As a literature student, autumn reading means heading back to university and ploughing through stacks of books for all of my classes. It means Latin American poetry collections, post-colonial tales, plays about angsty 18th-century men, and Renaissance novels. It means long days in the library and tiresome nights spent trudging through research. Now that I’m finding a balance between university reading and reading for pleasure, autumn reading also means picking and choosing my favourite campus novels, dark Gothic tales, cosy mysteries and atmospheric books to sink into. Here are some of my favourite and recommended books for the season:
I know this is the most recommended novel ever, and everyone is raving about The Goldfinch, but this is the ultimate campus story. In the autumn glow of Vermont where gilded youth is set free to experiment, this haunting book seeps with everything you love about dark academia. What’s more, it starts with a murder; we don’t so much wonder what might happen as worry about what will happen. Are the characters pretentious and melodramatic? Absolutely. But that does not dampen how bewitching a reading experience this is.
Can you even think about autumn or going back to school without thinking of To Kill a Mockingbird? The trial and racism threaded throughout day-to-day life is the most poignant part of the novel. However, much of To Kill A Mockingbird is about Scout and Jem’s antics and life in Maycomb. The children’s ongoing fascination with the creepy Radley house—and Scout’s iconic Halloween ham costume—make this a must-read novel for autumn.
A tale of romantic suspense that typifies the Gothic tradition with its vivid descriptions. Du Maurier creates such a tense atmosphere that you will feel the watchful presence of the intimidating Mrs Danvers and the lingering presence of the ghost of Rebecca throughout the book. Oozing with suspense, twists and turns, you’ll spend hours trapped within the eerie walls of Manderley house, lost to du Maurier’s beautiful and unnerving storytelling.
More dark academia? M.L. Rio’s has your back. With striking similarities to Tartt’s The Secret History, prepare yourself to be invested into the lives of the seven Shakespearean thespians at Dellecher Classical Conservatory. A compelling story of drama, crime, lust, and friendship, If We Were Villains has it all.
Autumn days were made for Gothic novels, and although a masterpiece to be read any time of the year, Jane Eyre—comprising the supernatural, the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall, and a brooding Mr Rochester— is a perfect choice for autumn.
Gothic romance, mystery, and psychological thriller all rolled into one, this quintessentially Victorian novel is the ultimate choice to read under heaps of blankets while sipping on your umpteenth hot drink of the season.
Another Brontë sister makes my list with her dark and captivating love story set on the desolate Yorkshire moors. This is a true Gothic tragedy, packed with unrequited love, separation, death, and everything in between. A world of dusty diaries, creaking windows and ghostly apparitions, when better to pick up this classic?
“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.”
I am currently reading these much-loved childhood favourites for the first time myself and I finally understand why many turn to these books during the autumnal months. We head back to Hogwarts school with Harry & co. and follow the school year from the autumn season through Halloween, to Christmas, and beyond. There’s no better time to dive into this world of spells, potions and elaborate feasts.
The first of Smith’s seasonal quartet, Autumn is a multi-layered, subversive novel which paints a beautiful picture of friendship. Prepare to be captivated by the bizarre yet heartwarming relationship between young art lecturer, Elisabeth, and elderly, former lyricist, Daniel Gluck. While recounting the lives of these two characters, Smith explores time and its passing; Autumn into Winter, past into the present, young into old. As the seasons change, so do we.
Autumn is the perfect time for reflection, and this is the perfect novel to reflect on.
What’s on your autumn reading list?
Also read: An Ode to Autumn