Fall is my favorite season, and Halloween is undoubtedly my favorite holiday, so having a bunch of books to help propel me into the spirit of the time of year is a must. As such I’ve compiled a list of books that I’ve read and think are fitting for the fall, and also some books on my TBR that I’m dying to check out.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
I know I know, you’ve heard of this one already. It’s a classic for a reason, but I felt that I would be remiss to not include this. It’s the perfect seasonal read, and one I’ve been dying to reread for awhile. It has everything you could want in a Halloween read, with beautiful hypnotic prose. Plus it’s about a creepy carnival. I mean seriously, what more could you want?
“For some, autumn comes early, stays through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ’s birth there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer…Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.”
Super broad, yes, but you really can’t go wrong. My personal favorite is It, because I have a deep rooted fear of clowns, but it’s by far not the only option. Want vampires? Salem’s Lot. Ghosts, and creepy hotels? The Shining. Post-apocalyptic? The Stand. I haven’t yet read The Dark Tower series, so that’s up on my list.
“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years–if it ever did end–began, so far as I can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”
– Stephen King, It
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
I’ve already written a review of this, so I wont go on about it to much. What I will say is that it is fairytale filled with magic, a Beauty and Beast inspired story with a super fun romance, and fantastic villain that is nature itself.
“His name tasted of fire and wings, of curling smoke, of subtlety and strength and the rasping whisper of scales. He eyed me and said stiffly, “Don’t land yourself into a boiling-pot, and as difficult as you may find it, try and present a respectable appearance.”
From Hell and/or Swamp Thing by Alan Moore
From Hell is a Jack the Ripper story by Alan Moore. Need I say more? It’s not as good as some of Moore’s other works, but when it comes right down to it I’m not sure Moore is capable of writing a bad story.
Swamp Thing is a horror comic published by Vertigo about a man who had been devoured by the swamp and become this elemental creature… kinda. It’s complicated… Just read it! You’ll love it! He uses horror stories to explore many political and social issues including environmental ones.
If I had to pick between the two comics I would choose Swamp Thing, but both are great, so if you have the time I’d say read them both. (Unless you haven’t read Watchmen. If that is the case then drop everything and go out and read it right now. You won’t be sorry.)
“It’s raining in Washington tonight. Plump, warm summer rain that covers the sidewalks with leopard spots. Downtown, elderly ladies carry their houseplants out to set them on the fire-escapes, as if they were infirm relatives or Boy Kings. I like that.”
― Alan Moore, Swamp Thing, Vol. 1: Saga of the Swamp Thing
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
I’m not sure what is about this time of year, but once fall comes around I suddenly can’t wait to read some sort of Arthurian tale. My favorite one is probably The Once and Future King by T.H. White, but I’ve been meaning to pick The Mists of Avalon up again for quite some time. I have my issues with this book- for one thing I don’t think it’s nearly as feminist as it claims to be- but it’s a great story when you get right down to it. I read this for the first time when I was fourteen, and read the massive tome in a weekend. I then gave it to my extremely busy dad, who in turn finished it in under a week (which with his workload was very impressive!). It’s just one of those books you can’t put down. So for those of you who are unaware of what it is I’m talking about, all I think you really need to know is that this is the Arthurian legend told from women’s perspectives, with some new age religion, and biting criticism of Christianity thrown in.
“And so, perhaps, the truth winds somewhere between the road to Glastonbury, Isle of the Priests, and the road to Avalon, lost forever in the mists of the Summer Sea.”
Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour
I wanted to throw a nonfiction recommendation in here, and what better then the mother of Frankenstein herself? I mean if you haven’t read Frankenstein then you should probably go do that, but honestly even if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, Mary Shelley lead such a fascinating and revolutionary life, I think you’ll enjoy this nonetheless. I’m obsessed with the Romantic Movement (and Percy Shelley in particular), and if you don’t know much about it this would be a great place to learn since Seymour pays such attention to detail.
Mary Shelley lead an amazing, and for her day radical, life that is just riveting. There’s a newer biography out there that is a joint bio of her and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, which I haven’t yet gotten around to but have heard great things (Romantic Outlaws). So if you’re interested in learning about Wollstonecraft as well then give that a shot. But Miranda Seymour’s biography of Mary Shelley is, I think, the definitive biography of Mary Shelley.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Simon Snow is the worst chosen one to ever be chosen. This is a young adult novel about a boy wizard named Simon Snow at a magical boarding school who (you guessed it!) is “the chosen one”. If that sounds like Harry Potter to you, then you’re right. This is a take on the Harry Potter series, and “the chosen one” concept in general. In Rowell’s novel Fangirl the main character is obsessed with a series of books called Simon Snow (a stand in for Harry Potter), and writes slash fanfiction about Simon and his arch nemesis Baz (ala Harry/Draco). But you don’t need to know that going into Carry On. You don’t have to have read Fangirl to read this, it is a standalone novel.
I don’t read much YA, and to be perfectly frank I’m not usually the biggest fan of the genre. I’m not sure why, I just haven’t found many books in it that I like. But I picked this up because I really wanted a book about gay wizards. I thought it was going to be thinly veiled Harry Potter fanfiction, but it honestly is not. Sure it’s got it’s similarities, but Simon and Baz (and the rest of the supporting cast) stand on their own. The romance between them is wonderfully well drawn, and very sweet, but not in a sickening way. And aside from the romance it’s also a really interesting story, and it examines children’s fantasy in a really meaningful way. I laughed, I cried, I had to leave Starbucks because I could not contain my squealing while reading this book.
