It’s no secret fall is my favourite time of year, as it is for most of us bookworms. The coziness is just ripe for afternoons and evenings spent reading.
I always like to pair reads with the seasons, it’s just the way I’m wired. I overthink. I hate thunderstorms. I am obsessed with chocolate, Gilmore Girls, candles, coffee, and adorable dog videos that make me cry. Seasonal TBRs are my thing and I take none as seriously as my fall monthly lists.
But when it comes to what classifies a fall read as a fall read, our opinions are varied. For some it’s a cozy comfy read full of autumnal breezes and baked goods. For others, it’s a creepy story that gets you in the Halloween/October mood. Or maybe you love your fantasy and just want it to give you autumn vibes. Whatever reader/mood/fall definition you aspire to, I got you.
In this article I’m going to recommend 19 (!) books that all pair perfectly with the fall season on their own right, but broken down into the type of read you’re looking for.
I Want to Curl Up and Be Cozy:
The Sugar Queen
Written by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by Bantam
For those who enjoy the simple pleasures of a well loved paperback, cold weather, warm sweaters and sugary treats … this one’s for you. I’ll just let the first paragraph sell this one: “When Josey woke up and saw the feathery frost on her windowpane, she smiled. Finally, it was cold enough to wear long coats and tights. It was cold enough for scarves and shirts worn in layers, like camouflage. It was cold enough for her lucky red cardigan, which she swore had a power of its own. She loved this time of year. Summer was tedious with the light dresses she pretended to be comfortable in while secretly sure she looked like a loaf of white bread wearing a belt. The cold was such a relief.” This story is pure autumnal perfection.
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living
Written by Louise Miller
Published by Penguin Books
Kicking right off in September this purely comforting piece of escapist fiction is going to deliver you all the cozy autumn vibes. If you adore the first season of Gilmore Girls, with its delicious food, pumpkins and twinkle lights and fall leaves aplenty – then this book is your new friend. Follow Olivia, the talented pastry chef of a major restaurant in Boston, as she takes a break from the pressures of city life to escape to a quiet Bed & Breakfast in the cozy town of Guthrie, Vermont. Delicious descriptions of pie, cakes, and confections will have your mouth watering and the endearing town of eclectic locals will heal all the broken bits inside. Well, maybe not, but you will feel the joyful feels I guarantee.
Snow & Rose
Written by Emily Winfield Martin
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
This gorgeous middle grade story is the perfect pairing with a cup of hot chocolate, a spicy candle, and an open fall afternoon. In the vein of a Grimm’s fairytale, this book is simply enchanting and the delicious prose is intensely calming. What elevates this story to greater, and even more importantly, autumnal heights, is the plethora of stunning woodland illustrations – from pine boughs, to mushrooms, pinecones, forests, cloaks, cozy sweaters, snow and woodland creatures – this book is simply a complete pleasure to read.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
Written by Julie Berry
Published by Square Fish
This story is for everyone who finds themselves reaching for murder mysteries when the nights get colder as a means to spend a cozy night in. I hugely, enormously, grandly recommend listening to the audiobook to raise this book to even greater heights. Is it middle grade? Is it YA? I really cannot tell, but it is 100% murder mystery perfection for anyone who enjoys a good Agatha Christie style whodunnit. Following an eccentric cast of girls ranging in age from 12-17 at St. Ethelreda’s School For Young Ladies, these girls, who have names like Dour Eleanor and Disgraceful Mary Jane, have all been sent by their not-so-nice families in order to learn propriety. One Sunday afternoon during supper, nasty Headmistress Mrs. Plackett and her even worse brother drop dead at the dinner table, poisoned by the veal that the girls are not allowed to eat. What follows is morbid hilarity as the girls try to hide the deaths so that they can remain living at the school independently from evil families and headmistresses, all the while trying to solve who the murderer is. If you’re wondering how a murder mystery can be cozy, read/listen to this hilarious story and you’ll soon found out!
