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

By Rebecca Renner and Brandi Broxson
Updated September 10, 2020

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 books 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.

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 <em>The Scarlet Letter</em>, 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 fall books and wrap yourself in their autumnal worlds.

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Fall books - Educated by Tara Westover
Credit: bookshop.org

1 Educated by Tara Westover

$26, bookshop.org

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 PhD candidate at Cambridge University. If fall is a time of change and learning, Educated is the book to add to your list.

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Fall books - Possession, by A.S. Byatt
Credit: bookshop.org

2 Possession by A.S. Byatt

From $16, bookshop.org

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 a British university campus.

Fall books - The Secret History donna tartt
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3 The Secret History by Donna Tartt

$16, bookshop.org

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.

Fall books - The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware
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4 The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

From $16, bookshop.org

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.

Fall books - The Cider House Rules, by John Irving
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5 The Cider House Rules by John Irving

From $17, bookshop.org

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.

Fall books - We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Credit: Courtesy of publisher

6 We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

From $16, bookshop.org

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, younger sister Merricat has vowed to protect Constance from the villagers and others who might seek to do her wrong.

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Fall books - The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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7 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

From $16, bookshop.org

Transport yourself to opulent parties during the Jazz Age on New York's Long Island. The plot uses the seasons of summer and fall as symbolism for the situations its characters experience. As autumn begins and the leaves start to fall, the novel's love triangle comes to a head.

Fall books - Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
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8 Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

From $7, bookshop.org

An 11-year-old, freckle-faced orphan with a big imagination makes her home with an adoptive family on Prince Edward Island. Anne's description of the scenery at Green Gables captures the charm and warmth of fall.

Fall books - Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman
Credit: Courtesy of publisher

9 Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

From $16, bookshop.org

This bewitching read tells the tale of the Owens girls, orphaned sisters who are raised by their aunts, who happen to be witches. After growing up, pursuing love, and going in different directions, the sisters reunite in the spellbinding house they were raised in.

Fall books - Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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10 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

From $8, bookshop.org

A pioneer family works through the fall to prepare for the coming winter in a cabin on the outskirts of the Big Woods in Wisconsin. Crops are harvested, meat is smoked, and maple syrup tapped before the family gathers around the fire at night for some fiddle playing.