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Seasonal reading has always been a big thing for me, especially autumnal books! I have always loved curating my fall reading list, and those cozy autumn vibes are a MUST when looking for fall books to read.
I love picking up a dark or creepy book during those autumn months, but I also love non-spooky books in autumn that capture the essence of that fall aesthetic.
You know what I’m talking about: classic books to read in autumn. Books set in the fall season. Romance books set in autumn or dark, romantic gothic books and cozy fantasy books to snuggle up with under a mountain of blankets and a hot chocolate . . . need I say more?!
Here are my top books to read in fall to complete your cozy autumn books reading list.
15 Autumnal Books to Add to Your Fall Reading List
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
There’s usually nothing better than a thriller during those autumn months, but a gothic horror? That may take the cake for me. Mexican Gothic is a jaw-dropping mid-century gothic book, in my opinion. After interviewing the author, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, I was blown away by how much research went into this book.
It is absolutely perfect for those autumn vibes! I also love how the author described the genre. “Gothic novels are weird books because they straddle genres,” she said. “They have an element of psychological suspense and even horror, while they can also dangle romance.” Excuse me?! Is there a better fit for fall? I’ll wait.
By the way, Random House put out this awesome Mexican Gothic playlist if you like to listen to music while you read!
Here’s the synopsis:
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
Mexican Gothic was published on June 30, 2020, from Del Rey.
RELATED: Book Review: The House in the Pines
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I wasn’t about to write a list on fall books to read in 2023 and not mention Neil Gaiman, y’all. The Graveyard Book is a mesmerizing ghost story and perfect for October. The narration is excellent if you like to listen to audiobooks.
The Graveyard Book is fun, lighthearted, and magical. It feels like you’re waking up from a dream, and I highly recommend it for your fall reading list.
Here’s the synopsis:
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy. Well, he would be perfectly normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead.
There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of ghouls; friendship with a witch, and so much more.
But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.
A deliciously dark masterwork by bestselling author Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by award-winning Dave McKean.
The Graveyard Book was published on September 30, 2008, from HarperCollins.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Well, well, well, here we are again. Another Gaiman! Coraline is probably one of my favorite books (and movies) for the fall! I find the premise to be so incredibly creepy and strange, but it’s also whimsical and playful. Like every book Neil Gaiman creates, Coraline taps into the imaginations of a child so perfectly.
It’s a nightmarish thrill ride, and the movie doesn’t disappoint either. If you’re looking for quick reads to add to your fall reading list, The Graveyard Book and Coraline would be perfect additions. They make great rereads, too.
Here’s the synopsis:
The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring. . . .
In Coraline’s family’s new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close.
The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.
Only it’s different.
At first, things seem marvelous in the other flat. The food is better. The toy box is filled with wind-up angels that flutter around the bedroom, books whose pictures writhe and crawl and shimmer, little dinosaur skulls that chatter their teeth. But there’s another mother, and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.
Other children are trapped there as well, lost souls behind the mirrors. Coraline is their only hope of rescue. She will have to fight with all her wits and all the tools she can find if she is to save the lost children, her ordinary life, and herself.
Critically acclaimed and award-winning author Neil Gaiman will delight readers with his first novel for all ages.
Coraline was published on July 2, 2002, from HarperCollins.
The Whisper Man by Alex North
Definitely check out the content warnings on this thriller/horror, because it’s dark. The Whisper Man is such a propulsive, truly chilling thriller mystery. I loved the characters, plot, and suspense. If you’re looking for a gripping backlist thriller to add to your autumn reading list, this one’s for you.
I plan to read The Angel Maker, his latest book, this fall, and I can’t wait to see how it holds up against The Whisper Man! Just know there’s a splash of paranormal in The Whisper Man, so you really get all the spooky vibes.
Here’s the synopsis:
After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.
But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.
Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.
And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window . . .
The Whisper Man was published on June 13, 2019, from Celadon Books.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
I haven’t read Libba Bray in a long, long time, but this series is one of my absolute favorites. This is a young adult gothic novel that has to do with mysterious visions, family secrets, and life at an all-girl’s boarding school in England. Does that not scream perfect for autumn reading?
