Posts tagged fall books
New + Classic Gothic Novels

If we’re going to talk about Gothic novels, it would help to take a look at what Gothic fiction actually is. Basically, if it involves creepy vibes, death, a little horror, intense emotions, paranormal bits, and even some romance—congratulations, you’ve got yourself a Gothic novel! They tend to move away from logic and reason and more toward emotion and imagination, and that shift tends to lead to some really interesting fiction. We absolutely love this genre for this time of year, because neither of us are much into horror or gore, and these tend to give us the suspense and spooky feels without grossing us out.

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If you’re looking for the classics:

Wuthering Heights| Emily Brontë- People who go into this expecting a romance story or anything along the lines of Jane Austen are going to be sorely disappointed. The book opens with a ghost sawing our narrator’s arm on a jagged piece of broken window…so yeah, Austen would certainly not approve. The dark and twisted romantic connection between wicked, passionate Heathcliff and fiesty, petulant Catherine is set against the infamously bleak landscape of the English moors, making for an extremely atmospheric story. This book is exceptionally intense and dark, but the flawed characters, the elements of the supernatural, and the deeply human connections coalesce into something remarkable, even if it isn’t exactly pleasant.

Rebecca | Daphne Du Maurier- This one, though published in the 30’s, has aged beautifully. It’s got an aging English mansion and all the morose, rainy atmosphere you could possibly want. The story revolves around a young newlywed, a psychologically manipulative housekeeper, marital secrets, mysteries, plenty of death, and the story climaxes spectacularly during a formal masked ball. Intrigued yet? Plus, echoes of Jane Eyre abound. Speaking of which…

Jane Eyre | Charlotte Brontë- A little less sinister than some others on this list, nevertheless this is a truly exceptional example of Gothic literature. Sad childhoods, creepy, creepy secrets, a bit of romance, a remote mansion in the English countryside (sensing a theme here…) and a good dose of melodrama build this novel into it’s shocking conclusion. Jane herself is quite the admirable heroine, fiery and strong under her calm, plain exterior; it's very easy to appreciate why she is so beloved. Well worth reading, and I guarantee you’ll recognize some familiar tropes, because this is the novel that started them!

The Woman in White | Wilkie Collins- A complex page turner, this one features a mysterious woman in white, whispers of insane asylums, ominous letters, star crossed lovers, grand estates, and much more. It's got just enough of a creepy edge to be perfectly Gothic, while having plenty of other action happening to keep the well layered mystery plot moving quickly. 

Frankenstein | Mary Shelley- Our buddy read/readalong this month, and does this one even need an explanation? It has permeated pop culture so thoroughly, just do yourself a favor and read the original! It’s much better than the green monsters printed on Halloween decorations, or the black and white horror show movie you remember, we promise. Plus, Mary Shelley was fascinating. More on her later.

 

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If you want A fresh take on Gothic lit:

The Thirteenth Tale | Diane Setterfield- A reclusive, dying author hires a relatively unknown biographer, Margaret, to tell her life story. Old world glamour, family secrets, and mysterious ties that bind them together abound in this novel. It has some strong flavors of Rebecca, Jane Eyre and The Woman in White, so expect madness, secrets, the threat of the paranormal, and death (of course), but the book remains exceptionally clever and fresh. Oh! And the majority of the story takes place in…you guessed it: a creepy old English mansion!

Bitter Orange | Claire Fuller- I read this one last month and was blown away. A crumbling English mansion in the countryside (yep! again!), a couple who aren’t what they seem, secrets of both the house and of the people, rich, dark atmosphere despite it’s sunny facade, and yes, death, obviously, because we’re talking about Gothic novels! Bitter Orange is like if Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and Du Maurier’s Rebecca had an eerily atmospheric, glittering book baby. Plus it was such a clever, clever twist on the unreliable narrator thing. Ultimately, you’re a stunningly written and complex mystery when you pick this one up.

Her Body and Other Parties | Carmen Maria Machado- A short story collection that 100% felt like reading a modern, diverse take on Gothic lit. These stories play with unique formats and blur horror and love into a gorgeously realized collection. Dark, powerful, fresh, and so so good; I absolutely loved it. I will say that it is VERY graphic, so read at your own risk if you're sensitive to that! 

The Secret History | Donna Tartt- Remember the elements that comprise a Gothic novel? The Secret History has them alllllll. Incredible atmosphere? Check. Melodrama and big feelings? Check. Murder? Double Check. Horror? Paranormal bits? Check and check. It’s perfect. I know you guys don’t need to hear me gush about this book ever again, but…it’s a perfect example of a modern Gothic novel, just sayin’!

