Pumpkin carving and “trick-or-treats” may be out of mind for the rest of 2021, but that certainly does not mean that autumn has concluded. When orange leaves submerge the earth and the air sharpens with the crisp chill of fall, one may be more inclined to partake in autumnal activities — drinking hot apple cider, baking a pumpkin pie or cozying up with a good book.
As November quickly unfolds, it is only appropriate to relish in the final moments of fall. And what better way to celebrate the beauty of fall than to immerse oneself in a piece of great literature? Each of these four books practically insist on being read by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and a flannel blanket. Through capturing the duality of autumn in inducing both a sense of cozy warmth and a dark foreboding chill, these pieces will entice readers to watch the seasons change from the comfort of their own home.
“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
It is certainly not autumn without indulging in one of the literature classics. Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is easily a quintessential read for the end of autumn as we trek into the start of winter. The classic story of the March sisters and their complex relationships with one another has warmed the hearts of generations, providing a sense of community on the page.
This sense of familial connection, coupled with a cozy New England setting makes “Little Women” a staple autumnal read. As leaves fall and trees grow barren, the novel awaits its readership. Whether you have engaged with the silly antics of the March sisters multiple times or have yet to engage with their timeless narrative, autumn air compels one to dive into Alcott’s seminal masterpiece next to a crackling fire.
“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt
If you find yourself on BookTok or BookTube, it is almost certain that Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” has been recommended as your next fall read. Though Tartt is perhaps better known for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Goldfinch,” her first novel, “The Secret History” is perhaps superior in its impactful prose and mystery. The novel follows Richard Papen who reflects on his time in college in New England — a period in which one of his classmates, Bunny, mysteriously died.
Fueled by classicism, wit and mystery, “A Secret History” holds immense power in its dark, heavy narrative. Tartt excels in crafting complex, compellingly pretentious characters that face ethical dilemmas. Paralleling their studies of classical antiquity, Richard and his friends must face odious challenges in the wake of tragedy. This dark academia aesthetic, coupled with Tartt’s gorgeous writing, make for an excellent thought-provoking read that’s perfect for deep ponderance this season.
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver
Endowed with profound simplicity, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” masterfully encapsulates the quaint atmosphere of autumn. Carver, arguably one of the most beloved American short story writers of the 20th century, is at his best in this collection. Composed of 17 short stories, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” explores themes of love, addiction and loss with rich prose and emotionally impactful dialogue. Carver’s voice is like honey, slowly pouring over the page with sincerity and warmth.
His collection’s first story “Why Don’t You Dance?” follows the emotional degradation of a man in the midst of a divorce, a struggle juxtaposed by a young couple that pieces through his belongings at a garage sale. This narrative perhaps exemplifies the entire collection’s interest in connectivity. The brevity of Carver’s writing will overwhelm readers given his refined ability to present the solemn simplicity of everyday life. Through identifying the significance of connection within the loneliness of the human experience, readers are sure to find comfort in this collection; it is a fantastic quick read for a brisk fall day.
“Normal People” by Sally Rooney
Angst, academia and amorosity blend together to craft one of the best autumnal reads of the past decade — Sally Rooney’s “Normal People.” Though this novel has been praised repeatedly since its release in 2018, it is still worthy of admiration this fall season. “Normal People” is both earnest and painfully raw in its depiction of young love. Following two teenagers, Connell and Marianne, the novel points to the complexity of first love as it develops from adolescence to adulthood. Facing academic stress and social pressure, the two must explore their own identities both together and apart.
Connell and Marianne’s relationship guides the novel in its entirety, highlighting the ways in which individuals weave in and out of each other’s lives, growing apart as time painfully drudges forward. And, though this may not be the most optimistic outlook, Rooney’s honesty serves to make for a poignantly transparent read. Just as the seasons change, so too do relationships. We may long to bask in the warm comfort of fall, but as Rooney suggests, it is inevitable that change will occur, bringing in a new season that may, perhaps, be more enjoyable than the one we are currently in.