I feel like I blinked and suddenly summer was gone. But I’m not complaining because I love pulling a new book off the shelf and curling up with a cozy blanket or taking my e-reader to the park when there’s is just a little bit of a chill in the air. If you’re trying to ease into the chilly weather, then these books are certainly going to put you in the mood.
10 Enchanting Books Crackling with Autumnal Energy
A big part of fall revolves around getting together with friends and family for the holidays. Holidays that don’t always go well. Set during Thanksgiving in 2007, STRANGERS AT THE FEAST tells the heartbreaking story of the struggling Olson family and two teens from the projects as their worlds crash together. Tragedy reveals just how close privilege and poverty really are as author Jennifer Vanderbes explores race, class, and the lengths people will go to in order to protect their families. This book is an intense and important read wrapped up in a fantastic cast of characters and will likely resonate with as many people now as it did when it first came out.
On Thanksgiving Day 2007, as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, three generations of the Olson family gather. Eleanor and Gavin worry about their daughter, a single academic, and her newly adopted Indian child, and about their son, who has been caught in the imploding real-estate bubble. While the Olsons navigate the tensions and secrets that mark their relationships, seventeen-year-old Kijo Jackson and his best friend Spider set out from the nearby housing projects on a mysterious job. A series of tragic events bring these two worlds ever closer, exposing the dangerously thin line between suburban privilege and urban poverty, and culminating in a crime that will change everyone’s life.
In her gripping new book, Jennifer Vanderbes masterfully lays bare the fraught lives of this complex cast of characters and the lengths to which they will go to protect their families. Strangers at the Feast is at once a heartbreaking portrait of a family struggling to find happiness and an exploration of the hidden costs of the American dream.
Published to international acclaim, Jennifer Vanderbes’s first book, Easter Island, was hailed as “one of those rare novels that appeals equally to heart, mind, and soul,” by the San Francisco Chronicle. In her second novel, this powerful writer reaches new heights of storytelling. This page-turner wrestles with the most important issues of our time—race, class, and above all else, family. Strangers at the Feast will leave readers haunted and deeply affected.
Fall is perfect for atmospheric, slow-burn thrillers, so it’s definitely worth picking up THE BLACKBIRD SEASON for its small town atmosphere, a baseball field full of dead birds, a possible scandal, and a missing teenage girl. Moretti has woven the perfect setup for this mystery that follows four different perspectives and will keep you guessing until the end. After thousands of dead birds fall out of the sky in a small town in Pennsylvania, everyone is asking questions. That is, until a reporter catches well-respected teacher and coach Nate Winters embracing a troubled student, Lucia, outside a sleazy motel. Lucia leans into the scandal, claiming that she and Nate are having an affair. Nate denies the claims, but when Lucia goes missing everyone suspects him, including his wife, Alecia. The only person on Nate’s side is Bridget Harris, the creative writing teacher, who has Lucia’s class journal and realizes that something doesn’t add up.
“Exceptional…a deliciously sinister glimpse into the duplicity of small-town lives and the ease with which people turn on each other when tragedy comes calling. Moretti's tale of jealousy and obsession is nothing less than dark magic. Witchery indeed." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.
“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…
Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”
In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.
Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.
And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.
Told from the alternating points of view of Alecia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.
Magical, historical, and—I am too tempted to say it—absolutely spellbinding. That might have been cheesy, but this book is truly so well crafted. Fall carries a sense of mystery and magic and the impending sense that something epic and equally intimate may be arriving soon. THE BINDING captures many of those feelings. In this reality, books are dangerous. Not because of knowledge, but because they contain painful or horrible memories. People can visit bookbinders in order to rid themselves of such memories, and once their stories are told they get a clean slate. Emmett is sent to a bookbinder after suffering a severe mental breakdown on his family’s farm. There Emmett learns the trade and begins to heal, but he’s never allowed to enter the secure room where all the books are stored. But he can’t help his curiosity, especially when Lucian Darnay arrives.
This book is described as a feminist fantasy, and I couldn’t agree more as Immanuelle Moore attempts to save her puritanical society while embracing her internal power. Immanuelle lives on the outskirts of Bethel as an outcast, punished for her mother’s sins, and does her best to live a life of submission like all the other women. But everything changes when she finds herself in the forbidden Darkwood, where the spirits of dead witches live. There they gift her a diary that belonged to her mother. Despite everything she’s been taught, she can’t help but wonder why her mother sought sanctuary in the wood and associated with witches. But the truth she learns about the church is dark. When horrors begin happening in Bethel, Immanuelle realizes that the change must come from her, no matter what.
I love William Kent Krueger, and his mysteries are always perfect for fall. In DESOLATION MOUNTAIN, Stephen O’Connor sees visions or horrible tragedies to come. So when he sees a great bird shot out of the sky, he knows something is wrong. His fears are confirmed when a private plane crashes into Desolation Mountain killing a United States senator and her family. With the help of his father, Cork, and some of the men from the nearby Iron Lake reservation, they dig through the wreckage looking for answers when the FBI shows up. Still, they can’t stop looking for answers, but to find the truth, they’ll have to confront real evil.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Edgar Award-winning author William Kent Krueger delivers another heart-pounding thriller filled with “dynamic action scenes” (The New York Times) as Cork O’Connor and his son Stephen work together to uncover the truth behind the death of a senator on Desolation Mountain and the mysterious disappearances of several first responders.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
To Stephen O’Connor, Hamlet’s dour observation is more than just words. All his life, he has had visions of tragedies to come. When he experiences the vision of a great bird shot from the sky, he knows something terrible is about to happen. The crash of a private plane on Desolation Mountain in a remote part of the Iron Lake Reservation, which kills a United States senator and most of her family, confirms Stephen’s worst fears.
