The autumn days sometimes feel awfully long and dragging, but they're coming to an end too, which means it's time to close the autumn gestalt. How? Let us offer you books, the universal solution to all problems, the answer to all questions. And before you get swept up in the New Year spirit, here are 10 books with an incredible autumn mood, sometimes as dark and mysterious as our November articles, and sometimes as cozy and heartwarming as a library reading room.
Autumn by Ali Smith
Literally, the most authentic autumnal thing that could appear on your bookshelf is a collage novel made up of scraps of memory, reflections on art, comical scenes of today and, of course, falling leaves. And yet Autumn is a small book about a great love that transcends centuries. It's non-linear, poetic, full of delightful quotes and poignant stories that will linger in your heart, and become almost synonymous with the word 'autumn'. In short, if you were missing something nostalgic, deep and very mellow this November, we recommend Autumn. It feels like a bouquet of yellowed leaves on your windowsill.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
A frequent guest on autumn booklists (this one included). After all, The Secret History fits the November vibe perfectly: rainy New England, an old college campus, dark libraries and even darker mysteries... A sheer delight. The setting is Vermont. Nineteen-year-old Richard Papen arrives to study Ancient Greek and makes a bunch of friends. They are all free-spirited, wealthy and so enthusiastic about the ancient culture that they regard themselves as almost a special caste of its guardians. The idyllic campus life is disrupted by... murder. Years later, Richard is trying to make sense of it again – what really happened? And this turns the memories into a real psychological thriller. It feels like sitting in a reading room on a rainy November evening.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Another autumn must-have that should definitely appear on your reading lists. The main character, Margaret Lea, works in her father's second-hand bookshop and suddenly receives an incredible offer: to become a biographer for the famous and very enigmatic writer Vida Winter. However, she is famous not only for her books, but also for never telling a single interviewer a word of truth. Until recently. So, the world of a secluded, gloomy mansion opens up to Margaret, home to family tragedies and literary legends that have sparked interest in generations of readers. The secret of the Thirteenth Tale is revealed to her. You end up with a very cozy gothic story full of incredible mystery. It feels like fog in an empty park.
Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
A slightly more tender and heartwarming book – just in case your November was full of worries and regrets. Have you ever wanted to go back in time? To find other words to say, to make a different decision, to be with someone who is no longer alive... They say that in a small Japanese café you can get such an opportunity – you just need to remember the important rules. Firstly, whatever you have done in the past, the present will remain unchanged. Secondly, you need to get back before your coffee gets cold. Toshikazu Kawaguchi cshows in a cosy and gentle way a very important truth: even though we cannot change the past, going back to it changes us. Where is November here? In a mildly painful sense of loss and emptiness that can still be filled. After all, what is November without a hint of longing?
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Here's a tip for those who like nerve-racking stories. Many of Shirley Jackson's writings are saturated with this gloomy November vibe (take "The Haunting of Hill House" for example), but "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" is a very special story nonetheless. It is a classic eerie tale that will have you gazing into the darkness for a long time before you fall asleep. Of the once large Blackwood family, only two young sisters and their sickly uncle remain – everyone else has mysteriously died. After the tragedy, Constance and Merricat barely leave their estate, but one silent, dark evening their quiet life is shattered by the arrival of a cousin. The horror of every day's existence, the thick shadows in an empty mansion, the unseen struggle between people and inside each of us – that's what lurks beneath the book's cover. Don't keep them waiting.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Do you want to be shocked, but not get overly scared? It's time for November's true crime. In Cold Blood, after all, literally created the genre in literature by being the first "non-fiction novel". What is it about? About the real crime – the murder of the Clutter family, for which Perry Smith and Richard Hickock were sentenced to death. But before the nooses were tightened around their necks, each of the criminals had time to tell their story to the brilliant Truman Capote – and he created a masterpiece. The real tragedy was a fertile ground for exploring the true nature of violence. The writer's open-mindedness, brilliantly calibrated style and surprising details rarely found in a crime chronicle have made the book a cult classic. In a way, In Cold Blood is also intimidating. For it is frighteningly real.
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
In fact, all of Neil Gaiman's works are suitable for autumn vibe lists of books. They are dark, mysterious, pervaded by urban legends and the whistle of the wind in the deserted streets. Still, we recommend you the Smoke and Mirrors collection, because it's terribly unusual. Here an old lady buys the Holy Grail in a second-hand shop, an American tourist finds himself in a Lovecraftian setting, hired killers place ads in the newspaper, and a werewolf tries to stop the end of the world. Page after page, a new reality grows in the book, woven from smoke and mirages, dry branches and autumn fog, fairy tale and reality – and it certainly deserves your attention. It feels like restless sleep on a rainy night.
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
Here, of course, we could recommend Rebecca, but we've already recommended it for reading in an article about Hitchcock's inspirationss, so let's consider something else. My Cousin Rachel is one of those books that imperceptibly take over you. The sombre lyricism of Cornwall and the picturesque sadness of Italy are its setting. Philip's beloved uncle, a reclusive and sworn bachelor, suddenly marries an Italian woman – and just as suddenly dies, only to tell his nephew to come urgently. Who is his inconsolable widow? A victim of unfair suspicion or a calculating schemer and murderer? Whatever you may think, the finale will make you leap out of your chair and stare out the window in amazement. That is the kind of book it is. That is the kind of author Daphne du Maurier is.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Are you craving something light, upbeat, childish? This kind of literature has a real November spirit to it too. We recommend picking up The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, an entertaining detective story about a quiet English countryside, where the investigation is led by... a little girl. Flavia is eleven, she has an analytical mind, she likes chemistry and detective stories, and she doesn't like dolls at all. But then a crime happens in the local estate – a stranger is murdered, a local eccentric colonel is arrested, his daughters are horrified and the police are confused. How can you stay out of it? The result is a very light yet incredibly twisted story, 100% made up of lies and plot twists. Rest assured that both adults and children will be impressed.
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
As the cherry on top of our autumn cake, here's another story about the dark secrets of the past (the last one, honestly). Riverton Estate, England, 1924. A famous poet committed suicide during a summer solstice party by shooting himself in the head in front of his aristocratic sisters. One was rumoured to be his bride, the other – his mistress... Where's the truth? Seventy years later, a filmmaker decides to make a film based on that tragedy, which means it's time to bring up old memories and shake the skeletons out of the closets. The book is incredibly elegant, ethereal, turning the soul inside out. Perfect for November evenings.
All the above-mentioned books are recommended for reading in the cosy corners of the National Library with soft chairs and ginger tea.
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