I Want a Thrill, a Chill, or a Scare:
The Leaf Reader
Written by Emily Arsenault
Published by Soho Teen
This is a greatly underrated YA mystery thriller – books like this one seemingly aren’t published anymore, and fall is the perfect time to pick it up. In this page turning whodunnit, Marnie, a “creepy social outcast”, takes up the hobby of tea leaf reading and finds herself swept up in paranormal happenings and a real life missing persons case of local girl, Andrea Quinley. As Marnie delves deeper into the mystery of Andrea’s disappearance more strange occurrences continue to happen to her and more signs are pointing towards murder. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a fast read that delivers on creepy atmosphere, paranormal, magic, and school settings.
Written by Katherine Arden
Published by Puffin Books
You are or were a Goosebumps fan? Then on your next chilly October morning, brew a cup of coffee or tea and sit down with this amazing middle grade from Katherine Arden. This story will have you feeling the fall vibes immediately with her descriptions of the tiny “Stars Hollow” style town and its breezy, rainy weather. An ordinary class field trip to a local farm goes greatly amiss when the events of the scary ghost story that Ollie is reading start to come true. When the bus breaks down and her broken digital wristwatch tells her to RUN, only Ollie and two classmates will listen as the scarecrows around them close in. Trust me, you’ll never look at Scarecrows the same after reading this one.
Written by Libba Gray
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
I’m not sure if my horror-intolerant self has read anything as terrifying (yet still manageable and readable) than The Diviners. I’ve only read the first instalment in this Young Adult series – which let me say right here, reads a lot older than the typical YA standard – but it will, guaranteed, put chills down your spine by the end of the first chapter. The ghost of a vigilante serial killer is on the loose collecting body parts from his murdered victims in order to bring forth unspeakable power and harm to mankind, and it’s up to the excellent cast of main characters to stop it. A fantastically creepy period piece (set in the 1920s) this story is absolutely rich with atmosphere and intrigue. Highly recommend the audiobook.
Written by Erin A. Craig
Published by Delacorte Press
Is there such a thing as “fun horror”? I’m not a horror fan at all, but somehow, even though Small Favors goes full out horror by the end, I still immensely enjoyed this one! In my review I described it as Little House on the Prairie meets Horror, and I still can’t think of a better way to put it. If you like the reminiscent idealism of “day’s gone by” a la Anne of Green Gables, delicious descriptions of food, and plots that beat with a pulse of doom and foreboding, this is your book. The perfect story to transition from summer to fall.
I Like My Fantasy, Thanks:
The Boneless Mercies
Written by April Genevieve Tucholke
Published by Square Fish
One of my favourite reads of 2020, The Boneless Mercies was almost a DNF for me. So if you pick this one up and are struggling for a bit and cursing my recommendation … give it time. Or maybe you just won’t like it. Which is fine, too, because this is a story for a particular type of reader. If you like slow stories that build, if “weird” or “odd” are descriptors of some of your favourite reads, and/or you just want to read a vicious story centring around a group of kick-ass, killer girls (who are responsible for killing the old and ill) as they hunt down a beast to earn their freedom from the sect of Boneless Mercies … here you go. This story is strange, the plot meanders around and takes its time, with delicious prose and killer descriptions of those chilly late autumn days. It’s mystical, it’s haunting, it’s stunning.
The Raven Boys
Written by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic
You likely won’t find a fall reads list without this fantastic series on it and rightly so. This is a story that begs to be read every fall as the incredible talent that is Maggie Stiefvater delivers us an incredibly immersive story of magic, paranormal happenings, fall forests, elite academies, and one of the best core friend groups we all desperately want to belong to. If you’re looking for writing that you can just sink into and disappear for awhile within, Maggie is your girl.
An Enchantment of Ravens
Written by Margaret Rogerson
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Quickly becoming the queen of the YA standalone, Margaret’s first story is perfectly timed for a fall read. The enjoyment of An Enchantment of Ravens is going to depend on what you’re looking for going in: if you want a fast, fae story centring around a very likeable main character as she journeys into the Autumn Court after she makes a mistake painting the portrait of the Autumn Prince … dive in. If you’re looking for a Sarah J. Maas level, fleshed-out (in my opinion overdrawn, but that’s a discussion for another time) story of courts, hierarchies and a 1000 pages to reach the romance, you might be frustrated by this 300 pager. So adjust accordingly. But you won’t find a better fall fantasy than this one.
