By: Sydney Kalnay, Training Specialist.
It’s not a secret to anyone who knows me that fall is my favorite season. It’s ironic that I live where fall exists only in a finite, miniscule window between SPF 9,000 and shoveling for dear life so I have to pack as much leaf crunching, apple spicing, and light jacket-wearing as possible into about 3 weeks.
I think what I love best about fall is its wildly vacillating moods. Fall is, in almost every way, my twin-soul season — blue skies and grey, days sun-warmed and rain-chilled. I’m a pragmatist by nature but an optimist by policy, and no other season but fall can contain that juxtaposition with as much grace and adaptability.
Because my attitudes shift from moment to moment, I am always grateful to the books that accurately mirror my moods and that follow me up sun-dappled peaks and down into the shadow valleys.
Here are some of my favorite types of fall days, and the books I lovingly turn to throughout the months of October and November:
All summer long, I want the brightest stories – laugh-filled romps and romances whose plots tie up neatly with a shiny ribbon. But come fall, I look for every heart-wrenching, epic, excruciating adventure I can find. I want to spend my dark-at-5 o’clock evenings following characters into battle against demons, both real and metaphorical.
For this, I turn to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone so I can squeeze my eyes shut and wish I, too, were Karou with her lapis lazuli hair, family of monsters, and otherworldly lover. While the rain batters the windows of my attic reading room, I dream of sketchbooks overflowing with fat, colorful portraits, having a string of cheap wishes around my neck, and inheriting a wishbone containing the mysteries of my past, present, and future.
(PS – I get the same supernatural adventure vibes from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys and the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo. Oh, lovely ladies of adventure, how I adore thee!)
The unicorn of falls days is the one that’s cool enough for tights and scarves but warm enough to frolic through pumpkin patches without hypothermia. On days like these, it’s easy to believe in true love so I like to revisit Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments where I can revel in one of the sweetest slow burn romances in fiction history while at the same time celebrating a lovely Bechdel-test-passing best friendship.
Bonus: Rowell’s clear preference for autumn is revealed in this fantastic passage:
“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!”
(If I feel like a side of melancholy with my romance instead I will re-read The Time-Traveler’s Wife, warding off the inevitable ugly cry by jamming Milk Duds into my gaping maw.)
Nothing remotely supernatural has happened to me in real life, but I love any kind of media that explores the dark underbelly of the known world. And because my own imagination produces goblins, ghosts, and ghouls more frightening than most of what I can see on TV, books are my preferred delivery method for thrills on the autumn days when I most need a scare.
I can certainly revisit books and feel some of the same joyful dread I felt during an initial read, but there’s nothing that replaces the first moment you sense something terrible and wonderful creep across the page and into your head.
Recently, I took My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix on a trip and spent three evenings figuratively huddled under the blankets with a flashlight, cringing with horror-tinged glee as the story unfolded. The author nails the perfect sense of 1980s creepy nostalgia as accurately as the Duffer Brothers did with Stranger Things – the book even has bonus, interactive features to engage all your senses! If you like stories about big hair, best friends, AND demonic possession, this is for you.
(On that same trip, I tried to stave off my claustrophobia on the World’s Tiniest Jet ™ by devouring Anya’s Ghost, a gorgeous graphic novel about misfits and murder. Unfortunately for me, the titular ghost is discovered down a well so I was perfectly aware of my surroundings at all times.)
Mid-October, I turn hitting the snooze button (and the subsequent dash to ready myself for the workday) into an Olympic sport. If I leave my bedroom window open a crack, I can huddle under the blankets for hours upon hours, willing the coziness to dissipate just long enough to get warmer socks, more tea, and my fully charged iPad before clambering back under the covers again.
While this does nothing for my morning commute, it does everything for my autumnal state of mind. To bolster my thoughts of reading, snuggling, and general homebody-ness, I turn to books about a very fall subject: Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah), the Danish art of being cozy.
One of the best-received titles on the subject, Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg, welcomes you to discover a state of mind which is “like a compass, steering us towards small moments that money cannot buy you, finding magic in the ordinary.”
(If the thought of adding more blankets, cats, books, and tea to your home makes you break out in clutter-hives, however, I suggest an antidote: Make Space by Regina Wong, a lovely primer for getting rid of the excess in home and heart!)
Speaking of decluttering, my actual dream apartment is a treehouse, I kid you not. I crave open space like some folks crave pumpkin spice lattes. I spend many weekends delightedly dividing my surplus stuff into “giveaway” and “throwaway” piles. Once the leaves have fallen, though, I start to panic that maybe I have gotten rid of too much and I start to crave the kind of protection against the onslaught of winter that only a glorious, ambitious series can give me.
Years ago, I fell hard for one of the greatest book series of all time, His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Now, twenty-plus years later, as the comfortable chill of October turns to the bitterness of November, I will be insulating myself with the next title in the series, The Book of Dust, set to release on October 19th and available for pre-order from OverDrive Marketplace.
I may not be ready for snow, but I am definitely ready for talking snow bears – and the brave, fierce, urchin girls who call them friends.
(Not to break tradition here but I have no other, better titles to recommend besides the original trilogy which, in my opinion, soars higher than the spires atop Hogwarts itself. – fight me, Potterians!)
Whatever fall days you love best, my crisp, spooky, gloomy, cozy, epic wish is for you to find titles that match your every mood and take you happily into the brisk days of winter. Happy reading!