Summer reading lists abound, but one doesn’t encounter many reading lists for fall.
We’re changing that today.
I love summer reading, but I’m itching for a change of season. This fall reading list is the perfect antidote to the breezy reads of summer.
If summer is for fun and romance, fall is for coming-of-age and back-to-school. Summer is for optimism; fall is for melancholy and nostalgia. And if summer is for the hot new bestsellers, fall is for the classics with staying power.
Grab a cup of tea, a good book from this autumn reading list, and get ready to cozy up with a good book.
An eccentric English family struggles to make ends meet in a tumbledown castle during the 1930s. We hear the story through 17-year-old Cassandra’s diary: she’s a remarkable narrator, open and witty and wise for her years. Replete with love, magic, writer’s block, and bear costumes. More info →
Irving is a masterful storyteller, and has a knack for drawing compelling characters. This novel, which gently addresses heavy themes of fate and faith, is widely believed to be his finest. Read it and see why it’s on so many readers’ desert island lists. (My own copy is on my nightstand right now, poised for a re-reading.) More info →
This YA novel is a little bit science fiction, a little bit coming-of-age. After years of watching the earth for signs of distress, the danger comes in a form no one expects: the rotation of the earth begins to slow, wreaking havoc. 11-year-old Julia is forced to deal with the Slowing plus typical adolescent drama in this haunting novel. More info →
The Anne books feel like spring to me, but Montgomery’s 3-book series about young Emily Starr belongs to autumn. Montgomery wrote this series a bit later in while. While still sweet and whimsical, they are decidedly darker than the Anne novels. Read them in order. More info →
French’s 5th and latest installment in her Dublin Murder Squad series is set at a girls’ boarding school, where a boy had been found murdered, a year ago. The case had gone cold, but when a new clue emerges, two detectives are sent in to investigate. The Likeness, my favorite book in the series, also takes place on campus. Not for the faint of heart, for language and content. More info →
This is Sayers’ tenth Lord Peter novel, her third featuring Harriet Vane, and undoubtedly one of her finest. (They needn’t be read in order.) When Ms. Vane returns to Oxford for her college's reunion (the “gaudy” of the title), the festive mood on campus is threatened by an alarming outbreak of murderous threats. If you love this, go back and read all the Lord Peter mysteries, beginning with Whose Body?More info →
Orphaned Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is until he turns 11 and receives his invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which is exactly like any other British boarding school, but for the subject matter. The whole series is attuned to the rhythms of the school year. The audiobook versions, narrated by Jim Dale, are spectacular. More info →
Stegner forges a compelling story out of the lives of four ordinary people, who first come together at the University of Wisconsin Madison. There’s no way to describe this gorgeous novel that doesn’t make it sound dead boring. Don’t read about it; just read it. Superb writing, gentle pacing, and an adroit examination of friendship, love, and marriage. This is one to read again and again. More info →
Pride and Prejudice should be read in the spring; Emma in the summer. But Persuasion is for fall. This the last novel Austen completed before her death, and it’s darker and more serious in tone than her earlier works. With its themes of love, regret, and fidelity, this is my favorite Austen novel—at least some of the time. But always in autumn. More info →
Gothic romance, mystery, and psychological thriller all rolled into one. If you never read it in high school, fall is the perfect time to pick up this creepy classic. If you were forced to read it back then, give it another try: you’ll enjoy it much more the second time around. One of literature’s greatest heroines. More info →
This groundbreaking classic was downright scandalous in its day—and it hasn’t lost much of its shock value in the intervening 160+ years. Heathcliff is every bit as much the abominable scoundrel now as he was then, and the English moors are every bit as creepy. Read it once, and decide whether you love it or hate it. (And if you do both, you’re in good company.) More info →
This sweeping novel set in Britain between the world wars chronicles the Flyte family’s unraveling—along with the rest of Britain’s aristocracy—as viewed through the wistful eyes of lieutenant Charles Ryder. Drenched in themes of love, loss, and grace. Recommended reading for Downton Abbey fans. More info →
“Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness.” Niequist’s poignant second essay collection has “autumn” written all over it. More info →
The heartbreaking and beautiful memoir from a recovering alcoholic, a Franciscan priest, and a beloved author of The Ragamuffin Gospel. Heartbreaking and beautiful. Honest, humble, and moving. Such a good read, but grab your tissues. More info →
When his wife’s beloved brother goes missing in World War I, a Nova Scotian artist seizes the opportunity to join the Canadian forces as a cartographer, serving safely behind the lines in London. But when he gets to Europe, he’s instead sent directly into battle—and that’s just the beginning of his dangerous and confusing circumstances. A thought-provoking debut. More info →
The characters Doerr focuses on in this war novel are fascinating and altogether unexpected. The book’s setting couldn’t be lovelier: much of the action takes place in Saint-Malo, France, a unique walled port city on the English Channel. Haunting story, beautiful prose, and destined for many best-of-the-year lists. More info →
Kate Atkinson's new historical sticks to the WWII setting of Life After Life and A God in Ruins but stands on its own. It's 1940, and an eighteen-year-old girl named Juliet, in search of a job, is surprised to find herself plunged into the world of espionage. Atkinson has become one of my must-read authors. Confession: I read this at the beach this summer and loved its droll British voice (though it took me more than a few chapters to get oriented). More info →
I loved Enger's first novel Peace Like a River, which was published almost ten years ago. Our title character is a Midwestern movie theater owner who drives his car into icy Lake Superior, and isn't the same after the experience (and ensuing concussion). The accident affected his language and memory, and he cannot navigate the world as before. This may not be a bad thing. Knowing that Enger loves his symbolism, I'm particularly intrigued by the title, and expecting a novel about seeking. But what his characters will find remains to be seen. (Or rather, read.) More info →
Barbara Kingsolver is another must-read author for me. I love her work, especially The Poisonwood Bible. At 466 pages, this is a long book, but I inhaled it. Kingsolver writes that she is explicitly addressing the events of her time, but she does that in part by looking back: her double narrative follows the life-changing decisions and uncertain times experienced by two separate families, one hundred years apart, who both live in the same home in Vineland, New Jersey. Kingsolver found one heck of a subject for the historical element, an American scientist I'd previously never heard of named Mary Treat. I loved the clever linking of the chapter titles—pick up the book and you'll see what I mean. Publication date October 16. More info →
When the news first dropped about the subject of McCoy's next book, the common refrain from readers went like this: "I'm so excited! And I'm so scared!" But if there's anyone I can entrust my beloved characters to, it's Sarah McCoy. This is Marilla's story, beginning at age 13—long before Anne came to Green Gables—and continuing till she and Matthew decide to adopt Anne. I'm with the readers on this: scared, but excited to read. Publication date October 23. More info →