Whether you like drinking tea or hot chocolate while sitting by the heater with a book in your hands or not, this fall reading list fits the gloomy mood and will go great with a hot beverage. From lengthy Gothic classics set in the Victorian era to magical short stories inspired by imperial China, there’s something that will suit anyone’s taste.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
This feminist fantasy novella tells the story of two women, one a royal and one a servant, as their lives intertwine while being at the emperor’s court. In-yo leaves her home in the North, ravaged by war, to become empress through a political marriage that sets her apart from the people she trusts, and she must find allies to stand beside her. Rabbit, a young girl sold by her parents for money, gets close to the empress and the two women develop a strong bond that goes beyond friendship.
While it may sound like a love story, it is not simply just that. The Empress of Salt and Fortune portrays the women’s quest for freedom and justice, which is set in a mesmerizing imperial China, where magic is not only a means to an end. It is an underrated short story that might be just the thing to get you out of a reading slump and put you in the mood for asking for more (and there is more, this is the first installment in The Singing Hills Cycle, with its sequel When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain already out)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
A widely recommended classic for the fall season, Wuthering Heights is wrongly interpreted as a romance by its readers. The novel presents two generations of a middle-class family from northern England, how a passion that consumes our protagonists Catherine and Heathcliff ends up harming even the next generation. It is a masterful display of mental degradation and conflicts of class. I don’t think this famous classic needs much explaining as it is a story to experience, and its display of death and illness is perfect for the season.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
This story jumps from present-day New York to France in the 1700s as our protagonist, Addie LaRue, is forced to marry and chooses to make a deal with the devil instead. The devil gives her the power to be immortal, stay forever young and healthy, but with a price: never being able to leave a trace on the earth. She is forgotten by everyone as soon as she leaves the room or dawn arrives, which makes her long for a tiny space in someone’s memory. One day, however, someone does remember her, and there starts the woman’s awaited retaliation against the demon.
We see Addie travel through various cities and time periods in Europe and the United States, from Paris to Florence to New Orleans. In this instance, the settings of the novel make it shine, even though its plot is compelling as well. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue makes a great read in these times when we can’t travel as much and we’re confined to our homes for most of the time.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This crime novel set in a New England college has become an A-lister on both BookTok, the TikTok community that posts about books, and in the Dark Academia part of TikTok. The novel’s protagonist, Richard Papen, moves from California across the country to study Ancient Greek, even though he comes from a low-earning family and struggles with money. He encounters five upper-class students, the only ones in the whole college selected to study the subject as well, and the eccentric teacher that has odd views regarding life and education. The story has an inverted narrative, starting with the murder of one of the students, and continues with Richard recounting the events from the beginning. The novel is not only famous for its story, but also for the setting and the subjects that the characters discuss, ranging from classic literature to Greek and Latin.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Another classic, but this time a modern one that is, without doubt, easier to digest and recommended even to people who don’t fancy classics, it depicts the story of a woman in the 1950s and her fight with depression and the biases regarding mental illnesses of that time. Esther, the protagonist, starts the story in New York while she is writing for a women’s fashion magazine, a job she got through a scholarship. The story progresses as she has to deal with depression upon moving back home to Boston. Sylvia Plath’s style could be described as blunt and poetical (as she herself was actually a poet, The Bell Jar being the only novel she published), and the reason why it transcends time periods and touches its contemporary readers.