Fall: the season of Pinterest, pumpkin spice, knit sweaters, and knee-high leather boots – a time for young women to rejoice in the splendors of being ridiculed for their love of all things autumn. Also, coincidentally, my favourite time of the year.
Fall is great for several reasons, excluding the pumpkin-flavoured ones listed above. I love the weather – cool enough to wear a leather jacket but not yet necessary to wear winter boots – and, above all, I love the coziness of reading a good book on the couch when it’s cold outside.
I’ve already shared my Halloween-themed fall reading list (read here), but there is another genre that I enjoy during this season: literary fiction. Books with so much scene-setting, atmosphere and beautiful prose that you feel like you’re part of the story. Literary fiction hasn’t historically been my favourite genre, but this year I’ve become more and more invested in realism and cultural commentary – both of which can be found in droves in this genre.
So, without further ado, I’d like to share with you my suggestions for fall reading:
1. The Best Kind Of People by Zoe Whittall. In this timely novel, Whittall tells the story of a community torn apart by sexual assault allegations against a beloved high school teacher. Said teacher, once a hero for stopping a school shooting, is now ostracized and arrested and his family, including a teenage daughter named Sadie, become social pariahs. Whittall explores the reactions to sexual assault accusations and the complicated reactions of those closest to the victims and the perpetrator. Whittall, who is absolutely hilarious on Twitter if you didn’t already know, writes with beautiful eloquence and creates so much atmosphere that you can easily imagine yourself in the small, upper class town where the story is set. Taking place at the beginning of a new school year, The Best Kind of People is a wonderful autumn read. Read my full review here.
2. The Honey Farm by Harriet Alida Lye. In her debut novel, Harriet Alida Lye takes us to a honey farm set in rural Ontario, far away from the bustle of big cities. A young woman named Silvia attends a summer artist’s retreat on the farm, living on the property in exchange for labour. During her stay she falls in love with another young artist and the two begin a relationship disrupted only by the farm’s mysterious – and sometimes frightening – owner Cynthia. As the season changes from summer to fall, most of the artists depart, leaving only Silvia, her lover, and Cynthia to clash with one another. This biblical, thrilling, atmospheric novel by a wonderful new Canadian author should definitely be added to your to-be-read list. Read my full review here.
3. The Line That Held Us by David Joy. In this Appalachian noir thriller, David Joy introduces us to one of the best antagonists in recent literature. When a man out hunting accidentally shoots a person he mistakes for a deer, he drags a whole community into a plot for revenge and justice. The Line That Held Us is grotesque and beautiful, difficult to read and captivating. It explores the simple things in life people need to be happy, and what happens when those things are taken away. Read my full review here.
4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. In this totally original novel, Ottessa Moshfegh introduces us to an unnamed narrator who, understandably enough, is so fed up with the world that she wants to go to sleep for a year. The novel chronicles her life building up to the drug-induced sleep project, and explores what her apathy towards the world means for her future, her career, and her relationships. With the bitingly smart commentary of Moshfegh, one of my current favourite writers, and an easy-to-hate main characters, My Year of Rest and Relaxation needs to be on your reading list. Read my full review here.
5. The Red Word by Sarah Henstra. Henstra’s searing depiction of sexual assault and gender relations at an unnamed Ivy League school in the 1990s is incredible. The Red Word, which reads like Greek mythology meets campus novel, is one of my favourite books of the year. It follows sophomore student Karen Huls as she moves into a house of radical feminists and learns from them about the dangerous history of her boyfriend’s fraternity. The Red Word is a startling and uncomfortable investigation into what it means to be a woman on campus, and how far those with differing ideologies will go to bring the other down. Read my full review here.