Fall seemingly commands an unparalleled ambiance when compared to other seasons. Yes, there’s the inevitable mad dash for pumpkin lattes and spiced ciders, but there’s also that perfectly cool temperature, the hikes down leaf-covered trails, the apple picking, the return to flannel. How happy it makes me then, in the midst of my favorite time of year, to compile a list of varying genres with one important connecting factor: colorful trees or changing leaves. Boost your fall mood with this collection of reads hand-picked for their evocative autumn covers—and, in many cases, reveling in an appreciation of nature and our place in it.
The spirals in this forest-laden cover almost make me feel as if I’m looking through the end of a telescope, unsure of where to focus. Maybe it’s a nod to the way this book seems to see all, using a series of fictional stories to show how we’ve removed ourselves from nature and how we might find it again, peering into lives that are saved by trees, an artist with a curious set of photographs of the same tree, a scientist who discovers communication between trees. Ann Patchett calls this Pulitzer Prize winner “The best novel ever written about trees, and really just one of the best novels period.” Who can disagree with that?
My book club chose this last year because of its brilliant cover, the black background making the autumn leaves pop. The title helps too with its promise of unparalleled existence and an everlasting reverence. The premise is much more severe, and almost frighteningly compelling: What would you do if you knew the exact date you’d die? How much would this news impact your remaining days, your evaluation of time, goals, and ambitions? Four siblings learn their expiration dates from a mystical fortune-teller and diverge in very different directions, keeping their exact timelines a secret from each other
The colorful tree on the front reminds me of a mosaic; the artfulness continues inside with beautiful writing and character depth. The New York Times review calls it “A moving portrait of love and friendship set against a backdrop of social change.” It asks big questions, both in the scope of the decades-long timeline and in the context of a religious setting, and yet it’s the subtle revelations and character development that sticks most. Two couples meet in 1963 when they’re assigned to the same parish in troubled times, an improbable match of four people with very different backgrounds. Their journey through the years that follow contains moments that are both profound and lacking, wise and unknowing, heartbreaking and rewarding.
You probably know Garth Stein from his bestselling novel THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. A SUDDEN LIGHT is also about family, one whose mansion is a source of pride and division. Young Trevor is transported to the mansion as a pawn in his parents’ separation, goaded by his father to join his aunt in persuading his grandfather to vacate the premises so they can profit off the sale of the home. As he spends time on the property, Trevor confronts a history interwoven throughout the land and its hidden passageways that could change everything and force his family to shed light on collective guilt. Narrating the events of his childhood decades later provides interesting perspective and dimension to a riveting cast of characters featured in all their hopeful glory and recognizable flaws. Read the full review of A SUDDEN LIGHT.
As a 12-year-old first fantasizing about being a writer, I copied Mary Higgins Clark’s writing style and tendency to name her book titles after songs. Clark’s books have clearly stayed with me, and this one, with its single blood-splattered orange leaf, is no different. The “Queen of Suspense” knows how to craft characters who are suspicious yet lovable, marred in tragedy or burdened by mistakes yet hopeful and cunning. A murder trial should have been TV journalist Delaney Wright’s ticket to widespread popularity; instead, she finds herself improbably believing in the defendant’s innocence. While deeply entrenched in unraveling the crime, she enlists her friends to solve another mystery, one much more personal in nature: locating her birth mother.
Yes, you know this book: think Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show summer read. He may have been pumping it up during the hottest days of the year, but this cover makes me think of fall in suburbia. If you look closely, many trees line the streets in shades of red and gold—and maybe it’s the aerial view—but the effect is soothing. It’s the perfect setting for this story about two neighbors and what goes on behind closed doors, the ties that bind and blind and grow. The children of both couples are forced apart after a tragedy, but the years spent growing up together are enough to reunite them as they look back on the past and what it means to them.
Who doesn’t want to be at a winery on a crisp autumn day? The fresh air, the open fields, the lack of urgency. The cover may have you thinking relaxing thoughts, but the pages are full of World War II tales both engaging and devastating. In France, the Germans invade the champagne house Maison Chauveau, home of Michel and his new wife, Inès. Desperate and angry, Michel decides to secretly work for the Résistance, pulling employees and neighbors into danger, especially those with Jewish ties. Flash-forward to New York 2019, where a young girl decides to accompany her French grandmother to France, knowing nothing of the past her grandmother plans to confront.
The author of the “engrossing” (People) international bestseller The Room on Rue Amélie returns with a moving story set amid the champagne vineyards of France during the darkest days of World War II, perfect for fans of Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Résistance. Inès fears they’ll be exposed, but for Céline, the French-Jewish wife of Chauveau’s chef de cave, the risk is even greater—rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.
When Céline recklessly follows her heart in one desperate bid for happiness, and Inès makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator, they risk the lives of those they love—and the vineyard that ties them together.
New York, 2019: Recently divorced, Liv Kent is at rock bottom when her feisty, eccentric French grandmother shows up unannounced, insisting on a trip to France. But the older woman has an ulterior motive—and a tragic, decades-old story to share. When past and present finally collide, Liv finds herself on a road to salvation that leads right to the caves of the Maison Chauveau.
This book has more accolades and praise than I can fit on an entire page, and it deserves every last one. With the beautiful cover design, it took me a few days to notice that the gold-foiled tree is breaking at the base, and how much this detail sets the tone for our story. AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE follows newlyweds Celestial, an artist, and Roy, an executive. Life is good until the unthinkable tears them apart: Roy is handed a 12-year prison sentence. Celestial knows he’s innocent, knows he deserves her support—and yet, when he’s unexpectedly released five years later, it feels there’s no returning to the life they shared before. Read the full review of AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE.
I love the evocative crinkled leaf that partially absorbs the wording of the title, the remnants of beauty and the gaps reminding us of its absence. This nonfiction text captures that essence of memory in the cohesiveness of past and present, the landscapes that hold their own histories and the experiences that activate them. A professor of environmental studies and geology, Lauret Savoy imbues her personal history and unique perspective with the knowledge and observations that come from years of passionate study and careful categorization.
This #1 New York Times bestseller fulfills more than my quest for a red-leafed cover to round out this list; with multiple unreliable narrators, one of whom is living and the other of whom is dead, THE WALLS AROUND US is a unique, thoughtful ride down the pathways of life’s circumstances and the widespread consequences surrounding a single decision. Meet Violet, a young ballerina; Amber, stuck inside a juvenile detention center; and Orianna, the connecting force between the two. Be prepared to be haunted by these voices of the trapped and weary, by the power of Nova Ren Suma’s lyrical writing to examine both the prison and dance spheres.
I was in a bookstore outside of Montreal when this cover caught my eye. I’d never heard of the Canadian author, Louise Penny, but the entire display dedicated to her books made me think I should pay attention. The novels in her mystery series are all set in Three Pines village, and she’s been compared to Agatha Christie; if you’re looking for book one, you want STILL LIFE. This lovely autumn cover boosts a story midway through the series, one who’s plot I had no trouble diving into without reading the first few. In THE BRUTAL TELLING, a stranger’s murder sends Chief Inspector Gamache off in pursuit of curious beginnings, buried secrets, strange clues, and a brutal reveal.