Stephen joins his father, Cork O’Connor and a few Ojibwe men from the nearby Iron Lake reservation to sift through the smoldering wreckage when the FBI arrives and quickly assumes control of the situation. As he initiates his own probe, Cork stumbles upon a familiar face in Bo Thorson, a private security consultant whose unnamed clients have hired him to look quietly into the cause of the crash. The men agree to join forces in their investigation, but soon Cork begins to wonder if Thorson’s loyalties lie elsewhere.
Roadblocked by lies from the highest levels of government, uncertain who to trust, and facing growing threats the deeper they dig for answers, Cork, Stephen, and Bo finally understand that to get to the truth, they will have to face the great menace, a beast of true evil lurking in the woods—a beast with a murderous intent of unimaginable scale. Krueger delivers yet another “punch-to-the-gut blend of detective story and investigative fiction” (Booklist, starred review).
If you love Victorian-era ghost stories, mysteries, and monsters mixed with found families and lots of girl power, then you will not be disappointed by THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER. And of course, while these things are wonderful all year round, they are especially wonderful in the fall! Mary Jekyll is determined to find Edward Hyde, the man who murdered her father, but instead she finds his wild daughter, Diana. Refusing to give up the search, Mary is soon joined by Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and a group of women all created through horrible experiments. Together they uncover a secret society of scientists, and each of them must confront their monstrous pasts.
While this one technically takes place in the summer, the magic and incredible atmosphere will definitely give you chilly fall vibes. That, and we’ve already established the inherently witchy nature of a good fall read. The town of Sparrow is cursed and has been ever since three sisters were sentenced to death for witchcraft two centuries ago. Now, each summer the witches possess three young girls and use them to enact their revenge, luring boys to the harbor to drown them. The mistrust between townspeople grows upon the witches’ next return. But when Bo Carter arrives, unaware of the apparent danger, seventeen-year-old local Penny Talbot doesn’t know what to think. The two suspect each other of hiding something as death comes for the town, and Penny is forced to choose between saving Bo or saving herself.
A New York Times bestseller.
“A wickedly chilling debut.” —School Library Journal
“Complex and sweetly satisfying.” —Booklist
“Prepare to be bewitched.” —Paula Stokes, author of Girl Against the Universe
“A story about the redemptive power of love.” —Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be
“Eerie and enchanting.” —Jessica Spotswood, author of The Cahill Witch Chronicles
Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic meets the Salem Witch trials in this haunting story about three sisters on a quest for revenge—and how love may be the only thing powerful enough to stop them.
Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…
Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.
Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.
Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.
Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.
But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.
I don’t think that it’s a secret that I love PRACTICAL MAGIC and Alice Hoffman. So it should be no surprise that MAGIC LESSONS, the origin story for the Owens’ family curse, has found its way onto this fall feeling list. Set in the 1600s, we finally learn what happened to Maria Owens and the curse that has haunted generations of women since. Maria is taught the “Nameless Arts” by a woman named Hannah Owens. But when she is abandoned by the man she loves, she follows him to Salem and is accused of witchcraft. Hoffman’s approach to magical realism is always stunning, and whether you’re familiar with PRACTICAL MAGIC or not, this book is a treat.
In this “ bewitching” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.
Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.
When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.
Magic Lessons is a “heartbreaking and heart-healing” (BookPage) celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.
A historical fiction with a wealthy family and a mysterious death is always a great choice, but THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON is such a cozy read, you’ll be wishing for fall by the end. The novel is set in between World War I and World War II and told from flashbacks of a young maid as she remembers the tragic events in that house in Essex. Now ninety-six, Grace retells the story of what happened, and the narrative will keep you guessing until the end. Mystery, historical, with a dash of romance, everyone is sure to enjoy curing up with THE HOUSE OF RIVERTON.
Set in interwar Britain, this gorgeous debut novel is the story of a decades-old suicide at an aristocratic manor home, relived through the eyes of the ninety-eight-year-old former housemaid. In a classic case of the servant knowing all, her memories of that long-ago night are the key to shocking secrets and heartbreaking truths.
Set just before World War II, TROUBLE THE SAINTS follows a young girl from Harlem who is hired to use her knives to strike fear in Manhattan’s underworld. She is haunted by her past as the current of the times threatens her future and the people she loves. Magical and historical, this book weaves an incredible tale of a dark and glamorous New York City rife with racial tension and one woman desperate to save her community. If you are looking for a wondrous blend of fantasy and history that will keep you enthralled until the last page, then you should already be picking up a copy of TROUBLE THE SAINTS.
Photo credit: iStock / Kateryna Kravchuk-Rudomotkina