5 Fall Book Recommendations For Those First Chilly Days

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Leah Rachel von Essen

Senior Contributor

By day, Leah Rachel von Essen is the editor-in-chief of Chicago Booth Magazine at the University of Chicago. By night, she reviews genre-bending fiction for Booklist, and writes regularly as a senior contributor at Book Riot. Her blog While Reading and Walking has over 10,000 dedicated followers over several social media outlets, including Instagram. She writes passionately about books in translation, chronic illness and bias in healthcare, queer books, twisty SFF, and magical realism and folklore. She was one of a select few bookstagrammers named to NewCity’s Chicago Lit50 in 2022. She is an avid traveler, a passionate fan of women’s basketball and soccer, and a lifelong learner. Twitter: @reading_while

I am so psyched for sweater weather. I love the summer, but can’t stand the heat and humidity; nothing gets me deep in my soul like a crisp fall breeze and a day where the leaves are all different colors but you’re cozy in that sweatshirt you wore out walking. That’s joyful stuff.

But what books should you bring with you on your autumn day excursions, or when you first curl up on that first cool night when you can turn off the air conditioning and bundle up with a cup of tea instead? I have five literary book recommendations that will warm you up.

Salt Slow by Julia ArmfieldSalt Slow by Julia Armfield

Armfield has written a gorgeous short story collection full of strange, haunting stories featuring obstinate women, many of them queer. They are surrealist, magical, and speculative: in “The Great Sleep,” people’s Sleeps become independent entities, stepping out of bodies and preventing their people from sleeping at night, changing the world and making the narrator think about the uses of sleep. There are stories about a young girl who becomes friends with a wolf; a female punk band with obsessed fans and a fantastical secret; a Frankenstein-esque heartbreak. Just a little bit spooky as we head towards October.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

This is the perfect book to read on a damp day, a cup of something warm in your hands. It’s a fast-moving romantic novel about a woman unexpectedly widowed. After a year, her best friend Andy asks her if she can take in a tenant, a former professional pitcher named Dean. The novel features a relaxing realism, crackling chemistry, and light easy dialogue. And ultimately it isn’t about the romance, but about Evvie’s growth and recovery from the death of her emotionally abusive husband, and her route to independence and self-care.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi CoatesThe Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The first novel by Coates is out, and you don’t want to miss it. The book digs into slavers’ brutal separation of families, following Hiram Walker, who, when torn from his mother, gains a mysterious power that will help keep him alive in the years to come. His life will span deep hatred in the South and insidious torture in the North, all as he stays focused on the hope that he will succeed someday in finding and saving his family. It’s a highly anticipated release.

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

I adore Karen Russell. Her strange, surrealist, fantastical worlds and tales never fail to capture my imagination—from Swamplandia! to Vampires in the Lemon Grove, she’s kept my undivided attention. Now she’s back, her comedic, absurdist tone in tow, to enchant us with a new collection of short stories that will be a mainstay on my bookshelf for years to come.

i can't talk about the trees without the bloodI Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark

More people need to read this incredible poetry collection that blew my socks off earlier this summer. Clark’s poems are gorgeous: they touch on the historic trauma of being a black woman today, through everything from literary history to Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” to childhood bullies to institutionalized segregation. Excellent on every page, I was scandalized that it took me this long to discover Tiana Clark, and I want everyone to drop everything and read her poetry—especially fans of the Breakbeat Poets movement.