The Cider House Rules
John Irving’s sixth novel, which has been translated to screen (in a film starring Michael Caine) as well as the stage, tells of an obstetrician who runs an orphanage at an apple orchard. Steeped in the sights and smells of autumn, this multigenerational novel also functions as a commentary on the abortion debate.
The Turn of the Screw
James’s novella is proof that a truly terrifying story needs not the bells and whistles of modernity to retain its creepy allure. Set at a decaying English country house, the book follows a young governess who becomes convinced that her new is haunted by predatory ghosts. At barely more than 100 pages (and, in some editions, less), the book can be read in a single day—but attentive readers may need until spring to shake off its chilling effects.
The Lay of the Land
Among other things, fall brings to mind every gastronome’s favorite day of the year—Thanksgiving. Of course, almost all Turkey Days are marked by complications of one sort or another, and the same goes for Frank Bascombe, the hero of Richard Ford’s “The Lay of the Land,” the third in a series of books (along with “The Sportswriter,” “Independence Day,” and “Let Me Be Frank”) starring the protagonist. Set in 2000 and centering on a “postnuclear-family” Thanksgiving gathering, the novel offers what its publisher calls an “astonishing meditation on America today.”
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens’ classic holds the singular distinction of appealing to lovers of both Halloween and Christmas. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly businessman who, on Christmas Eve, is visited by the ghosts of his Christmases Past, Present, and Future, has persisted as a classic (and a fall-reading staple) for good reason: Spooky and heartwarming in equal measure, it established a precedent for both horror and holiday literature alike.
The Count of Monte Cristo
Long books lend themselves especially well to fall and wintertime reading. Shorter days mean more hours to spend wrapped in blankets, immersed in rich fictional worlds. In the classic (and lengthy) “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Alexander Dumas presents one such world: set in France and Italy, among other places, and centering on an act of long-sought revenge, the book will more than satiate your craving for winter-evening entertainment.
Louisa May Alcott
A classic like “Little Women” can (and should) be read at all times of the year, but a plot point involving Christmas makes it especially appealing during the holiday months. As a character in a film version of the novel says, “Some books are so familiar reading them is like being home again.”
Into Thin Air
Krakauer’s classic account of his 1996 Mt. Everest expedition—which coincided with a famous disaster on the mountain that left eight dead—plunges readers into the hellish (and, it must be admitted, thrilling) world of extreme climbing, making it a perfect wintertime read.
Every September, I suffer a brief fit of climate change denial. Not that kind of denial—I believe fully in the science. I mean the other kind of denial, the kind wherein I refuse to believe that summer, that three-month span of glorious warmth and sun, is coming to a close. Presumably, nothing, least of all a book, could suture so big a wound. Right? But, as I’ve found, over the past few years, there are a number of novels and nonfiction books that shed light (if not high temperatures) on the charm of the so-called lesser seasons. Here, the books, whether novels or histories, YA or literary, that’ll have you—impossible as it may seem—looking forward to fall and winter.
Bookshelf curated by E. Crane.
Featured Image by (c) Sean Board/iStock.com