If you’re anything like me, you probably have a list of books that you only pick up come late September. No, I’m not talking about strictly Halloween-themed stories — I am talking about the kind of stories that immerse you in the very “feeling” of fall, in the experience of stepping on crunchy leaves while walking your dog or blowing out a candle that has been burning for hours.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said it best: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” This is the season of death and decay, of change and transition — but not in the depressing way, just in the nostalgic, “dark academia” way.
So throw on a sweater and brew a cup of your favorite tea, because the vibes are about to get very autumnal with this perfectly curated list of my favorite fall reads.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling
My first recommendation, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” is admittedly an obvious choice for fall, particularly because it is the only “Harry Potter” book that truly puts me in the “fall mood.” Yes, all of the Potter books have, in one way or another, a sprinkle of autumn in their pages — but this one reigns superior in its perfect encapsulation of the “fall aesthetic.”
Not only does this third book shove Harry’s teenage angst in your face with a doom and gloom demeanor matched only by Jughead’s “I’m weird, I’m a weirdo” bit in “Riverdale,” but it also has dementors, an escaped death eater with murderous tendencies, a haunted shack guarded by a vengeful tree and a closeted gay werewolf.
From plants going rotten to soul-sucking creatures of darkness, this book has everything it needs to be the perfect autumn read. There is something incredibly life changing about reading this book at 4 p.m. on a Saturday in mid-October — I can’t explain it, you just need to trust me.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
I am not exaggerating when I say I have read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” every September since 2017. It is an incredible read with the perfect combination of nostalgia, coming-of-age and melancholia that will make you simultaneously laugh, cringe and weep throughout the course of its 224 pages.
It has the ability to make you root for the main character, Charlie, while also forcing you to furiously root against him — particularly when you see him making the same mistakes that you did as a teenager.
When I first read Charlie’s story, I felt strangely wistful, but also a deep sadness and grief — I felt that sense of change and transition that comes from reminiscing on your past but also moving forward from it, much like the autumn season itself.
Carefully described high school traditions like homecoming (which typically takes place between September and October), long walks home from school on chilly afternoons and mixtapes with songs like “Asleep” by the Smiths also make this coming-of-age novel an ideal read for the season.
“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt
Are you a fan of the rainy, gloomy atmosphere of New England landscapes? What about secret societies riddled with controversies or random, suspicious disappearances left unsolved? Well, this is the book for you.
“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt gives you a taste of the dark academic aesthetic so intense it will undoubtedly convert you to full-on Daniel Radcliffe-mode in “Kill Your Darlings” within the first 100 pages.
Like the protagonist of the novel, Richard Papen, you will start craving the glamorous and picturesque in your everyday life. You will not know satisfaction until you learn Greek in an old classroom behind your university or befriend the mysterious, cult-like students that everyone admires from afar because they dress well and look like Gucci models.
This novel, in addition encompassing the decay and melancholy of the fall aesthetic, evokes the drama of a Shakespearean tragedy and combines it with the charismatic charm of a classic murder mystery. It is truly unlike anything you’ve ever read before, and I cannot recommend “The Secret History” enough — or any novel written by Tartt, really.