I love autumn reading! As the heat of summer fades, I can’t think of a better way to spend a crisp fall evening than curling up with a hot cup of tea and a good book. During the summer, I often find it too hot to concentrate on anything very heavy – especially with all of Winnipeg’s great festivals to distract me! But as soon as the cooler weather hits, I’m ready to slow down with something a bit more in depth. As Halloween approaches, my reading starts to get a little darker. I want eerie stories of ghosts and magic to read on a cold night. So get cozy and settle in with one of these great fall books.
For a book that might take you until winter to finish, try Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. At 782 pages, it’s sometimes sold as two books to make it more manageable. But if the word count doesn’t scare you off, you’ll find yourself falling into this absorbing tale. In an alternate 19th century England, studying magic has become a scholarly pursuit. When the mysterious Jonathan Strange appears and is taken as an apprentice by Mr. Norrell, their conflicting ideas over the practice of magic have greater consequences than either could imagine.
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is another novel about English academics. It includes time travel, a professor organizing an expedition to the past, an ancient Egyptian sorcerer, and the poet Lord Byron.
This is also the season I like to reread old favourites, like John Crowley’s Little, Big. It follows several generations of the same family and their strange relationship to Faerie. The magic of this story is a quiet constant in the background. The focus is on various members of this odd family, on their choices and relationships throughout the years.
In Catherynne Valente’s novel Deathless, the Russian folktale of Koschei the Deathless is retold set against the backdrop of WWII. Marya Morevna, a clever girl living in Stalinist Russia, becomes Koschei’s bride and begins a journey that will take her far from home. This is a darkly beautiful tale of love and war. Of girls who don’t always do as they’re told and stories that don’t always go as planned.
Now I understand that many people are just getting back into school, or are busy with work, and might not have time to finish an epic read. Don’t worry, there are plenty of shorter spooky works to get you through October!
Shirley Jackson wrote many short stories, but her novel The Haunting of Hill House is a classic of suspense literature. Several people are invited to stay at a remote mansion to take part in a study of insomnia. But what they find when they get there is not at all what they expect. Jackson was a master of psychological horror, and much of the action takes place inside the protagonist’s troubled mind. It can be difficult to know if it’s her, or the house itself.
In Lives of Shadows by Barbara Hodgson, a man returns to a house he purchased in Damascus before WWI, only to find it haunted by memories of the past. Like the rest of Hodgson’s work, this novel is beautifully illustrated with old photographs, sketches, and other marginalia.
In her introduction to The Bone Key, Sarah Monette admits to being inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft. This series of interconnected short stories follow Kyle Murchison Booth, an academic who is constantly pulled into the supernatural world against his will.
Ghosts haunt turn of the century San Francisco in Delia’s Shadow by Jamie Lee Moyer. They have followed Delia all her life. As she returns home for the first time in years, she is haunted by the ghost of a woman whose killer was never found. And the killer may not be finished with San Francisco after all.
I hope you’ll take home at least one of these works to keep you company tonight!