Wilderlore: The Accidental Apprentice
Written by Amanda Foody
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
This middle grade fantasy could’ve worked across a great many of these categories – being cozy, fantasy, magical, and a quick autumnal read. If spiced pear cider, magical familiars, woodland settings, and magical school competitions sound like literary elements you enjoy, I highly recommend reading this new story from popular YA author Amanda Foody. While it was released in spring of 2021, Wilderlore is perfectly timed for fall. Follow Barclay as, after accidentally bonding to a magical Beast (and is subsequently kicked out of the small, proper village of Dullshire), he travels deep into the Woods to seek help from the mysterious Lore Keepers – people who willingly break animal/human bonds.
Fall is for Magic:
The Night Circus
Written by Erin Morgenstern
Published by Doubleday Books
Here it is, my forever fall favourite read. Likely the one you’ve seen on many fall lists as well and that’s simply because it’s pure autumnal brilliance. Magic, romance, and a sinister, deadly Magicians duo that takes place within an enchanted Circus of dreams – where the scents of caramel popcorn, bonfire, marshmallows and magic waft out from the pages – all set in the perfect turn of the 20th century time period … Read it, love it. Then read it again. Please.
The Once and Future Witches
Written by Alix E. Harrow
Published by Redhook
I’m very picky about my witchy stories. I love elements of spelling and casting, I love herbs, plants, and the respect of nature, crinkling old pages found within leather tomes, libraries of words, animal familiars, women supporting women in unified and true sisterhood, all cocooned in a world of danger, peril, and the fight for women’s power. Alix E. Harrow brings all this in The Once and Future Witches, never shying away from the dark detail of the very real abuse, torture, and cruelty of the historic time of witch hunting. While the beginning was a struggle for me as the ambition of multiple plot elements mashed together – sociopolitical, historical, women’s suffrage, fantasy, estranged family, sisterhood and magic warred a bit for space, things did come together for a very satisfying, full bodied, intelligent, and, most importantly, witchy read.
The Last Magician
Written by Lisa Maxwell
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
I can’t claim that this story is fully going to give you cozy fall vibes per se, even though a lot of it does take place over cooler months, but what this book will deliver is one of the best magician centred tales I’ve ever read (aside from The Night Circus above of course). This is a richly atmospheric, deliciously detailed ambitious work that includes some of my favourite literary elements: time travel, magic (obviously), a cunning and powerful leading lady, turn of the 20th Century time period, old New York City, mobs, mafia, power plays … it brings it all and balances it well. Grab this one if you’re looking to sink into a gradually built and well drawn story of magic, slow burn romance, and politics.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Written by Neil Gaiman
Published by William Morrow & Company
If we’re talking magic, I’m going to recommend Gaiman. A spin on your typical “witch” story, Neil Gaiman’s trio of women at Hempstock Farm are probably my favourite “coven”. I’m not going to tell you much about this one because going in blind into this itty bitty story that is part magical realism / part memoir / part metaphor, is powerful. Maybe not for everyone, but this little novel is one of my favourite stories … ever. For those who like a good dose of weird, books that aren’t afraid to leave things open ended, descriptions of English country side and yummy food – this book is as cozy as it is unsettling. Book and audiobook are both perfection. (Really you can’t go wrong with any Neil Gaiman story – Coraline and The Graveyard Book both would’ve worked perfectly on this list as well.)
I Don’t Have Time For All That, Something Short & Autumnal, Please:
Written by Rainbow Rowell
Art by Faith Erin Hicks
Published by First Second
This adorable graphic novel is so popular for a reason, it will make the hardest of fall hating hearts grabbing anything and everything pumpkin. Set on Halloween night, in a pumpkin patch – just grab a latte and let these fantastic teens bring the season to life for you as we meander through the pumpkin maze with them.
Seance Tea Party
Written & drawn by Reimena Yee
Published by Random House Graphic
This sweet coming of age middle grade graphic novel brought me a big dose of feels as our main character learns to navigate that difficult in-between time of being a kid and a teen … all centred around Halloween, the fall, and a ghost-girl best friend. It’s simply charming and lovely.
The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Written by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Imprint
There’s just something about this collection of short stories that gives off great autumnal vibes but especially the third story, The Witch of Duva, that delivers. Grab a copy from the library and enjoy this story with some tea & sweets and marvel in the gorgeous illustrations. (Do read the last story as well please, it is my very favourite piece of Bardugo writing!)
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