I am a pumpkin disguised in human skin, and it should come as no surprise that fall is my favorite season and September/October are my absolute favorite months. There are a few books I love rereading this time of year, whether because they’re school-themed or Halloween-themed or are plain good and cuddly like a spicy latte. Since I am a scifi-loving pumpkin, the recommendations below are all on the speculative fiction/SF&F side of things.
Grab a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils and enjoy the new school year at one of these magical schools:
“Magisterium” started a couple years back and is still ongoing – it’s definitely part of a wave of books reacting or responding to the Harry Potter series, even though that finished years ago. The first book, The Iron Trial, manages to smash in everything I wanted from Harry Potter but didn’t get, and the authors aren’t afraid to push the envelope in storytelling, diversity, etc.
Girl goes to knight school, is picked on by all the boys, kicks ass, becomes ass-kicking lady knight….I can’t imagine why I would love “Protector of the Small” series by Tamora Pierce. But even besides the ass-kicking, Kel, the protagonist, is such a GOOD character and is constantly looking out for those smaller or weaker than herself. It’s fun watching her slowly form her group of besties and supporters, and seeing her bring out the best in other people. Also, yeah, the kingdom of Tortall is a really fun world to read in, as there are lots of knights, monsters, magic, drama, etc.
I have to mention “Chrestomanci” because it’s Diana Wynne Jones, but the school in it is much smaller and more elite than most fictional magical schools. DWJ does dysfunctional family relationships like no one else, but the characters always survive and grow and change in spite of it, and form their own crazy families if need be. The first published book in the series, Charmed Life, is hilarious and dark and features SO MANY DRESSING GOWNS.
Prepare for the scariest night of the year with these chillers:
I love vampire stories where the vampire is in fact a terrifying clever evil monster, and Dracula is the best at it. This classic by Bram Stoker also has a great cast of non-vampire characters and a slow-build mystery plot. We are also doing a readalong of this one
Honestly Frankenstein by Mary Shelley makes me uncomfortable and sad, but it’s really well-done if you want a horrifying tragic psychological mad scientist fairy tale from hell.
I don’t always love Neil Gaiman but I do consistently love his kids books (see also: Coraline, Odd and the Frost Giants, etc ). The Graveyard Book is based on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books, except it’s set in a graveyard and the boy has been raised by ghosts. It’s the perfect mix of heartwarming and terrifying.
All Hallows Eve by Charles Williams is a weird book. The primary protagonist is a ghost woman who has just passed away, but there are other sections from the point of view of characters still living, and all the stories overlap, whether they are taking place in the afterlife version of London or in the physical, “real life” London. There’s a plot to do with some occult plotters, too. IT’S A WEIRD BOOK, OKAY, but really very good.
My ultimate favorite fall-related read is The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope.
I reread this book every Halloween because it is ridiculous and fun and magical. It’s historical fiction set right before the reign of Elizabeth I in England, about one of Princess Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting, Katharine. Katharine gets sent into exile to an isolated estate and proceeds to get in trouble with the locals, the lord, his staff, and the mysterious people from under the hill. There’s a lot of banter and a surprising amount of Thick Tawny Golden Hair. It’s an excellent remix on the Tam Lin legend, too.
I focused on speculative fiction for these recommendations, but rukbat3pern on Twitter pointed out that Persuasion by Jane Austen is the perfect autumn book (and is also one of my favorite books of all time).