Pumpkin spice lattes have been out since August, but it’s actually beginning to feel like fall in my neck of the woods. The leaves are changing colors and there’s a slight chill in the air. And I’m getting a hankering for curling up under a blanket with a good book.
These selections leave behind the light and airy reads of the summer with darker, more dramatic stories to fill my craving for a season when the sun sets a little sooner and the scent of firewood is in the air. Feel free to refer back to this list often as you want to match the outside ambience with a moody read.
These books fulfill a prompt in our Fall 2022 Reading Challenge!
This may be controversial, but I love it when a book I’ve read is adapted into film. I’ll admit that the movie never turns out the same as the book (Editor's Note: on rare occasion, the movie is better!) but it’s still fun to see characters come to life. So, imagine my delight to find a novel whose main story revolves around making a movie. And it’s the perfect fall genre, a horror flick called Final Draft.
Adele is an actress who has been waiting around for her big break ever since her last shot at stardom went wrong. When she is called up to replace the original lead of what could be a blockbuster film, Adele jumps at the chance. But when the horror starts to leap off the screenplay page (which the reader gets to read as well), Adele starts to question everything. What’s more enticing than an apple cider donut and a hot cocoa? This spine-tingling story in a story set in an isolated forest in Ireland.
If you’re not able to hit the road to take in the foliage this year, then a book with a road trip might just do the trick. Think of this tale as a quest. In fact, each character has their own quest that starts with a simple request.
Lo is looking for a way out of town and a free car offers just that. But as you may have heard, there’s no such thing as a free lunch (or car, in this case). Blanche is willing to give her car away with the condition that Lo use it to look for Blanche’s estranged son. Very quickly, the reader is drawn not only into the lives of Lo and Blanche but also the lives that they intersect as well. Let’s just say that not all the journeys these characters take occur on the road but you’ll be happy to see where they end up nonetheless.
River Woman, River Demon
Witches. Magic. Mystery. These are all ideas that I love to read about in the fall and this book has them all. The reader first meets Eva Santos Moon at a crossroads in her life. She has hit a low point in her creativity as an artist and has lost touch with her heritage of magic. And on top of everything else her husband is accused of being involved in the drowning of…wait for it…a friend.
Givhan expertly weaves brujeria and curanderisma into the well-loved unreliable narrator trope making the storyline irresistible. Eva has experienced losing a friend to drowning before in her childhood. She can’t really remember what happened then and starts to question herself about her own involvement in this most recent death. The police and the dead are coming for Eva. Will she find the powerful, confident bruja that lives within before it’s too late?
This time of year is often a time of reunion of family, born and found, for holiday gatherings and celebrations. And this novel calls into question just how well we really know and trust our family members. Take Lillian and Rosie. They were all each other had, especially after their parents passed.
When Lillian leaves Rosie to go off to college, Rosie falls into the wrong crowd and the sisters become estranged. Lillian makes a life for herself that includes a new family and a mistake she can’t get past. Out of the blue, Rosie reaches out to share some news with Lillian but before she can deliver it, they are both injured in a car accident.
Although both survive, Rosie believes that Lillian is an imposter and won’t divulge her secret. Lillian is left with questions about whether the accident was intentional, who Rosie really is and if life will ever be the same again. But can she handle the answers?
Too soon? The setting of this story involves the early days of the pandemic when we were blissfully unaware of the future effects of COVID-19 and lockdown wasn’t a part of the world’s vocabulary yet. Whilst you may think you can’t take a look back at those days yet, Howard brilliantly uses the opportunity of a world on pause to forward a page turning plot that’s worth re-visiting a strange time in our collective past.
Ciara and Oliver make a hasty decision to move in with one another just as Ireland is enforcing lockdown for a unique virus making its way around the globe. They barely know each other. They haven’t notified anyone of their plan. They both are carrying secrets. What starts off as a seemingly cozy and romantic situation is anything but when one of them turns up dead.
If you loved your high school lit class because you got to dissect themes and metaphors in a story, then this is the selection for you. It is filled with explicit and implicit symbolism and throughlines that not only add to the overall storytelling but make this book ripe for reading again and again.
Eve Mann (see the callback to the title there?) is twenty-two years old at the beginning of this epic tale, and she's yearning for the truth about her mother and father in a town named Ideal. It’s 1972 and the fight for civil rights for all despite race, gender and sexuality serves as a jumping off point for the book’s themes of identity, love and freedom. Come along as Eve travels from Chicago to Georgia carrying her lived experience into her new encounters that will have her questioning what her true desires are and what it means to be human.
The Second Season
Many people consider fall the season of sports after waiting through the summer for football, hockey, and basketball to start back up again. So, I’m happy to inform you that this book is about a basketball announcer named Ruth Devon. You may already be clued into the fact that female sports announcers are few and far between. This seems like Ruth’s main struggle but it is much deeper than that.
Ruth was a hot shot basketball player in college but an injury sidelined her dreams. Knowing the game so well, it only made sense to make a career of calling games on the radio. Ruth goes on to marry her former coach and even starts a family. But Ruth’s love for the game is still calling to her and she has a new dream of announcing NBA games on television leaving radio and the sidelines behind. Will Ruth come up against the old adage that women have spoken to one another over the years—“You CAN have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time”?
Right Back Where We Started From
Multi-generational sweeping tales are a perfect fit for this time of year when you want to get lost in a book with a mug of hot cider. Sandra Sanborn comes from strong women before her. She feels the pressure to live up to her mother and grandmother’s legacy of capitalizing on opportunities that led them to wealth in San Francisco.
The problem is that fame and fortune hasn’t happened for aspiring star Sandra yet. There’s no inheritance left and Sandra just received news that her family heritage may not be what she thought it was. Can she step into her own story and break the cycle of ending right back where she started?
Part of the allure of fall is the dark and moody atmosphere provided by the gray skies and the death of the tree leaves gifting us with the garnets, mustards and oranges that color the season. It’s only fitting to have a book that also deals with loss included in this list.
Wren and Stewart were friends since they were born. They have seen each other through thick and thin. Wren thought she would always have Stewart to lean on, but then he had to go and die. And Wren is left with a hole in her life.
She’s also left with the task of arranging Stewart’s sending off and apparently, distributing his estate amongst family and friends. But Stewart was a TV personality who attracted a lot of moochers, and Wren is left wondering why he surrounded himself with them. Feel all the feels as Wren wrestles with not only letting go of a dear friend but also possibly the person she thought he was.
In All Good Faith
You didn’t think I was going to leave out a historical fiction pick in the season where we tend to revel in traditions rooted in the past, did you? Here is a story with the backdrop of the Great Depression and two courageous women in the foreground.
May is running her family and her family business at the same time while money is running low and travelers seeking work and food are showing up in abundance. Dorrit is coming of age without a mother in a time when it’s everyone for themselves and even the government doesn’t seem to see families like hers. These two women are at very different points in their own lives but at the same time point in history. Watch as these women navigate the circumstances history has handed them with grace and guess how they end up crossing each other’s paths.