A Great and Terrible Beauty has some of the best female friendships and slow-burn romance. The worldbuilding and suspense/tension is awesome, and it’s a part of a trilogy, so if you love it, you can add the other two backlist books to your fall reading list straight away!
Here’s the synopsis:
In this debut gothic novel mysterious visions, dark family secrets and a long-lost diary thrust Gemma and her classmates back into the horrors that followed her from India.
It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?
A Great and Terrible Beauty was published on December 9, 2003, from Simon and Schuster.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
If pressed, I’d have to say The Shadow of the Wind is my favorite book of all time. This beautifully told gothic historical fiction/mystery takes place in Barcelona in the 1940s, and it’s full of love, mystery, murder, nostalgia, dark secrets, and a cemetery of forgotten books.
That’s right, we follow an antiquarian book dealer’s son who’s mother passed away, and, oh . . . I could go on and on. Just read this one. Trust me. In the fall. Do it! I actually know someone who rereads this book every fall, so don’t just take my word for it. It is perfection!
Here’s the synopsis:
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax.
But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets—an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
This edition of The Shadow of the Wind was published on April 12, 2004, from The Penguin Press.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Well, we had to have some cozy classic books to read in autumn, didn’t we? Anne of Green Gables is immersive and bittersweet and all different shades of lovely. L. M. Montgomery paints us the most perfect picture of every season through the eyes of Anne Shirley, and you will surely (see what I did there?) walk away with a deeper appreciation for autumn. You won’t find a better choice for books set in October, in my opinion.
If you’re looking for heartwarming reads you can sink your teeth into and books set in the fall season, Anne of Green Gables must make your list for books to read in the fall 2023.
It was a September evening and all the gaps and clearings in the woods were brimmed up with ruby sunset light.
Here and there the lane was splashed with it, but for the most part it was already quite shadowy beneath the maples, and the spaces under the firs were filled with a clear violet dusk like airy wine.—L . M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Here’s the synopsis:
This heartwarming story has beckoned generations of readers into the special world of Green Gables, an old-fashioned farm outside a town called Avonlea. Anne Shirley, an eleven-year-old orphan, has arrived in this verdant corner of Prince Edward Island only to discover that the Cuthberts—elderly Matthew and his stern sister, Marilla—want to adopt a boy, not a feisty redheaded girl.
But before they can send her back, Anne—who simply must have more scope for her imagination and a real home—wins them over completely. A much-loved classic that explores all the vulnerability, expectations, and dreams of a child growing up, Anne of Green Gables is also a wonderful portrait of a time, a place, a family… and, most of all, love.
This edition of Anne of Green Gables was published on May 6, 2003, from Signet.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Another classic book to read in autumn! Jane Eyre is perfect for fall reading. There’s something about Charlotte Brontë that just capture the autumn vibes we’re all looking for. Again, it’s those moody, romantic gothic historical fiction books for me.
It goes without saying that Jane Eyre is a true transformation story . . . perfect for the changing leaves and new rhythms of fall. I plan to put Wuthering Heights on my list this fall, but Jane Eyre is always a win.
Here’s the synopsis:
Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.
But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?
This edition of Jane Eyre was published on February 4, 2003, by Penguin.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
I first read Persuasion not long ago (gasp!) in the fall, and I think that’s why I loved it so much. So many people love reading classic books in the fall, and Jane Austen is a popular choice.
It seems like the hazy, lazy days of summer are for fast-paced, easy-to-digest romantic comedies while fall brings a new palate for something heavier, richer. We feel bolder in autumn, don’t we? We feel more prepared to take on something that might take a little more work. But oh, the payoff is so worth it.
Here’s the synopsis:
Persuasion is Jane Austen’s last completed novel. She began it soon after she had finished Emma, completing it in August 1816. She died, aged 41, in 1817; Persuasion was published in December that year (but dated 1818).
Persuasion is linked to Northanger Abbey not only by the fact that the two books were originally bound up in one volume and published together, but also because both stories are set partly in Bath, a fashionable city with which Austen was well acquainted, having lived there from 1801 to 1805.
Besides the theme of persuasion, the novel evokes other topics, such as the Royal Navy, in which two of Jane Austen’s brothers ultimately rose to the rank of admiral. As in Northanger Abbey, the superficial social life of Bath-well known to Austen, who spent several relatively unhappy and unproductive years there-is portrayed extensively and serves as a setting for the second half of the book.
