It is not a secret that summer is my least favorite season. Most days, I will tell you that I hate it. Summer is a season to be endured, inside, with air conditioning and a lot of iced tea. It is still unbearably hot over here – I think we had our hottest day of the summer so far just a few days ago – but in my brain, it is almost fall. It will probably be very warm for at least another six weeks, but fall is coming and I’m getting excited. Because I am very, very over summer.
I am absolutely one of those people who starts doing fall things far too early in the year. I already have my collection of fall candles ready to go, and I am starting to get into the mood with some fall reading. I am definitely a seasonal reader, and fall to me just feels like cozy classics and historical fiction and books that make me think a little bit more than say, a summer romance. And while I do still want to throw in one more fun summer read, I’m ready for some darker books.
These are just books that for no particular reason just give me those dark, cozy, fall vibes.
How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang
I feel like I’ve been talking about this all year, but I honestly loved it so, so much. The first part of the novel is set in the desert, which definitely gave me strong end-of-summer vibes. And then it moves on to the city, and gets a little darker and more complex, which is perfect for transitioning into fall. Even if you don’t buy into seasonal reading, this is still a fantastic book and you should give it a shot.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This is one of my all-time favorite novels. And one of the reasons it is so spectacular is the incredible atmosphere. You can practically smell the popcorn and hot cider in the air (I literally can because I own a Night Circus-scented candle). It just feels cozy and mysterious, and it’s so brilliant. This is the absolute perfect read for a rainy fall day, or a day you want to pretend is a rainy fall day.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I will never stop talking about how incredible this book is. It’s about two half-sisters in Ghana. One marries a British officer and the other is sold into slavery and taken to America. And it follows their descendants and contrasting how different their lives turn out to be. It’s amazing and I love it so much. It’s been years since I’ve read it, and I still think about it all the time. It also has excellent family drama/hardship themes, which just feels like a colder-weather read to me.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I am sure you can find ten different fall reading lists on the internet with The Secret History on them. But I’m going with Donna Tartt’s other novel. Not that there is anything wrong with a mystery for fall. I just preferred this more subtle mystery, combined with family and friend drama, complicated relationships, and some beautiful art. It’s cozy with just the right amount of suspense, and it’s brilliant.
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
Now, if you were looking for The Secret History vibes, this one is better. Don’t come for me, it just is. This is a mystery that a murderer being released from prison and then travels back in time so we can learn who died… and why. Also, it’s set at a drama school where they’re studying Shakespeare, so you know this is my jam.
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
More family drama, because apparently that’s what says “fall” to me. But this one is actually partly set at the end of summer/beginning of fall. And it definitely has a darker side. It is about a Palestinian woman who marries a Palestinian American and is thrown into a life she is not prepared for. It also follows her daughters struggling are more Americanized Palestinian girls under their grandmother’s thumb after both of their parents have died. I really enjoyed this one. Being Palestinian American, I also enjoyed the cultural aspects of this book, but I also liked the feminist themes of the story.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This book is just a classic fall read. In my mind, fall is the perfect time to read classics – they just call for tea and cozy reading days in my mind. And Rebecca is a modern gothic tale, and this is definitely a good one to pick up, especially if – like me – you’re mind is already inching towards all things spooky.
If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura
I love this because obviously, there is a cat in it. I can’t really explain it, but this book definitely has early fall vibes to me. The subject matter of this book is dark – perfect for fall – but it’s dealt with in a lighter way, that I think makes it a perfect book for the transition from summer to fall. (I read this for my reading experiment in which I read five Japanese bestsellers about cats, so go check that out if you missed it.)
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Dark historical fantasy is absolutely the perfect thing to read to get in the mood for fall. I actually just finished rereading this one – because the sequel was released this year, and I really want to read it soon – and it was every bit as wonderful as I remember.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
This is a recent read, and the only nonfiction on this list. It is about the author’s experience in an abusive same-sex relationship. But she also plays with format, so this is a really engaging and interesting reading experience. I think it’s not only a great nonfiction book to pick up this time of year, it’s a really good option if you’re looking to dip your toes into nonfiction or just explore something a little bit different.
The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang
I haven’t been reading very much young adult lit lately, but this is absolutely one of my favorites. It is about a teenage ressurectionist (she digs up dead bodies to sell to medical schools). No one knows Cora Lee is actually Jacob Lee, one of the top ressurectionists in the city. But it would be more dangerous for anyone to find out she’s the legendary girl with two hearts, who a lot of people would pay big bucks or even kill for. It’s fun and dark and has a lovely little romance, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a good pre-Halloween read.
Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
Another spooky-adjacent book is Sin Eater. It’s about a young woman who gets sentenced to be a sin eater – basically she had to eat foods that represented the sins of deceased or dying people so that she could take on their sins and they could go to heaven. It’s set in an alternate Elizabethan England, which normally I wouldn’t enjoy, but this one is just done so well. Definitely a fun, dark read.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This is one of those books that is just ever so slightly dark, in the best way. There’s family drama, romance, mystery, and an absolutely immersive atmosphere that will make you feel like you’re exploring the marshes of North Carolina in the late summer. In other words, the perfect read as we move into fall (hopefully very soon, because I am more than ready). The adaptation will be out next year, so it’s a great time to jump in and read it before watching the movie (or having to pick up the dreaded movie-tie-in cover in a few months).
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I haven’t had the best experiences with all of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books (I just gave Velvet Was the Night a one-star rating). But I loved this one. It’s about a girl who has to help the Mayan god of the underworld return home and it’s such a fun read. It’s dark – obviously, we are dealing with the god of the underworld – but in like a more colorful sort of way. I definitely got like Coco or The Road to El Dorado vibes – if those movies were a little bit more adult. I am explaining this very badly, but if Mayan mythology interests you, pick up this book.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Finally, this is another fairly recent read – I read for my reading experiment last month – and I really enjoyed it. It’s a female-centered WWII story that revolves around an American photographer, a Nazi murderess, and a Soviet fighter pilot. I guessed the twist fairly quickly, but it was still so engaging. I really enjoyed this one, and it’s another book with a nice dark autumnal vibe to it. Definitely recommend!
And that’s it for this list! I hope you found something you’re interested in reading. Are you starting to get in the mood for fall, or are you still enjoying summer?
You can now go check out my bookshop, where you can go and buy books and also shop my curated collections of my personal favorites AND all of the books I’ve read for my reading experiments, including this one! Or you can just buy whatever books you want to. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you get to support your choice of indie bookstores – it’s a win all around!
P.S. they are currently having a 20% off sale of Indigenous Peoples’ Day!