The Winters | Lisa Gabriele- This one is due to release next week (10/16), but it’s essentially a modern retelling of the infamous Rebecca. All the same elements, but sub the nasty housekeeper for a foul mouthed step daughter with a huge Instagram following, and add in Caribbean cruises, deadly car crashes, and one hell of a twist at the end. All the tension and atmosphere you could ever want, and a brilliant take on an old favorite.

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What are your favorite Gothic novels, old or new?

Fall Book Flights
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Ever had a tasting flight of something, probably at a brewery or restaurant? Wine, beer, spirits, maybe even cheese? Basically the concept is you get several different portions of something, and taste them all back to back. By tasting them together, you really get a feel for their differences and are better able to pinpoint nuanced tasting notes in each individual one, while appreciating them together as a whole. 

While the previous examples are based on food, you can do the exact same thing with books! Reading a group of books together can really expand the depth and breadth of a topic for you. This can be as straightforward as reading all of a specific author's works, or choosing a really niche area, like Beat Poets, but it also works well in plenty of other varied combinations. 

This fall (you can see spring and summer) I started thinking (inspired by Anne!) about all the moods the season inspires and how to create book flights to cater to them, and these are what I came up with. The groupings are designed to have books that are fabulous on their own, but combined really give a lush, broad view of a subject. The dynamic interplay between books set around a central theme is the sweet spot!

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Campus + Secrets + Violence

Secret societies, friendships, campuses, darkness, violence, and more! Start with The Secret History for Tartt's powerful, classic campus novel filled to the brim with dreamy, brooding atmosphere and dark, twisted friendships. Move to If We Were Villains for more campus vibes and violent secrets between a close knit group of friends, with drama often playing out on the stage. Finish up with The Lake of Dead Languages for a lady- centered take on the same themes. All three will more than satisfy any craving you had for campus settings, complicated friendships, secret societies, and dark atmosphere this fall. 

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The End of an Era

Does the turning of the seasons trigger a deep nostalgia, as you watch the world around you slowly decay? Start with Wharton's classic, The Age of Innocence, and be swept back into the Gilded Age of high society in the 1870's, where the struggle between old and new rages, and a love story curls and twists around itself, while dealing deeply with "what-ifs." Move into the 1920's and the decline of the British nobility, where Charles Ryder is enfolded into the complicated family of his best friend. Love triangles, alcoholism, religion, and bone-deep nostalgia color these pages. Finish it off with Greene's slim novel of love and loss in post World War II London. All three deal with complicated love stories, changing worlds, and heart-achingly beautiful prose. 

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Getting HygGe With It

If you need some straightforward, cozy mysteries in your life, first pick from the queen herself: Agatha Christie. Really any of her novels will do, but we are currently partial to Murder on the Orient Express because the movie is coming out next month! You'll get basically a game of Clue in book form, peppered with interesting characters, vivid details and delightfully unexpected endings. You'll find more cozy mystery goodness with Mrs. Polifax, a feisty, charming older woman determined to spend her remaining years doing something uncharacteristically exciting, which leads her to joining the CIA and leading a life of solving mystery and crime. Round out this flight with a contemporary mystery, and spend some time in Three Pines with Chief Inspector Gamache in Still Life. Small town life, a fascinating cast of characters, and layered plot lines make this series both fun and emotionally resonant.

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Ghosts + Creepiness

If you're in the mood for a good ghost story, set the mood with Irving's classic short story (like, 30-ish pages short) of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. His beautiful descriptions and perfectly creepy tone will really set the stage. Continue on to The Woman in White, one of the first mystery novels, peppered with mysterious ladies, love stories, foreboding letters, death, mental asylums, and good old victorian melodrama. Finish off with the more lighthearted ghost story in The Graveyard Book. Still undeniably creepy, and very unique, it will leave you with a satisfying blend of the known and the unknown tied up with friendly (and not so friendly) ghosts, complicated relationships with vampires, and old, sinister forces. 

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Do you have any books you think pair well together? We'd love to hear!!

 

10 Books that Feel Like Fall
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We feel like we wait all year for the leaves to change and the air to cool to a crisp. Fall dredges up the nostalgia of back to school and brings with it misty, moody weather and crunchy, colorful leaves coating the sidewalks as the trees burst into color.

This isn't the season for beach reads and lighthearted romance; this is the season for darker, richer books you read by the fire with tea, and rain pelting the windows outside. In this more melancholy season we tend to reach for dark journeys, cozy mysteries, and atmospheric books we can really sink into. This is the season we breathe a sigh of relief as we welcome a new, deeper season of books into our lives as the light hearted sunshine of summer fades to gray.

