space on a deep, soul-stirring rescue mission of love. All books in this series are good for the colder months…even “Many Waters,” set in the Judean desert. Maybe save that one for the dead of winter, when you need warming up!
Hope you get a chance to enjoy any of these great autumn reads this season. I’m sure there are many books that could be added to this list, but I’m definitely going to be diving into a few of these again, for old time’s sake.