Photo by Rob Potter on Unsplash

October is my second favorite month of the year, topped only by the glory that is November. Shorter, darker days, cozy reading by the fireplace, falling leaves, rain, fog, mist…I love everything to do with fall.

But when I moved to Southern California, I had to work to get my autumn on. As a result, I started making lists of “Octoberish” books, movies, places, and music — things that would help me escape into a pleasurably melancholy state of mind.

Though I enjoy a good scare as much as the next person (I wrote my master’s thesis on the importance of fear in children’s literature), for me, October doesn’t necessarily equate to spooky. It also includes things that evoke yearning, wistfulness, and gloom.

The reading list that follows is a compilation. I’ve tried to avoid the obvious — from my beloved Brontës to my hero, Stephen King — since you already know about them. Instead, here are the best of the somewhat lesser-known books that I find perfectly Octoberish.

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
    Okay, this was a bestseller, but it’s also one of my favorite books of all time, and it deserves to be more widely read. Two 19th century English magicians compete to see who is the more powerful — and unwittingly stumble upon the secrets of the shadowy John Uskglass, The Raven King. A companion collection of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, came out a couple of years after Jonathan Strange, which I devoured just as quickly.

As I look over the list, I see interesting patterns — lots of English novels, mostly books by women. I go more for the atmospheric than the graphic. Many of the books are set in England; those by Americans take place on the east coast or in the south. There doesn’t seem to be much of what I like set in here in the West. Clearly, I need to invent California Gothic….

I also find that in trying to encapsulate the essence of these books, I want to re-read all of them. Ah, Happy October to me! And to you. Let me know what you would add to the list. I’m always up for a new Octoberish read.

Novelist, foodie, francophile. Top Writer in Books. My Patronus is our corgi, Moneypenny.

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