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1. The Secret History | Donna Tartt- Of course we have to start here. This book is probably the most atmospheric, haunting book I've ever read. Tartt's debut novel is practically a cult classic by now, and if you haven't read it, this fall is the perfect time to join the club. Told in an incredibly elegant voice, this is a story of Dionysian rites going terribly wrong, of cruel friendships, glittering wealth, secrets, blackmail, and murder all set against the familiar backdrop of the wonders of college life and brilliant fall in New England. Can it veer toward the melodramatic? Absolutely. But that doesn't dampen how deeply enjoyable is is to read.

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2. Murder on the Orient Express | Agatha Christie- When a cozy mystery is what you need to warm up, anything by Christie is just the ticket. We're partial to this one for fall because of the intimacy of the setting, the train stuck in the snow, and the creepy knowledge that the murderer is still on the train. Christie does a great job with her characters and with building tension before having Poirot brilliantly solve the mystery. It feels old timey and delightful, is a quick read, and is just the perfect book to tease your brain as you cuddle up under the blankets. Read it before the movie comes out on November 10th!

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3. The Night Circus | Eric Morgenstern- A dark circus, a twisted love story, magical powers, evil wizards and breathtakingly beautiful displays of power. I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I would, and it's always a go-to re-read in the cooler months for me. Something about the night settings, the magic, and tone are just so appealing when the weather is gray and drizzly. Expect an exceptionally lovely, slow burn of a book. 

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4. The Name of the Wind | Patrick Rothfuss- This book feels like misty roads and firelight glinting off stone and taverns and deep magic. It's over 600 pages long but is easily one of the most page turner-y books I've ever read. It's essentially a hero's journey, but is so clever and fresh, with perfect world building and just amazing characterization, all thrown in with some mystery. It's such an engaging, human novel for fall; the hero definitely isn't infallible and it's great watching him learn. Fans of the series are eagerly awaiting book 3, but there's a sequel and a companion novella available if you like this one! 

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5. The Picture of Dorian Gray | Oscar Wilde- This book is creepy and atmospheric, full of viciousness, madness, and obsession. Most of you will be familiar with the plot, but Wilde is just a brilliant writer, and the themes of the book paired with his masterful prose make this a great one to pick up this fall. Especially go for this if you want a book that will make you think while being a gorgeous read.

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6. In Cold Blood | Truman Capote- Truman Capote's masterpiece is an astounding work of narrative fiction. It recreates, in detail the murders of an entire family, shot point blank, in rural Kansas on November 14, 1959 and the bitter aftermath. It took Capote 5 years to fully research and write this existential tragedy of true crime. In the capable hands of Capote, you are drawn intimately into a rich reconstruction of the background, murders, capture, trial, and eventual execution of the killers, as well as the impact the murders have on the town. The novel is so amazingly detailed and profound, and offers such poignant insight into society and violence in America. Well worth reading, especially when you crave intensity and suspense.

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7. The Party | Elizabeth Day- I love a good dark, unreliable narrator in the fall and this one explores unrequited love with a narrator who's view of reality is a bit different than that of everyone around him. It's rich people problems and cover ups and school boy friendships and mystery with absolutely pitch perfect pacing. I really love what a unique take on this genre the book is, and found it just a really enjoyable read.

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8. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet | Becky Chambers- I know this is science fiction, but it is the absolute best and warmest book I've read all year. Because it is so character driven, I don't think the sci-fi part would be a turn off to someone who doesn't usually read the genre. Not only is it warm, but well layered and flawlessly woven together with truly, truly amazing characters. It hits the right balance of being character driven while still maintaining a solid plot and is such a perfectly cozy pick for fall! Oh and if you're a fan of the show Firefly, you will absolutely want to pick this up.

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9. Jane Eyre | Charlotte Bronte- Pretty much the perfect book to read with a big warm mug of tea by your side, it's a classic gothic novel, and therefore just an amazingly moody fall read. Horrible boarding schools, a madwoman in the attic, a complicated love story, and more haunt the pages of this book. Plus, Jane herself is quite the admirable heroine; fiery and strong under her calm, plain exterior, it's very easy to appreciate why she is so beloved and why this book has endured, and fall is the absolute perfect time to pick it up. 

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10. Possession | A.S. Byatt- If you need melancholy and substantial this fall, pick this one up. Lyrical prose, parallel stories, and multiple points of view combine to create essentially a love letter to reading and to scholarship. It has pretty much everything you could want in a fall read; college campuses, dusty books, love letters, art, history, secrets, dark stormy nights, and a pervading sense of longing. 

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Tell us, what are your very favorite books for fall?? We'd love to add them to our own TBR piles this season!