Happy fall! My favorite season is finally here and I am beyond ready to pull out my cardigans and curl up with some good books! For me, autumn is the perfect season to catch up on cozy historical fiction, spooky mysteries, moody campus novels, and all-around epic tomes. I’ve chosen a dozen books for my (very ambitious!) fall TBR. There is probably no way I am going to make it through all of them, especially at the slooooow pace I’ve been reading lately. A few of these are chunkers with page counts upwards of 500, and many are challenging reads that might take me longer to get through than other books, but I’m feeling optimistic!
In developing an autumnal reading list, the first book to come to mind was the aptly-named AUTUMN by Ali Smith. I’ve had my eye on Smith’s “Seasonal Quartet” for years, ever since this first one came out back in 2016. I have yet to read any Ali Smith, and I’ve heard mixed things about whether AUTUMN is the best way to start, but I’m really intrigued by this book and I’d love to start reading the quartet in their respective seasons, starting now with AUTUMN and continuing on with WINTER, etc.
Donna Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY will be a re-read for me, albeit a much-anticipated one. I’ve never met a person who didn’t like this book, and maybe that says something about my chosen group of acquaintances, but I’d like to think it says something about the book itself. For me, THE SECRET HISTORY completely emanates everything I’ve ever wanted in an autumn read, from the campus vibes to the cozy Vermont setting to the air of mystery. I first read this novel in 2017, while I was still in high school (!!), so I’m curious how I’ll feel about it now, three years later, as a college student. I’m crossing my fingers that I love it just as much, if not more, during this re-read!
Next up on my TBR is Colson Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, which has been on my radar for ages (spoiler alert: most of these have!). This one was such a big deal the year it came out, going on to win both the 2017 Pulitzer and the 2016 National Book Award, a rare feat for any novelist. I actually started reading THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD back in March because I had tickets for a Colson Whitehead lecture in April, but when the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, I was so disappointed that I put the book down. I love the original concept behind this novel–a literal railroad that carries escaped slaves underground from the American South into Canada–so I am excited to return to its pages soon!
I’m also looking forward to LANNY by Max Porter, a book I’ve been saving for Spooky Season due to its horror and magical realism elements. LANNY takes place in a small British village and follows its titular character, an odd young boy who likes to spend his time wandering in the woods, as well as the village “boogeyman” Dead Papa Toothwort. Other than that, I’m not quite sure what this book is about, but I have a feeling it will be weird and charming and hopefully as genius as everyone says.
WASHINGTON BLACK by Esi Edugyan sounds like the perfect adventure story to read while hidden under the covers on a blustery day. The novel follows a young slave boy, George Washington “Wash” Black, and his master’s brother, an inventor and abolitionist, on an adventure from Barbados to America to the Arctic. I think this one will be nice to read alongside Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, given their shared themes, to see how two different novels approach slavery using elements of magical realism and/or adventure. Having been recognized by so many literary awards, I can’t ignore WASHINGTON BLACK any longer!
Next up is THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY by Michael Chabon, yet another Pulitzer winner I really need to read. I’ve owned a copy of this book for years without giving it much thought, but a friend recently read it and claimed it as a new favorite, so I’m finally feeling ready to climb aboard the Chabon train. I’m hugely intimidated by this massive novel, which has made so many of those “best of the decade” lists, but I love thick books and books about family and WWII books so hopefully I will love this book as well!!
While I am constantly working to diversify the genres I read, I have yet to delve into a traditional mystery novel. I’ve heard IN THE WOODS by Tana French is a good place to start! French’s novels have been recommended to me by so many people, and with the release of her new stand-alone, THE SEARCHERS, this Tuesday, I felt newly inspired to visit her work. I love detective shows—Unbelievable, Broadchurch, True Detective—so I’m eager to try my hand at detective fiction. IN THE WOODS is the first in a six-book series, the Dublin Murder Squad, with each book following a different detective on the murder squad in Dublin, Ireland. I’m so excited to read my first mystery novel!
One that I am most excited for is Hilary Mantel’s WOLF HALL. It’s another that’s been on my to-read list for ages, and the recent release of THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, the third and final book in Mantel’s “Cromwell” trilogy, re-sparked my interest. Set in Tudor England, WOLF HALL follows main character Thomas Cromwell and his rise to power inside the court of Henry VIII. I’ve heard Mantel utilizes a unique writing/narration style that many people either love or hate, but I’m feeling optimistic about loving this one, as long as it doesn’t go completely over my head.
Next up is THE OVERSTORY by Richard Powers, another Pulitzer-winning brick of a book (are you starting to sense a theme?). This one intrigues me for so many reasons, primarily because it participates in one of my favorite storytelling techniques by following nine complete strangers over the course of one novel. Further, THE OVERSTORY is categorized as climate fiction, a sub-genre that really excites me given my passion for sustainability. Bearing this in mind, I think THE OVERSTORY has serious potential to be a new favorite, and I’m curious to see how it will pan out.
The only nonfiction pick on my list is DREYER’S ENGLISH by Benjamin Dreyer, the vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief of Random House. DREYER’S ENGLISH is essentially a guide to English grammar, based on Dreyer’s years of experience in the publishing industry. As an English major and book blogger, I feel like I’m constantly writing something, be it a paper, book review, or email, and I’m sure Dreyer could pick this paragraph apart for all of its faults and weaknesses. I’m eager to improve my technical writing, so I’m excited to crack open DREYER’S ENGLISH and (hopefully) learn something!
Like the aforementioned KAVALIER AND CLAY, Jonathan Franzen’s THE CORRECTIONS is another classic of the early 2000s. I kind of despise Franzen as a human being (oops?), but I feel his novels are too well-known for me to put off without at least giving a try first, so I was happy to discover a hardcover copy of THE CORRECTIONS for $1 at my local library book sale. THE CORRECTIONS has been described as a family drama, so there’s a chance I might like it, plus the giant turkey on the cover makes me think it might be a great Thanksgiving-weekend read.
Finally, I have THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett, which I believe is the only relatively-new release on this list! I’ll admit this one was a cover-buy for me, but I’m also intrigued by the premise. THE DUTCH HOUSE follows the incredible bond between siblings Danny and Maeve after their stepmother throws them out of their childhood home. It’s been recognized by both the Pulitzer and the Women’s Prize, so one could say I have high hopes for this story.And, phew, that’s my Fall TBR! Like I mentioned, I seriously doubt I’ll be able to finish all of these, especially at the snail’s pace I’ve been reading lately, but I’m really excited for everything on this list! What are you looking forward to reading?