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Five Book Recommendations for Fall in November

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash


Now that October’s coming to a close and Halloween will soon be behind you, it’s time to think about fall season books that don’t have any correlation to the holiday. Horror books, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Stephen King’s The Shining, take over the month of October. However, there are plenty of novels that are perfect for the season without traces of the gothic. From dark academia to fantasy literature, these books will make you want to curl up around a fireplace and read the entire thing in one sitting. 


1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This 2005 British novel marked Ishiguro’s sixth work, later turned into a feature film starring Carey Mulligan. The book follows Kathy H, a woman who works with organ donors as a carer, meaning she takes care of people after their donations. She reminisces on her life at Hailsham, a secluded boarding school she attended with her friends Ruth and Tommy. Her school years held secrets, teachers known as guardians and a mysterious woman named Madame who took their best artwork away. The book isn’t particularly scary, but it deals with the concept of humanity and taking technology too far. Ishiguro’s novel provokes the question: If someone’s future is decided for them, and they were created for a specific purpose, how are they supposed to live?


Ishiguro’s novel is a refreshing take on the science fiction genre. It is easy to forget it’s set in an alternate reality and the sadness that lurks underneath the children’s lives at Hailsham, but subtle reminders are meticulously placed throughout the book. The use of an unreliable narrator is crucial to the story, as well, because the reader only knows the story through Kathy’s eyes — leaving the reader unsettled and thinking about this book for a long time afterward.  


2. Little Women by Louisa May Allcott

“I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle—something heroic, or wonderful—that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead,” Jo March declared in the novel. “I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day.”


This classic novel was published in the mid-1800s with immediate success, but it also withstood the test of time and continues to sell today. There have been multiple film adaptations of the novel between 1933 and 2019, including a silent film in 1917. The story follows the March sisters and their mother, Marmee, who live in Massachusetts, while their father fights in the Civil War. The “little women” go through the transitions from girlhood to womanhood by making extremely different choices for their lives. It’s a beautiful story about sisterhood, family, and love in congruence to each sister’s individual identity. If you’re looking for a book to read as it rains, this is the one for you. 


3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s debut novel was published in 1992, and it is easily one of the most bizarre ones in the “dark academia” genre. The novel opens with a murder confession, and yet, it only gets stranger from there. It follows Richard Papen, a poor and unreliable narrator who becomes friends with the close-knit five classics students at the fictional Hampden College. They’re rich, they’re isolated, and they’re completely fascinating to Papen. 


Once Papen gains entrance into their exclusive club, the book reads like a backward murder mystery with more than a pinch of elitism. Tartt, however, is able to dig into the human psyche and pluck out the parts of humanity we wish weren’t possible, and yet, readers may find these characters just as intriguing as Papen. The Secret History will leave you hating what the dark academia aesthetic represents and how much you loved it before, but that’s half the fun. 


4. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

“You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough,” Rio wrote in the 2017 novel. 

The Secret History is usually considered a predecessor to Rio’s novel, which follows Oliver Marks, a man who spent 10 years in prison for the murder of a fellow classmate studying Shakespearean acting at a small arts college. The novel is written in semi-reverse, with Marks telling the whole story after he’s released to the detective who put him in prison. Similarly to The Secret History, Rio uses the subject the characters study to reveal who they are, especially in terms of the typecasts they receive. However, Rio’s victim is what stands out the most of all in this novel, if only for the fact that readers are left wondering if they’re even supposed to feel bad about it.


This novel is also in the dark academia sphere, but with a focus on Shakespeare (which the characters frequently bust out sonnets from), it’s a bit different from other works. The novel itself is broken up into five “acts” to mimic a play, and so much of the novel includes hyper-specific style choices. All in all, if you’re interested in reading another book right after The Secret History that keeps you in that headspace, this is the one for you.     



5. House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

The most recently published book on the list and easily the creepiest, Sutherland’s dark fantasy novel follows three sisters who mysteriously disappeared as young girls and came back home with white hair. After the oldest sister, Grey, goes missing, Iris and Viv Hollow have to figure out what happened all those years ago and why it’s happening again. There are twists and turns, and you won’t have any idea where the story’s going until you get there. 


This take on the magical realism genre is really intriguing because there are fantasy elements and dark woods near their family home, and yet, the three young women have social media accounts and one is a model on the cover of magazines. All of these elements are intertwined in an effortless way that moves the story along, which is incredibly rich in detail and pacing. The novel is beautiful and grotesque, and will make the hairs on your arms stand up straight. In other words, without being too gothic or Halloween-esque, this one is perfect for November.   

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