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Autumn Vibes: 12 Moody Novels for Fall

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 23, 2021

As autumn descends with cooler temperatures and waning daylight, there's nothing more comforting than curling up under a warm blanket with a mug of hot tea and a good book. It's even better if your literature evokes the bittersweet mood of the season itself. From cozy to creepy, we've put together the perfect fall reading list. We've broken titles down by a few distinct seasonal earmarks.

A Perfect Setting

With the vibrant fall foliage and stately brick buildings, there's just something inherently autumnal about New England settings. John Irving's The Cider House Rules is a definite for our list. Set in rural Maine during the first half of the twentieth century, it is a tale of change and yearning, morality and human weakness. Big themes that mesh well with this contemplative season.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt takes place at the elite Hampden College in Vermont. Adding an element of chill, this inverted detective story is about a set of classics students involved in the gruesome murder of a classmate.

And what's better than a New England setting? Well, how about the original England! One of our favorite fall books is Diane Setterfield's gothic mystery-fantasy The Thirteenth Tale about a reclusive, aged author who decides, at long last, to share her own strange, twisty story.

Girl-Powered Holmes

Of course we crave good detective stories this time of year. How about a couple of female-led yarns that pay homage to the ultimate sleuth? A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas is the first in her gender-flipping Lady Sherlock series about Charlotte Holmes, a Victorian-era woman who challenges societal expectations and sets out to solve a series of murders in her community.

From Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter draws inspiration from, not only Sherlock Holmes, but several other horror and sci-fi classics including Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and more.

Witches Plus Romance

As we zero in on Hallow's Eve, witchy stories are standard fall fare. What's wrong with mixing in a little titillation too? Get your preorder in on The Ex Hex, a spine-tingling romance by Erin Sterling (coming out on Sept. 28). When a young, heartbroken witch impulsively casts a curse on her ex, she unwittingly sets off a series of calamities.

With shades of Practical Magic, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and The Witches of Eastwick, Ellen Herrick's The Sparrow Sisters spins an enchanting love story about a place where magic whispers just beneath the surface and almost anything is possible, if you aren't afraid to listen.

It's a Fantasy, Baby

A dark, otherworldly fantasy can be the perfect mood setter for the season. Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus certainly fits the bill. You'll find a thrilling escape in the captivating descriptions of Le Cirque des Rêves and the pair of young magicians who conjure up the bevy of beguiling enchantments.

In House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig, Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea. But after her sisters begin to die tragically, one by one, she begins to wonder about the sinister darkness that threatens her family.

Set in November, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is an electric thrilling read. Some race to win; others to survive. Young Puck Connolly never meant to ride in the races, but fate hasn't given her much of a choice.

The Horror of it All

Of course, fall reading would not be complete without some straight-up horror, right? These creepy tales set in the fall will get you all primed for the upcoming frightfest.

Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist found international success with his visceral, paranormal novel, Let the Right One In. The complex tale of an unusual friendship will haunt you for months! It was also adapted into an award-winning film.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl tells the dark story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a troubled prodigy—the daughter of an iconic, reclusive filmmaker.

Revelator is a new title from Daryl Gregory, weaving together dual storylines in the remote hills of the Smoky Mountains in 1930s and '40s Tennessee. A Southern Gothic tale for the ages.

Vibrant, moody, crisp, dark, chilling, and thrilling. These are some of the qualities we look for in our fall reading choices. Hopefully you find something here that gets you into a proper autumnal mood. Let us know if we've missed any of your seasonal favorites.

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