Those long, lazy pool days have met their extinction—at least until our next journey around the sun. The shrills and shrieks that once echoed across sandy beaches, carnival rides and hot pavements have quieted. Sweater and hot chocolate weather is upon us, spooling us back indoors, asking that we find the serenity of a rapturous read and a window seat, where we can be entranced by the silent melody of falling leaves for hours upon hours.
I’ve long believed Autumn to serve as a seance for inspiration and personal reflection. As the year enters its final act and the temperatures fall, the ghostly thoughts that haunt us and the closeted skeletons that cramp our creativity begin to tug at us to be made known. Vivid colors spill out across our landscapes as the trees prepare to shed their branches—perhaps invoking us all to cross over into a state of gorgeous mystery and transition.
Ahead is a reading list aligned with facets of the earth’s most bewitching season. Some books are dripping with romance and whimsical fare, some are page-turners thick with hair-raising tales of the inexplicable, and others are a summoning for transcendence. Dare to let them whisk you away into a state of autumnal nirvana.
“A Million Junes” by Emily Henry
Set in a small town in Michigan, this is a brilliant work of fiction about forbidden young love, with supernatural overtones. Both dark and ethereal, it couldn’t be more suitable for reading in the fall.
The imagery is breathtaking, the characters are haunting and there are strange twists that follow the reader throughout the day and into their dream state. Most significantly, the chemistry between the characters becomes something to be craved—even the naive and tragic elements. There are poignant moments as well, though—seeming to hold small treasures of life lessons one can take from the world the author created and draw into their own life. Everything about this book is captivating and magical.
“Becoming Mrs. Lewis” by Patti Callahan Henry
Having interviewed the author for a story last year, I was offered an advance copy of this book. Long before the package was dropped in the mail, I knew it would be a phenomenal read. Callahan and I spoke about it last summer while the book was in editing, and her eyes glittered with excitement as she delved into her process of birthing it—as though she were still breathless and buzzing from an unforgettable romantic tryst. Based on the profound love story between writer C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman, it is expertly researched and gorgeously written.
To prepare for my foray into the material, I brewed some tea, ran a warm bath and settled into the tub. Nearly half an hour later, the water having turned cold and my toes resembling prunes, I was still turning pages. You won’t regret sinking into this one.
“Collected Ghost Stories” M.R. James
These fictional stories are chilling, and mostly set in quiet, rural places like churchyards, grave sites and obscure cottages. There is no glamorization of blood and gore, and little hardcore horror to be found in its pages. You won’t be met with any masked men or ravenous monsters. Still, its content is so abundant with the kind of spook that will lure you to the edge of your seat and ask that you keep a light on at night.
Published in 1931, the writing style is a rather formal Victorian prose that you may not be familiar with, however if you can get beyond that, you will find that the author is brilliant in his ability to frighten and tease with playful suggestion and suspense. This is the perfect book to curl up with when a storm is raging outside and a fire is blazing inside.
“Haunted Hikes” by Maren Horjus
If you loved gathering around the campfire as a child and exchanging spooky tales in between rotations of the marshmallows, this book will excite you. If the sound of leaves crunching beneath your feet and the thought of being swallowed by a forest rich with buried history sends a blessed thrill throughout your body, this book was written specifically for you.
From UFO sightings to unsolved mysteries and murders, each tale guides you through a historical account that is sure to make you shiver under your bed covers. You’ll never lace up your hiking books or venture to your National parks with the same air of nonchalance again.
“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert
The first time I held this book in my hands was the day it landed among the masses—the Autumn Equinox of 2016. I have pulled it from hibernation every Autumn since, mostly because it feels fitting to read when the air is cool and thick with enchantment. It houses stories that explore the whims of creativity, the vagaries of inspiration, and the strange relationship between the human mind and the divine powers that bring ideas to it. This book is digestible yet packed with elements of surprise. It will shift the way you approach your artistic endeavors forever.
“Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
This book is immersive and powerful, possessing both an ancient and timeless feel. It imparts wisdom and mysticism to every woman in passionate pursuit of her soul’s divinity. It can be devoured any time of year, but I find its content to be most aligned with the spirit of fall. It covers the aspects of relationships with others and the self, as well as body image, sexuality, and self-esteem. It offers a divinely-guided voyage through the female psyche, and may have you paying reverence to your femininity in a way you have never revered it before.