12 Books I’m Falling for this Autumn
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Autumn, or fall depending on where you’re reading this, is truly upon us. The leaves are changing hue, early mornings are getting chilly, and orange is making its annual return to our wardrobes. This is the best time of the year to do as the cliche says: get cosy and curl up with a good book.
Earlier this year, in my summer reading list post, I wrote about why I wanted to get back into reading. After years of prescribed reading in college, I was finally ready to branch out and read whatever struck my fancy. I spent the summer reading in my favourite coffee shops, on picnics in the park, on buses and trains and planes.
Difficult as it was to get back into the habit and pace of reading, once I was hooked on a plot line, I couldn’t put my current read down. Now, near the end of September, I’m proud to say that I finished reading all but one item on that summer list. I even ended up adding a few more here and there to keep things interesting!
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier that my reading habit is back on track. For a while there, I didn’t feel like myself. As any bookworm would agree, losing the magic of reading, even temporarily, can leave a gaping hole in the everyday. Title by title, I have patched it up, and I am gearing up for autumn with a whole new list of fantastic books that I can’t wait to get into.
So, here’s my list. Hopefully you’ll find one or two titles that will spark your reading habit too.
1. The Flatshare — Beth O’Leary
I first heard about The Flatshare through Bookstagram — this is a pattern you’ll soon notice in this post. Although romantic comedies are a pretty rare indulgence for me, I was curious enough about the main premise of this novel to pick it up. The Flatshare tells the story of Tiffy and Leon, who have a curious apartment rental situation: they share the apartment in shifts, but have never actually met.
This book is laugh-out-loud funny, unashamedly romantic, quirky, and just the right amount of cringy to make the perfect guilty pleasure. That being said, it’s far from shallow. O’Leary is unafraid to tackle heavy subjects such as emotional abuse and gaslighting, and does so with great compassion and credibility. I sped through The Flatshare in the space of a day, in that frenzied state of wanting to know the ending but not wanting the story to end. Definitely recommended reading for any rom-com fans.
2. The Goldfinch — Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch popped up on my TBR list when the book community started buzzing about its film adaptation. Hearing that the movie was critically condemned, I naturally gravitated toward the book. When I first got my hands on it, I couldn’t believe how physically massive it was. At almost 800 pages, toting it around with me on the bus was quite the challenge, and not looking like a pretentious asshole while I did was virtually impossible. That said, I truly enjoyed the two weeks in which The Goldfinch kept me company.
Not a light read, but an investment
It reads more like a series of vignettes than a novel — quite fitting for a book about a painting. It presents not mere snapshots but fully fleshed out images of Theo’s life as he moves through young adulthood, navigating personal tragedy, love, and moral dilemmas verging on the extreme. I can’t remember the last time I changed my mind so frequently about a character throughout the reading process. One minute I felt sympathy and affection for Theo, the next I was angrily rebuking his poor decisions. Light and darkness, good and bad, they all intertwine in this story. Look at them from up close, and the pieces appear for what they really are: sketches, brushstrokes of a life. Look at the whole, and the effect is complete. As one character describes it:
That’s what all the very greatest masters do … They build up the illusion, the trick — but, step closer? it falls apart into brushstrokes. Abstract, unearthly. A different and much deeper sort of beauty altogether. The thing and not the thing. Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
To address the obvious issue at hand: yes, the story could have been a bit more contained. I do fear that doing so would have compromised a lot of the details rendered so vividly by Tartt. If speeding through a novel is not that important to you, and you’re looking for a challenge, The Goldfinch is a beautiful one. If I may give you a tip, though? Give the movie a miss.
3. Three Women — Lisa Taddeo
As soon as Three Women was chosen as one of the five recommended August books on Book of the Month, I knew I had to read it. I like to have a non-fiction or two in the mix at all times, whether it be a collection of Didion essays or a self-help book. Journalistic portraits are not my usual go-to, but this particular one jumped out at me. Three Women tells the stories of, you guessed it, three real women. Taddeo’s aim is to explore female desire and the power dynamics that come with it — a topic still generally shied away from in popular culture. I have heard some fantastic reviews of this work, and also some accusing Taddeo of voyeurism. Either way, I am excited to read it, hear the three stories, and judge for myself.