In many respects Persuasion marks a break with Austen’s previous works, both in the more biting, even irritable satire directed at some of the novel’s characters and in the regretful, resigned outlook of its otherwise admirable heroine, Anne Elliot, in the first part of the story.
Against this is set the energy and appeal of the Royal Navy, which symbolizes for Anne and the reader the possibility of a more outgoing, engaged, and fulfilling life, and it is this worldview which triumphs for the most part at the end of the novel.
This edition of Persuasion was published on January 1, 2004, from Oxford University Press.
Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal
Ok, this book isn’t overtly an autumn read, but it definitely has all of the autumn vibes you’re looking for. Family drama, love and tragedy in the heart of rustic Minnesota . . . I didn’t want Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club to end, and that’s exactly what we all want for our fall books in 2023.
I will say, this one is a tearjerker, and there’s definitely some content warnings to explore if you’re a sensitive reader. That said, these flawed but lovable characters and the setting make this the ideal book to cuddle up with on a chilly fall evening. In fact, I plan to read some of J. Ryan Stradal’s backlist titles this fall.
Here’s the synopsis:
A story of a couple from two very different restaurant families in rustic Minnesota, and the legacy of love and tragedy, of hardship and hope, that unites and divides them
Mariel Prager needs a break. Her husband Ned is having an identity crisis, her spunky, beloved restaurant is bleeding money by the day, and her mother Florence is stubbornly refusing to leave the church where she’s been holed up for more than a week. The Lakeside Supper Club has been in her family for decades, and while Mariel’s grandmother embraced the business, seeing it as a saving grace, Florence never took to it. When Mariel inherited the restaurant, skipping Florence, it created a rift between mother and daughter that never quite healed.
Ned is also an heir—to a chain of home-style diners—and while he doesn’t have a head for business, he knows his family’s chain could provide a better future than his wife’s fading restaurant. In the aftermath of a devastating tragedy, Ned and Mariel lose almost everything they hold dear, and the hard-won victories of each family hang in the balance. With their dreams dashed, can one fractured family find a way to rebuild despite their losses, and will the Lakeside Supper Club be their salvation?
In this colorful, vanishing world of relish trays and brandy Old Fashioneds, J. Ryan Stradal has once again given us a story full of his signature honest, lovable yet fallible Midwestern characters as they grapple with love, loss, and marriage; what we hold onto and what we leave behind; and what our legacy will be when we are gone.
Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club was published on April 18, 2023, from Pamela Dorman Books.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
If walking outside, crunching leaves and breathing in the cool, crisp air while listening to Tom Hanks tell you a story doesn’t appeal to you, I don’t know what will. Seriously, Tom Hanks’s narration is what make The Dutch House one of my favorite audiobooks of all time. I also think Ann Patchett’s words are stunning, in general. If literary historical fiction calls to you in the fall, The Dutch House is for you.
This is a book about family, specifically a brother and sister, and the themes of obsession and forgiveness, nostalgia and childhood, and the ache and freedom of letting go. This book originally came out in September, and I think the publishers got it right on that release date. If you’re looking for books set in the fall season, The Dutch House takes place on Thanksgiving.
Here’s the synopsis:
At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.
The Dutch House was published on September 24, 2019, from Harper.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
If whimsical magical realism or strange fantasy speaks to you during those autumn reading months, then The Night Circus should be on your list. This is another book set in the fall season, and it’s so beautifully written. Omniscient POV, dreamlike traveling circus, magician competitions, compelling prose . . . this one is so atmospheric and perfect for those fall reading vibes.
I loved The Night Circus so much that I threw a midnight dinner party (which are in the book) with my book club. It was a themed night of delicious food, wine, wonder and beauty, and lots of laughter. 10/10 would recommend reading The Night Circus this fall with your book club and then hosting your own midnight dinner party!
Here’s the synopsis:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
The Night Circus was published on September 13, 2011, from Doubleday.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
I’ve mentioned it before, but I love Sweetbitter for autumn reading. Stephanie Danler captures fall in New York City so beautifully, so make sure this one’s on your list if you’re looking for books set in the fall season or romance books set in autumn.
