Looking for a good book to read in fall? If you're in the mood to get cozy, check out the books on this list. 

By Rebecca Renner
Updated: July 09, 2019
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Fall is a season of dramatic change. Kids go back to school. Leaves turn every shade of red and orange. Temperatures start to plummet. It’s time to cozy up with some good books to read. If you really want to get into the fall mood, put down your pumpkin spice everything and grab a fall-themed book.

Fall reads come in as many varieties as the changing leaves. You can read a campus novel and relive your glory days at school. Or you can find a book with vivid descriptions of foliage and the frost nipping the air. But in October, it’s time for a different kind of chill: Pick up a literary horror classic to put yourself in the Halloween spirit.

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Campus novels and other education-themed stories are a literary tradition. Perhaps the most famous is The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger. More recent campus novels include The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer and The Idiot, by Elif Batuman. But education isn’t only in the domain of fiction. Learning often plays an important part in memoirs as well.

If you’d prefer to immerse yourself in lush autumnal settings, choose a book set in New England. Many of John Irving’s novels, for example, have a distinctly fall feeling, almost like being dropped into a Robert Frost poem. The works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, such as The Scarlet Letter, have a similar sensibility.

But if it’s close to Halloween, partake in a classic of horror literature. Even if you don’t like scary stories, many horror classics are worth a read and are beloved parts of the western canon. Novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are good books in their own right, and they will definitely put you in the fall mood.

Fall reads can be spooky, lighthearted, serious, or smart. Choose one of these six books, the best ones to read in fall, and wrap yourself in their autumnal worlds.


Educated, by Tara Westover

If you haven’t already read this phenomenon of a book, add it to your list. In Educated, Westover describes her rough upbringing in a family of religious survivalists in Idaho. As she grew older, Westover began to understand how limited her options would be without a formal education. So she decided to pave her own way, going from self-educated home-schooler to a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge University. If fall is a time of change and learning, Educated is the book to add to your list.

To buy: $17; amazon.com.


Possession, by A.S. Byatt

This Man Booker award-winning novel about romance between two literary scholars includes many wonderful tidbits of bookish goodness. Byatt weaves the story together with a patchwork of poetry, fairy tales, letters, diary entries, narration, and even academic papers. A high-brow love story, Possession will give you a taste of fall on an British university campus.

To buy: $14; amazon.com.


The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

What’s more perfect to read for fall than a book about students at elite New England prep school? A book where those students become embroiled in a dark conflict of cult-like obsessions, secrets, and murder. Though author Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014, The Secret History has a much stronger following. Pick up this chilling campus novel and learn what the hype is all about.

To buy: $13; amazon.com.


The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware

It all starts with a mysterious letter: Hal is to receive an inheritance. The money, it turns out, was meant for someone else. Hal wants to use her skills as a tarot reader to get the money anyway, but she soon finders herself snared in a dangerous situation she wasn’t expecting. If you loved Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, this suspenseful thriller is for you.

To buy: $16; amazon.com.


The Cider House Rules, by John Irving

John Irving’s novels describe fall in New England at its best: leaves changing, a crisp chill in the air, and the workings of an apple orchard producing cider. When you read his prose, you’ll almost be able to taste the fall flavors. But this novel isn’t a plain, cozy read. In it, Irving tackles the issues of adoption and abortion.

To buy: $16; amazon.com.


We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson

Moody, witchy, and downright spooky, Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a gothic fall classic. It follows the Blackwood family, especially sisters Merricat and Constance. Constance was accused of murdering half of their family, but now that she’s been acquitted and returned home, older sister Merricat has vowed to protect Constance from the villagers and others who might seek to do her wrong.

To buy: $14; amazon.com.

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