“He’s a book full of footnotes brought to life. He’s a jacket made of elbow patches.”
The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
I wanted to include some children’s books in case you have any little people in your life. I haven’t reread this series since I was a kid, but when I was younger I was obsessed with these books. I became to old in-between releases and never finished the series, but what I did read was great fun. It’s about two girls whose parents disappeared under mysterious circumstances and are then thrown in the foster care system. It opens with them on a train to meet a grandmother they never even knew they had, who has suddenly come forward and claimed them. The main character Sabrina is skeptical of this eccentric old lady, and then thinks the old woman is completely nuts when she claims to be a fairytale detective. As it turns out Sabrina and her sister Daphne hail from the Brothers Grimm, and now in a small town called Fairytale Landing (a bit on the nose- I’ll admit) fairytale creatures of all sorts are stuck there, unable to leave. The Grimm’s are stuck there as well (or at least, one Grimm has to reside there no matter what- also part of the spell), and the family in time became detectives. Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is another main character, and probably the most fun in the series. I remember simply dying over the will they/won’t they romance between him and Sabrina. According to the internet it’s for children between 8-12 years old, which sounds right to me, but to be perfectly honest I know shit about children.
“That’s why crazy people are so dangerous. You think they’re nice until they’re chaining you up in the garage.”
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (TBR)
Another children’s book, but this one is really for all ages. It’s about a little girl named September who is taken by a Green Wind who invites her to Fairyland. There she goes on a magnificent adventure trying to save the world, and comes across a Wyvern, and a boy named Saturday.
I wish this had been around when I was a kid, because I know I would have devoured the series. (I’ve taken a little peak inside the book and the writing is absolutely gorgeous!)
“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”
The Devourers by Indra Das (TBR)
This book to me sounds very reminiscent of Interview With a Vampire (which I did not include for fear of death by cliche). A college professor named Alok meets a strange man claiming to be a werwolf, and weaves a strange tale. Obsessed with finding out how it will end, Alok agrees to transcribe some books made of questionable material for the mysterious stranger, that detail the wanderings a mysterious race of beings.
“My part in this story began the winter before winters started getting warmer, on a full-moon night so bright you could see your own shadow on an unlit rooftop. It was under that moon—slightly smudged by December mist clinging to the streets of Kolkata—that I met a man who told me he was half-werewolf. He said this to me as if it were no different than being half-Bengali, half-Punjabi, half-Parsi. Half-werewolf under a full moon. Not the most subtle kind of irony, but a necessary one, if I’m to value the veracity of my recollections.”
The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers (TBR)
THIS. I can’t even began to express to you how excited I am. It’s a historical fiction, gothic, fantasy novel about a man named Michael Crawford who finds his wife dead on their wedding night, and then is forced to flee due to a malignant spirit intent on marrying him. But that’s not the cool part. The cool part is he goes on his journey with Byron, Shelley, and Keats who I believe are also being hunted by the spirit. That’s right. A horror novel with my favorite poets. I literally don’t know what else to say except that we are all terrible people for not reading this right now.
“Byron had drawn his pistol, and was looking closely at the leaves and dirt around him, as if he’d dropped something. “It’s — do keep calm now — it’s right over your head. I suppose you could look, if you can do it slowly.”
Crawford felt drops of sweat run down his ribs under his shirt as he slowly forced the muscles of his neck to tilt his head up; he saw the upper slope, bristling with trees that obstructed a view of the road, and then he saw the outer branches of the tree he was braced against, and finally he gathered his tattered courage and looked straight up.
And it took all of his self-control not to recoil or scream, and he was distantly resentful that he couldn’t just die in this instant.”
Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (TBR)
Honestly I don’t know all that much about this other then it’s inspired by Russian fairytale, and that there are Stalinist house elves. To be perfectly frank once I read the phrase “Stalinist house elves”, I didn’t actually need any more convincing then that.
“You humans, you know, whoever built you sewed irony into your sinews.”
The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell (TBR)
Zombies! I had to include at least one zombie novel on this list. I don’t know much about this one either, other then that it is a dark and gritty zombie book. A teenage girl named Temple is on the run from a killer while she is also trying to survive in a world destroyed by zombies.
“…and she’s thinking of rage, like an ember or a burning acid swallowing up her knotted viscera. Blindness like the kind that leads men to perpetrate horrors, animal drunkenness, the jungles of the mind.”
Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (TBR)
A coming of age tale about a boy living on the outskirts of society with his family. His family are Mongrels, people of mixed blood, neither human nor inhuman. He spends his childhood wandering from around the south with his family, waiting to see if he to will become a werwolf like the rest of his family. It looks to be a dark, sometimes humorous story of a boy trying to find his place in the world, and decide where he belongs.
“Being a werewolf isn’t just teeth and claws,” she said, her lips brushing my ear she was so close, so quiet, “it’s inside. It’s how you look at the world. It’s how the world looks back at you.”