I wouldn’t say Sweetbitter is a romance book—it’s more of a coming-of-age story about a girl who finds herself amid the chaos of NYC restaurant foodie culture—but there’s romance in it.
Here’s the synopsis:
Newly arrived in New York City, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job as a “backwaiter” at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. What follows is the story of her education: in champagne and cocaine, love and lust, dive bars and fine dining rooms, as she learns to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing life she has chosen.
As her appetites awaken—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—Tess finds herself helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. In Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler deftly conjures with heart-stopping accuracy the nonstop and high-adrenaline world of the restaurant industry and evokes the infinite possibilities, the unbearable beauty, and the fragility and brutality of being young in New York.
Sweetbitter was published on May 24, 2016, from Knopf.
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
This Tender Land is a stunning literary historical fiction book with a strong coming-of-age story. This is a sweeping, intimate story about friendship, loss, and a physical and spiritual journey that is both surprising and devastatingly beautiful.
It’s a bit of a Huckleberry Finn sort of tale, and the descriptions of Minnesota are especially beautiful. Another transformation story perfect for the changing seasons!
Here’s the synopsis:
In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, the Lincoln Indian Training School is a pitiless place where Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to Odie O’Banion, a lively orphan boy whose exploits constantly earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Odie and his brother, Albert, are the only white faces among the hundreds of Native American children at the school.
After committing a terrible crime, Odie and Albert are forced to flee for their lives along with their best friend, Mose, a mute young man of Sioux heritage. Out of pity, they also take with them a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy. Together, they steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi in search for a place to call home.
Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphan vagabonds journey into the unknown, crossing paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an enthralling, bighearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.
This Tender Land was published on September 3, 2019, from Atria Books.
Pony by R. J. Palacio
This is another transformation story perfect for autumn, but it’s also a ghost story, which really makes it perfect. It’s mysterious, atmospheric, unexpectedly tender . . . definitely dive in to the content warnings if you’re a sensitive reader, but this is a no-brainer for fall.
Here’s the synopsis:
A story about a boy on a quest to rescue his father, with only a ghost as his companion, and a mysterious pony as his guide.
Twelve-year-old Silas is awoken in the dead of night by three menacing horsemen who take his father away. Silas is left shaken, scared, and alone, except for the presence of his companion, Mittenwool . . . who happens to be a ghost. When a pony shows up at his door, Silas makes the courageous decision to leave his home and embark on a perilous journey to find his father. Along the way, he will face his fears to unlock the secrets of his past and explore the unfathomable mysteries of the world around him.
Pony was published on September 28, 2021, from Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Frequently Asked Questions about Finding Fall Books to Read
What is autumn reading?
Like a good summer reading list, a lot of readers enjoy making an autumn reading list (fall books to read) that captures everything they love about autumn.
My books to read in fall tend to be dark, moody, and creepy to really highlight those October vibes—but I also like reading books set in autumn or romantic, atmospheric books that are immersive and warm.
What are the best fall-themed books for adults?
What are the best fall books to read aloud to kids?
The best fall books to read aloud to kids are books about the changing leaves, in my opinion! My favorite picture books about fall to read to toddlers include:
- We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt
- If You Find a Leaf
- Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
- The Little Kitten
- Beatrice Likes the Dark
What are the best non-spooky books to read in autumn?
I have a post about 5 non-spooky books to read in autumn! They really are the best books to read during autumn.
Outside of this list, I’d add A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Although it’s a little bit creepy, it’s more atmospheric than anything, and perfect if you’re looking for cozy autumn books in the YA category. The Dutch House and This Tender Land are lovely literary books with all of the fall vibes.
New Books to Read in the Fall: 2023 Releases
As you create your autumn reading list, make sure to check out my most anticipated books of 2023. There are a few new books coming out this fall 2023, and I know Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo and Learned by Heart by Emma Donoghue are two new releases that will be perfect for the fall season.
William Kent Krueger has another book coming this fall, The River We Remember, and I know it’s going to be excellent.
Finding the perfect autumnal books for your 2023 reading list means curating books that hold that autumn aesthetic: the cozy, heartwarming, creepy or heartbreaking (whatever your cup of tea), transformative book to give you all the feels as you sink into autumn.
Let me know what’s on your fall 2023 releases list so I can have a healthy mix of new and backlist autumnal books!