Remember in the movie You’ve Got Mail, when Tom Hanks writes an email to Meg Ryan about how much he loves the fall? “It makes me want to buy school supplies,” he writes. “If I had your name and address I would send you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.” That’s how I feel, too. The other day, I stepped outside my apartment to find that it was The First Crisp Morning, and I wanted to do a little dance. The first orange leaf might actually elicit a cartwheel.
Say what you want about spring – for me, fall is the true time of rebirth. After languishing all summer, too sweaty and sleepy to read anything more complicated that Cosmopolitan, I just wake up in the autumn, when I can get back inside a classroom and give my flabby brain some much-needed exercise. I can learn and grow and set all kinds of new goals. I can write in my planner – is there anything better than writing in a planner!?
And, most importantly, I can go to my favorite cozy spots and read. Currently, I am knee deep in novels for my thesis and Norton anthologies, but if you’re not a senior in college like me (or even if you are, and you’re just better at time management) here are some books that I think are perfect for scarf-and-coffee weather.
- The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides – I’ve written about my relationship to this book before (it is somewhat turbulent) but there’s no denying this is a gorgeous novel about love and academia. The story begins at Brown University in 1982, when English major Madeleine Hanna leaves her graduation ceremony after discovering her ex-boyfriend, Leonard, has been hospitalized for bipolar disorder. The reader then follows Madeleine, Leonard, and Madeleine’s close friend Mitchell through their post-grad years, as they desperately try to reconcile the challenges of “real life” with classroom brilliance. The depictions of Leonard’s mental illness are devastating, and the embedded marriage plot is properly complicated, but my favorite aspect is the texts that the characters rely upon for translation of their surroundings. For romantic Madeleine, it’s Barthes’ The Lover’s Discourse; self-righteous Mitchell becomes obsessed with the writings of Mother Teresa.
- On Beauty by Zadie Smith – Another “liberal arts” novel, this book follows exploits of the multiracial Belsey family in the fictional college town of Wellington, MA. The Belseys are Howard, a white Englishman who teaches art history, his African-American wife Kiki and their three nearly-grown children, Jerome, Zora, and Levi. The family’s relationship is already complicated by Howard’s infidelities, Jerome’s religious piety, and Levi’s exploration of his racial identity, but things become explosive upon the arrival of Howard’s academic nemesis and his own dysfunctional brood. In characteristic Smith fashion, this novel is both uproariously funny and relentlessly provocative. It’s also one of my favorites of all time.
There are, of course, a zillion books that will come in handy when you’re building your cold-weather book barricade. That said, what are your favorite books for fall? And – very importantly – does anyone have any coffee/book pairings they want to share?