Dina AH loves books so much that she dedicated her college years to studying all about them. Once a fangirl, always a fangirl.
Fall Reading List
Summer is well known for its cute contemporaries. They are stories of first loves, friendships, baking cookies, and frolicking around swimming pools. I love those books. However, aside from Australia and New Zealand, most of the globe gears toward fall in the latter part of the year. As fall edges closer, it is the perfect time to read eerie books that have a tinge of heaviness.
My reasoning is that the fall season, with its pumpkin spice lattes and crisp leaves, is all about the push and pull between monsters and humans. It is about seeing extraordinary changes in the weather, in the flowers and trees, and in the way a lot of people feel. This article covers the following 10 reads that I recommend for this time of year:
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
- The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
- A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
- Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
- This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
- The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
- Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Set in a fantasy setting, this novel is part of a pair of books revolving around a group of criminals attempting an impossible heist. These characters are among the most lovable groups I ever encountered in books. Kaz Brekker, a dangerous mastermind, brings together these awesome people. From Jesper, a sharpshooting genius, to Inej who is known as the Wraith, to beautiful Nina, sullen Matthias, and precious Wylan, readers will be on an exciting adventure.
This pair of books will break hearts and bring on smiles as this crew challenges the status quo. Each character has their own personal struggles that unfold throughout the story. Bardugo balances between emotional moments, heist and adventure bits, and side-splitting funny scenes.
Here is one of my favorites:
‘Jesper knocked his head against the hull and cast his eyes heavenward. “Fine. But if Pekka Rollins kills us all, I’m going to get Wylan’s ghost to teach my ghost how to play the flute just so that I can annoy the hell out of your ghost.”
Brekker’s lips quirked. “I’ll just hire Matthias’ ghost to kick your ghost’s ass.”
“My ghost won’t associate with your ghost,” Matthias said primly, and then wondered if the sea air was rotting his brain.”’
2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Atmospheric yet grounded with beautiful descriptions of Prague, Karou is an art student with blue hair. Her family consists of surreal creatures, ones we humans would never know of their existence. Karou draws her family often and, in her spare time, she goes on missions for her father figure Brimstone. But when chaos tears her family apart, she is left with herself and a murderous angel.
Here is a description of Karou from the perspective of a stranger:
“Until a few days ago, humans had been little more than legend to him, and now here he was in their world. It was like stepping into the pages of a book—a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos—and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it did others, the air seemed to gather around her like held breath. As if this whole place was a story about her.”
It’s such a beautiful and eerie love story, a story of self-discovery, travel, and friendship.
3. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
Set in a boarding school for girls, the headmistress and her brother are mysteriously killed. Never fear, a more capable crew has never been in a story. The group of students has to balance deceiving other adults whilst solving this mystery. Who could have murdered their beloved headmistress and her brother? Prepare for hilarity, cleverness, and comradery. These girls are so precious, snarky, and funny. Readers will find the farcical nature of the story fun while the mystery is continuously captivating.
Here’s one of my favorite hilarious moments in this book:
“I don't condone killing, but if killing happens anyway, then I think women go about it much more sensibly. Leave it to men to be loud and violent and messy about the business. It's egotistical of them. It's not enough to eliminate their enemy. No. They must conquer them face to face and watch them plead for mercy, whereas women dispatch victims quickly and silently."
4. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Like many of McGinnis’ books, this one can be intense in its depictions of cruelty and abuse. Set in a Boston mental institute, Grace Mae is a patient with family secrets and a knack for details. A historical novel with a touch of dark mysteries, Grace Mae encounters various riddles that speak about the treatment of those without power.
An Edgar Award winner, this novel gives voice to the voiceless in this historical setting. Prepare for a surprising friendship and a woman’s confrontation of familial and societal demons.
Here is a teaser for the story:
“It's a madness so discreet that it can walk the streets and be applauded in some circles, but it is madness nonetheless.”
Get ready to question what constitutes “madness,” and meet a Sherlock-Holmes-contender duo that will solve criminal mysteries unlike anything on television.
5. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Part of an ongoing quartet, Three Dark Crowns is perfect for the fall season. Three sisters must fight to the death. Only one can become queen. It is an intense read but it has delicious political intrigue, suspense, and a sincere exploration of morality in the face of survival. Each sister has a fantastical power aimed to arm her during the final battle.
The story does not go the way readers ever expect, even with its Hunger Games-esque premise. The sisters are not functioning in a vacuum. There are different parts of the country backing each queen and they push the queens in unpredictable directions. In doing so, Kendare Blake add an extra layer of complications
Here’s a taste of the story:
“Three Black Witches are born in a glen, Sweet little triplets Will never be friends. ‘Three Black Witches, all fair to be seen. Two to devour, And one to be queen.”
