An Autumn Reading List
As an eternal student, autumn reading – to me – means heading back to university and ploughing through stacks of books for all of my different classes. It means French poetry collections, gothic tales, plays about angsty princes, and Russian novels. It means boarding school campuses and buffalo checked hats and nights spent reading about the devil coming to life. Now that I'm done with the coursework portion of my graduate degree though, autumn reading means picking and choosing my favorite bits and mixing campus novels with unsettling short stories and the fantastic. Some of my favorite reads for the season:
The Secret History, Donna Tartt I know, I know, this is one of the most recommended books on the internet, but before you judge, have you actually read The Secret History? It's autumnal in its very spirit and just makes me think of reading old classics and trying not to die of pneumonia in an old barn. Plus, a few of the other Attic Editors and I have a few The Secret History treats coming your way in the next few weeks, so make sure to add this to your autumn reading list in preparation!
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger Yes, Holden Caulfield sucks, but J.D. Salinger does not. I prefer Franny and Zooey by far, but The Catcher in the Rye makes me feel like I'm 15 and in English class, realizing that there's nothing I prefer to talking about books. Plus, New England autumn.
Tales of the Unexpected, Roald Dahl Did I bring too much man into this list with the above entry? The first short story in this collection is about a woman who kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb, so let's say it's balanced out now. Fun and creepy at the same time, Tales of the Unexpected is everything you loved about Roald Dahl as a child brought up to the adult level.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee Can you even think about autumn or going back to school without thinking of Scout running down the sidewalk in her ham costume?
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier I first read Rebecca home from school in the autumn when I had twisted my ankle. Du Maurier's very best, the novel will haunt you for well over a decade. Rebecca is at the top of my autumn reading list.
If We Were Villains, M.L. Rio Author M.L. Rio put together a wonderful list of campus novels for us last month, and she herself has written my favorite campus novel of the year. A compelling story of drama, crime, lust, and friendship, If We Were Villains has it all and even embraces the autumnal with Halloween, academia, and Macbeth. Find more here.
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov The Devil literally comes to life in The Master and Margarita, taking Moscow by storm. There is no better novel to read in late October.
The Monk, Matthew Lewis What is autumn without a late eighteenth century gothic novel?! Easily readable, The Monk is upsetting and thought-provoking and a million times better than The Mysteries of Udolpho.
Les Fleurs du Mal, Charles Baudelaire Having grown up going to a Lycée Français and having done a degree in Comparative Literature in French, I can't really think of autumn without thinking of going back to reading in French... and who better to do that with than Baudelaire and a bunch of dying, symbolic flowers?
Hamlet, William Shakespeare I'm just going to share this Hamlet poster from 1921 because it wordlessly explains why Hamlet is perfect for autumn reading:
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard Read Hamlet and then immediately have fun with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It plays on the very meaning of "autumnal" and is just a really great read.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë I hate this book, but I've read it something like four times and keep coming back to it because the idea of it is so much better than the reality. I've visited the moors in the autumn (read about it in an old edition of my university magazine), where Wuthering Heights is famously set, and I can attest that there really is nothing more seasonally appropriate than the old town of Haworth. Brace yourself and read this one for the mood.
The Collected Tales, Nikolai Gogol Gogol is quite possibly my favorite of the nineteenth century Russians. His short stories are just as easily readable as they are outlandish, and they might even inspire you with an original Halloween idea or two.
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley Another gothic novel to end this autumn reading list. Masterfully written, Frankenstein is both gothic and the first work of science fiction. It is nothing like the films that made the popular figure of "Frankenstein['s Monster]" that we know today, but it is much scarier and a fantastic exploration of the sublime.