Some of my autumn book picks: Three Women, Where the Crawdads Sing, and City of Girls.
4. This is Going to Hurt — Adam Kay
Another non-fiction title on my list, though wildly different from the last. This is Going to Hurt , or the secret diaries of a Junior Doctor, first came into my life via a series of excitedly told anecdotes. Aidan was listening to the audiobook, and I don’t remember the last time he was so excited about a book. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a squeamish person, but I do occasionally get freaked out about medical horror stories, especially those involving bodily fluids. Therefore, ordering this book felt a bit like self-sabotage. Being a sucker for an insider’s perspective, though, I knew I had to get my hands on it. On the bright side, I’ve heard Kay is hilariously funny — which is (hopefully) enough to distract me from the blood and guts that I might encounter.
5. City of Girls — Elizabeth Gilbert
I wouldn’t call myself a total Eat, Pray, Love fangirl. I found it inspiring, but it didn’t make me dust off my yoga mat or take up chanting meditation (though it did make me want to visit Bali one day!). A few summers ago I got through most of the book, but mostly I enjoy rewatching the movie now and again to admire Julia Roberts and fawn over the beauty of the Italian language. As far as Gilbert’s other works, I loved Big Magic, and would consider it one of my favourite self-help books (a list of those coming soon!)
That aside, I was a little surprised to see myself adding City of Girls to my library reservation list. Either I fell for the hype, generated by magazines such as Vogue or The Sunday Times , or I just really wanted to go Gilbert’s novels a try. The setting is appealing: wartime New York, the titular city of girls, where women are collectively exploring their identity outside of domestic life. I’m expecting a novel about female desire, identity, and adventure. It probably would have made for a better summer read, but I’m excited to breeze through it this autumn anyway.
6. Where the Crawdads Sing — Delia Owens
Truth be told, I have already read this book. Not just read it — devoured it. Where the Crawdads Sing was brilliant to me, packed full of all the ingredients that make the perfect story. Mystery, suspense, romance, conflict, and the raw beauty of nature all come together to make the most beautiful reading experience I have had in a very long time. A coming of age novel and a take on the wild girl trope, it tells the story of Kya, a young girl abandoned by her family. Throughout the novel she learns to survive on her own, both physically and emotionally.
This book is painful and touching, exposing the complexity of isolation and the resulting difficulty to trust. It also shows the strength of character that often comes from self-reliance. The natural writing had an air of Whitman, celebrating nature in all its beauty and ruthlessness, taking it as it comes. The storyline kept me hooked throughout. All in all, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Where the Crawdads Sing to anyone.
Where the Crawdads Sing is my favourite book so far this autumn.
7. Queenie — Candice Carty Williams
Earlier this year, while preparing for my final set of college exams, I listened to a High Low podcast interview with Candice Carty Williams. I didn’t have time to read her debut novel then, but I sure am ready to pick up a copy of Queenie now. I remember Carty, who works in publishing, saying that she kept wishing a book would arrive on her desk that described the kind of experiences she was having as a young black woman in London. Years passed, and when that book still hadn’t been written, she decided to do it herself. I’m very excited to read a piece of contemporary female fiction that reflects the diversity and multiculturalism of hubs like London, as well as the misunderstanding and prejudice that still comes with it. Funny, political, honest: Queenie, I’m ready to meet you.
8. Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo — Taylor Jenkins Reid
Truth be told, I don’t know all that much about Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, other than its glowing reviews. A novel about an ageing actress who decides after decades to tell the story of her glamorous and secretive life, I think this book will have a similar mood to City of Girls . I’ve always been fascinated by old Hollywood glamour. In school, I read a 600 page biography of Marilyn Monroe for a 5-minute class presentation. Whether it was a sign of dedication or severe nerdiness or both, I loved the subject matter. This is bound to be the perfect read for chilly autumn evenings, perhaps in the bath with a glass of wine.
