Summer is often touted as the best time for reading, and I’m all for a good Summer Reading List. But I propose we also begin to make Autumn Reading a thing. After all, fall is when our kids start hitting the books—why shouldn’t we join them?
If summer reading is about breezy poolside chick lit, fall reading is a little heavier, a touch cozier, and a tad more mysterious. This fall reading list leaves behind the optimism and romance of summer to embrace autumn’s melancholia, introspection, spookiness, generational stories, and back-to-school vibes.
As the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to cool, fall is the perfect time to grab a cup of tea and settle in with one of these fall-ish books.
The Likeness, by Tana French: When the body of a college student is found in a rundown stone cottage, a detective who happens to be the victim’s dopplegänger steps into the dead woman’s life as a Trinity College graduate student and the housemate of four other students. This gritty mystery will keep you up at night and may or may not leave you yearning for those carefree college days.
The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths: A high school English teacher comes face-to-face with murder when her best friend is murdered, and her own diaries seem to have played a role in the crime. A delightfully spooky October read!
Rush, by Lisa Patton: Set in modern day Oxford, Mississippi, on the Ole Miss campus, this is the story of several women on both ends of the social ladder who are attempting to make a place for themselves within the outdated Greek System. Light and humorous at times, Rush isn’t afraid to explore challenging themes of racism, responsibility, and complex family dynamics.
Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay: Told through letters between an English major (and survivor of the foster care system) and her anonymous benefactor, this is a touching story of perseverance, hope, and a rather fortunate case of mistaken identity.
And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie: One of the greatest mysteries of all time, from the Queen of Suspense. If you’ve never read this classic whodonit, you’re in for a treat! (But unless you have nerves of steel, I wouldn’t recommend reading this one at home alone.)
Watching You, by Lisa Jewell: Set in a deceptively charming English town, this modern take on the Rear Window premise is filled with intriguing characters and a whole slew of ethical quandaries.
He Said/She Said, by Erin Kelly: Young and in love, two eclipse chasers are having the experience of a lifetime at a festival celebrating a solar eclipse when they witness a crime that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Twisty, terrifying, and totally engrossing.
I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh: This is the riveting tale of a woman who is devastated after losing her son. Prepare for a plot twist that will blow your mind!
The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda: A haunting story of a journalist whose room mate has gone missing, leaving our heroine to wonder if her missing friend ever existed at all.
Still Life, by Louise Penny: If you’re seeking a mystery series to sink your teeth into this fall, look no further than the Chief Inspector Gamache books. Set in a cozy Canadian town, these complex mysteries are bursting with endearing characters, intriguing themes, and boatloads of slow-burning suspense. This isn’t the best book in the series, but it’s the first, and you must start at the beginning—but definitely don’t stop there!
Riveting Historical Fiction
Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay: In 2002, a Parisian journalist finds herself wrapped up in a heartbreaking mystery dating back to the second World War. Sarah’s Key presents a compelling look at the French occupation, with an intriguing modern-day storyline that brings the historical repercussions to life.
Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye: This reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer is creative, acerbically humorous, and a true page-turner.
11/22/63, by Steven King: A historical thriller with a sci-fi twist, this is the spellbinding story of a man who travels back in time in an attempt to prevent JFK’s assassination. Impeccable storytelling, incredible premise, and not at all the horror story one might expect from Steven King (in a good way!).
The Lake House, by Kate Morton: In modern-day London, a detective stumbles across an old, abandoned estate. Her investigation leads her to discover a historic family tragedy in this book of secrets, deception, and false assumptions.
Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield: This mysterious, atmospheric tale begins with an extraordinary event that takes place in an ancient inn on the Thames River. What follows is a glorious interweaving of science, mythology, and the art of storytelling.
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles: In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat and sentenced to a life-long house arrest in a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Don’t be fooled by the monotonous setting: this book is brimming with humor, dazzling characters, and poignant psychological insights into the nature of humanity.
Books About Books
Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz: In this novel that features two books in one, the manuscript from a bestselling mystery author holds the clues to a real-life murder mystery. Perfect for readers who appreciate a unique narrative structure that doesn’t sacrifice dynamic prose and a complex story.
The Printed Letter Bookshop, by Katherine Reay: The heartwarming story of three women whose lives are shaped by the books they read and the bookshop that brings them together.
The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield: This love letter to the reading life unites gothic sensibilities with an utterly spellbinding mystery. A perfectly spine-tingling Halloween read.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: A charming epistolary novel told through humorous letters between an eccentric group of friends during World War II. Ideal for readers seeking a slightly less gritty take on WWII fiction.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin: This book is a bibliophile’s dream come true: a quirky protagonist, a sweet love story, a touch of mystery, and literary references aplenty!
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman: From one of the most talented literary novelists of our generation, this is the captivating story of a hockey town torn apart by tragedy. Even if you care nothing for sports, this book will steal your heart.
Love Anthony, by Lisa Genova: This is a heartbreaking but beautifully rendered story of friendship, autism, and unconditional love. Lisa Genova has a way of bringing heart and depth to challenging subjects, and this book is Genova at her best.
What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty: The unputdownable story of a 39-year-old woman who wakes up one morning with no recollection of the previous ten years. It’s a clever premise that leaves the reader with a lot to think about.
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult: An African American nurse is charged with a crime for treating the child of a white supremacist in this thoughtful examination of power, privilege, and responsibility. This is an issues-driven novel with heart that will open your eyes to many race-related challenges you may never have considered.
Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger: Set in the bitter cold of a midwestern winter in the early 1960s, this is a novel of family, faith, loyalty, and miracles. Great for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane: A profoundly moving story of two neighboring families, the tragedy that rips them apart, and the redemption that comes when two of their children set aside past traumas to forge a family of their own. A rare compelling read that is remarkably unpretentious and relatable.
A Place for Us, by Fatima Farheem Mirza: The incredible story of a Muslim family torn apart by cultural misunderstanding and decades of deception. Have tissues ready for this one!
This Must Be the Place, by Maggie O’Farrell: This book spans decades, following several members of an unconventional family. Creative storytelling devices combine with unforgettable characters and an evocative setting to create one incredible love story.