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Reading the Season

Hot girl summer is giving way to my much-preferred book season cozy girl fall. My blanket scarf is coming out of the closet even as I drag the sprinkler across the dirt patch that was once my lawn. If hot girl summer is about living your best life, cozy girl fall is about hibernating from life with a cuppa and some stretchy pants.

Thankfully the books of fall make hibernating a pleasure. Move over summer stack of rom-coms and thrillers. Hello, lyrical language, navel gazing characters, multigenerational sagas, hefty historical fictions, and Gothic vibes.

If you’re eagerly anticipating the cooler temperatures, pansies in pots, and soup on the stove, check out some of my suggestions for fall reading (after making your fall fund drive pledge, naturally). Want more? Check out the full list here.

A Haunted House: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Perhaps because I came of age reading vampire novels by Anne Rice or maybe because I read a lot of 19th century literature in college, I will always have a soft spot for anything Gothic. With Gothic in its title, I could not resist. Mexican Gothic pays homage to classical works like Wuthering Heights and The Yellow Wallpaper, while standing fully on its own as a brilliant addition to this genre.

Set in 1950s Mexico, the novel begins with Noemi Taboada receiving a letter from her cousin Catalina, who believes her English husband is poisoning her. Noemi makes the trip to Catalina’s new home, a remote castle known as High Place. Once there, Noemi begins uncovering long buried secrets of this house and the family that inhabits it.

A Heavy Historical: Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel

Look, we all know how things end for Anne Boylen, but that never seems to stop us from reading about her. Bring Up the Bodies is the second novel in the Wolf Hall trilogy by the late Dame Hillary Mantel. It focuses on the downfall of Boylen and the political and religious machinations of those in power to satisfy a fickle, narcissistic King.

Mantel’s writing is richly detailed and heavily researched and manages, despite readers knowing how it will all end, to create a palpable sense of tension and mounting dread.

An Artful Mystery: The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

Because I spent many fall mornings in art history classes listening to the soothing white noise of a slide carousel (look it up, kids), I’m always intrigued when art is an integral part of a novel’s plot. The Art Forger uses the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist as the foundation for not one but three different storylines involving the provenance of an Edgar Degas masterpiece.

This is the type of novel that will send you to the nonfiction section of the library or bookstore to find out what was fact and what was fiction—a blurring that is always enjoyable to me, if not to all readers.

A Visit to New England: Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout

Many of us know and love Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Olive Kitteridge. In preparing for Strout’s visit to Tulsa to receive the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, I’ve been going back through her body of work and reading some novels I missed. Abide with Me was her second novel published in 2006.

Set in the 1950s, it’s the story of Reverend Tyler Caskey, the minister of a congregational church in the small village of West Annett Maine. After the loss of his wife, Caskey experiences a crisis of faith that is felt throughout his community. This is a lovely meditation on grief experienced in community and grace that is found in surprising places.

A Perennial Favorite:Love Medicineor ANYTHING by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich occupies a special place in my heart and on my bookshelves. She’s among a select group of authors whose books I buy rather than check out. If you’ve never read Erdrich, start with Love Medicine—a novel of interconnected vignettes about Ojibwe family members living on a reservation in North Dakota. Told from multiple perspectives and jumping across time, the unifying force is the longing for home that’s experienced by each of the characters. As serious as this sound (and it is), it is equally funny at certain moments—a laughing through tears type of humor that I particularly enjoy.

Rebecca Howard is the regional manager of Tulsa City-County Library. During her 15 years with Tulsa City-County Library, Rebecca launched the readers advisory service Your Next Great Read, and served as TCCL’s county-wide Literacy Coordinator. Rebecca writes Public Radio Tulsa's monthly column Imprint.