9. The Testaments — Margaret Atwood
Okay, so here’s a shocking enough confession (for a graduate of English literature who did a module in sci-fi and dystopian lit, at least): I never finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale. I know, it’s a sham. But hear me out. I made the mistake of bringing it along on holidays in Portugal a couple of summers ago. Of course, as anyone who has read it would know, it isn’t exactly the definition of a beach read. As much as the storyline, the world of Gilead, and the character of Offred drew me in, I had to keep putting it down. After I came home, and other books came into the picture, I completely forgot to finish it.
This autumn, I not only want to finish The Handmaid’s Tale at last, and finally do it justice, but I also hope to get my hands on its highly anticipated sequel — The Testaments. I’ve seen some pretty mixed reviews of the latest of Atwood’s novels. It can’t be easy trying to follow a novel that is nothing short of iconic. Generations of fans have been waiting for decades for this — and pleasing everyone is virtually impossible. Still, the book is nominated for the Booker prize, so Atwood must have made a noble attempt.
10. Norwegian Wood — Haruki Murakami
This summer, when it was still warm enough to have lunch in a quiet spot in the park every day, I read my first Murakami. It was a book of short stories I had been meaning to read for a few years, called Men Without Women. I was immediately immersed — Murakami’s prose is unique, humorous but dark, straightforwardly observant. The seven stories in the collection cover isolation, dependence, grief, and desire, all in the context of men experiencing a loss of women in their lives. Starting off with short stories is often a good way to get a taste of a writer’s style, and I would highly recommend this collection.
Now, though, I’m looking to branch out into his longer works. I asked you guys for your top Murakami reads over on Instagram, and you really delivered! It’s safe to say you can expect a Murakami title in every seasonal reading list from here on out. This autumn, I’m starting with the most popular answer: Norwegian Wood. If my first experience of his work is any indication, I can already tell I won’t put it down once I’ve started.
I only started reading this wonderful book on my way to work this morning but I'm already in love! Somehow I managed not to read any Murakami before this, and a short story collection is such an excellent way to get a taste of his writing ✨ . have you read any Haruki Murakami? please tell me which of his books I should read next!
A post shared by Natalia | What Now, Nat? (@whatnownat) on Jul 23, 2019 at 12:19pm PDT
11. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine — Gail Honeyman
I am very late to the game on this one. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine seems to be a rite of passage book over on Instagram. It was featured in Reese’s book club, rose to the top of multiple bestseller charts, and will soon be a motion picture. I think it’s time for me to see what all the fuss is about. The novel tells the story of Eleanor, a young woman who “has learned to survive, but not to live”, building walls and mechanisms around herself. This opens up prescient dialogue about the meaning and value of everyday life and the things we prioritise. Being guilty of carefully scheduling most of my activities, I’m curious to read about Eleanor’s transformative experience — surely there’s one on the cards. Staying true to character, I’m timetabling it for November.
12. The Little Book of Hygge — Meik Wiking
It wouldn’t be an autumn reading list if I didn’t include some hygge! Aidan gifted this book to me a couple of birthdays ago. As I read it, I immediately got in the cosy spirit of the season. If The Little Book of Hygge doesn’t inspire you to light some candles, read by a roaring fire, and drink loose leaf tea under a warm blanket, then I don’t know what will.
Hygge, an almost untranslatable Danish term for cosiness, pleasure taken from simple things, and togetherness, has quickly become one of my favourite concepts. There’s something so wonderful about the philosophy behind it. Hygge encourages people to be with their loved ones as well as themselves, to enjoy the little things in life and make even small moments as pleasant and fulfilling as possible. I will flick through The Little Book of Hygge every time I find myself in a slump this autumn.
This wraps up my autumn reading list for 2019. I am completely unconvinced that I will limit myself to these 12 titles. There are so many new ones I’m adding to my TBR list every day, and all thanks to you guys over on Bookstagram. I hope you found at least one book here that you can proverbially curl up with this autumn with a warm cup of tea. Please let me know in the comments if you end up enjoying any of these books!
And while you’re here, why not check out my reset day routine? You can incorporate reading into your next reset day, allowing you to relax and unwind from the stresses of the week.
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