6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Echoing the Halloween vibes of the fall, the story begins with a toddler walking toward a graveyard. A killer trails behind. Luckily, the ghosts in the graveyard protect him. The boy’s name is Nobody (Bod for short) and the book chronicles his journey from living among the dead to transitioning among the living. The book offers a poignant and sensitive respect for the dead and the wisdom they possess. The most incredible kernel of truth within the novel, however, is the painful surrender of living among the dead to celebrate Bod’s life. For a book set mostly in a graveyard, this book is a rejoicing festivity of life. It’s perfect for the fall season.
Among my favorite quotes (and there are plenty for this book) is this one:
“You're alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you're dead, it's gone. Over. You've made what you've made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”
It is perfect for the cooler weather, especially with everyone focusing on monsters, ghosts, and all things supernatural. Sometimes, we get wrapped up in spooky things during this season and I find it grounding to embrace the biggest gift of all: living.
7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This book may seem like a trivial read if one is dismissive of children’s books. However, I found it to be profoundly enlightening, fiercely heartbreaking in its honesty and powerfully moving. The premise is that a young Conor’s mother is dying and he is grappling with anger and fear of change. Conor is marred by nightmares and one day, a monster appears outside his window. Said monster vows to tell the teen stories of truths and in return, the monster asks for Conor to tell a truth as well. What comes next is a story revolving around an exploration of love and surrender, loss and fear of the unknown, and growth.
Patrick Ness picked up this book after its conception by then-terminally ill author Siobhan Dowd. Dowd passed away before writing the book. Ness honors the experience of loss, fear, and the effects these two feelings can have on a person—regardless of its protagonist’s age, the story drips with complex philosophical discussions and haunting emotions.
Among my favorite moments in this book, it has to be the monster explaining the nuances in people’s morality. It says:
“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”
8. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
As a Schwab fan, it’s hard to pick one series for the fall. She is, after all, one of the most influential writers when it comes to discussing villainy, morality, and humanity. To properly celebrate Halloween, I think a story about monsters is perfect. Even more amazing is the way Schwab explores the humanity of our main monster character, August, and the monstrosity of the humans—mainly Kate.
A heart-pumping and thrilling conflict between the humans and the monsters will keep you turning pages to see what happens next. Filled with beautiful relationships, this book encourages readers to ponder the values we possess as humans and the effects of said beliefs on others. Even more precious is Schwab’s inclusion of transcendental struggles.
One of those conflicts is grappling with pain, its significance and its negative stigma. Schwab writes:
“Kate tipped her head back against the tub. “That’s life, August,” she said. “You wanted to feel alive, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re monster or human. Living hurts.”
It is these little bites of truth that ground this story in reality. As trees shed leaves and skies sob rain, I find comfort in remembering pain is part of living and growing. Discomfort often means that we are in new situations and that, if we adjust, we can thrive.
9. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Hazel and her brother Ben live in Fairfold, a town where humans and faeries live side by side. At their town’s heart lay a glass coffin with a sleeping fae prince. One day, said prince wakes up. Chaos ensues. The protagonists scramble to fulfill their roles in both the fae and human realms. There is a lot of political intrigue, family, mystery, grief, fear, swords, and music in this story.
In case you have not read a Holly Black faery book, she writes the cruelest and sneakiest fae. However, she also creates empowered female characters who are central to the survival of people around them. A page-turner, this story will transport readers to the wondrous and terrifying fae kingdoms. It is a perfect read for this fall season.
One of my favorite moments is when the narrator explains Hazel and Ben’s relationship:
“She'd known he'd understand. Brothers and sisters had their own language, their own shorthand. She was glad to be able to share the weird, ridiculous impossibleness of it with the only person who knew all the same stories, with the person who'd made those stories in the first place.”
Again, the transcendent elements of humanity here are love, perseverance, and curiosity. Particularly in the fall, I always recommend work that involves reminders of what makes us human.
10. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
This book features zombies and the apocalypse, yet it still will warm readers’ hearts. The two main characters come from drastically different environments. R is a zombie who falls in love with a human girl. Unable to carry on a conversation, he resorts to using gestures and sounds. Here’s the twist: zombies and humans have been warring with one another to survive. Will love overcome the fear?
Read this book to see a new interpretation of zombies and the apocalypse. Prepare to ponder the meaning of humanity, love, friendships, and taking a chance on someone you probably shouldn’t trust. R is a whimsical and charming zombie, which is a sentence I never expected to utter. I am easily terrified. Still, R has a unique perspective that balances tenderness with curiosity.
This is the kind of book to quote when R thinks of his inability to actually express deep thoughts. Isaac Marion writes:
“In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, everything collapses.”