Loads of ink has been spilled on summer reads, the kind of fun, dishy fiction that can be read in an afternoon and discarded without regret after sustaining one too many piña colada rings. But what about autumn reading? Goodbye, marriage plots, celebrity name dropping, and candy-colored covers; hello, tales of first love, melancholy endings, and roll-neck sweaters. Here are my favorite kinds of autumn fiction, and a few titles to add to your reading list:
1. Noir thrillers. Philip Marlowe may be sweating through his suit in the bars and back alleys of Los Angeles, but I like to read Chandler and his ilk when the weather starts to turn. Books like The Big Sleep are by no means winter reads, but are just right for the moment when summer starts to die, and it’s time to belly up to your local bar with a gin gimlet and a dog-eared paperback.
One to try: A.S. A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife is less a whodunit and more a matter of how the deed is done. It opens in late summer, in a hermetic apartment overlooking the gray coast of Chicago, and unfolds as the weather turns cold.
2. Coming of age books. There’s just something autumnal about an author writing from a place of (relative) wisdom about a seminal moment in a young character’s life—first kiss, first love, that one fateful summer. In the hot months, we live. In the cooling months, we reflect…at least when it comes to living through a reading list.
One to try: Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl follows the efforts of Cath, a homebody and dedicated fanfic writer, to acclimate to life as a college freshman.
3. Campus books. If back-to-school days are in your past, but you still want to recapture that old feeling, we recommend two things: buying new pencils and erasers, and going back to school with a favorite character. I always want to revisit Harry Potter in September, when he’s raring to break free of the Dursleys, and there are loads of crisp campus-set books that beg to be read on a bench under a shedding oak tree.
One to try: Pamela Erens’ The Virgins, set at an east coast boarding school, concerns the relationship of two rebellious, seemingly mismatched students—and the web of toxic gossip that jealous classmates weave around them.
4. Darker books. I’m not talking about the ice-cold thrillers of midwinter, or the juicy murder mysteries of July. Autumn is made for subtly scary books, the kind of oddball stuff that walks on the chilly edges of autumn’s prettiness—more Gaiman, less Gone Girl.
One to try: Kathryn Davis’s surreal, mesmerizing fiction is perfect darker fare for fall. Try her latest,Duplex, set in a seemingly benign but altogether surreal suburb that exists in a time outside of our own.