Here to solve all your dark academia dreams is a compiled list of autumnal books. Amongst all the stress at the height of the fall semester, reading for pleasure is a perfect way to decompress and get lost in another world. These four books are well-written, entertaining and an ambient addition to fall itself.
“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern
“The Night Circus” paints the magical and somewhat chilling atmosphere perfect for cozying up on a fall night. The magical Le Cirque des Rêves arrives without warning and presents unbelievable thrills for those who are lucky enough to experience it. Behind the scenes of the circus, a competition is brewing between two magicians unknowingly forced into a longstanding endurance battle of which one of them can outperform the other. Despite the stakes, they’re enamored with each other, and their fates are tested.
The novel is a quintessential part of the magic realism genre and contributes sparkling elements of mystical fantasy without being overwhelming. Its standout feature is its seductive prose, rich and atmospheric from the first sentence. If you’re a sucker for flowery, ultra-descriptive writing tinged with unbelievable imagery — and are willing to put the importance of the plot aside — this one's for you. Relationships and magical abilities weave the story through various European settings and dual timelines, creating captivating ghostly ambiance. It can be dense in description of setting at times, but if you can suspend disbelief and go along for the ride, the story is beautiful.
“The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls
“The Glass Castle” is an exceedingly powerful memoir following the nomadic childhood life of Jeanette Walls herself. Four siblings at the mercy of their alcoholic father and mentally-absent mother end up raising themselves, making new homes in various small towns. When family savings dry up, the Walls family settles in a dismal West Virginia mining town to be supported by their estranged grandparents. As Walls’ parents fall deeper into their battles with mental health and substance abuse, the siblings find their own ways to make successful lives for themselves.
Edged with unbelievable circumstances and continually heartbreaking family dynamics, this memoir is unforgettable. Walls describes her childhood in incredible detail, sparing no explanation. Audiences become attached to Walls and her siblings, their tragic, desolating situation only heightening as they get older. The constant incredulity comes from Wall’s consistent admiration and affection for her parents who so obviously have not provided for her. The audiobook is narrated by Walls herself, allowing readers to experience raw emotions in her West Virginia accent. Not to mention, the 2017 movie adaptation starring Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson complements the literary experience.
“Loveless” by Alice Oseman
“Loveless” comes in as British author Alice Oseman’s fourth young adult contemporary novel and does not disappoint. Georgia is about to enter university and is overly self-conscious about her lack of romantic interest and inability to make new friends. She moves into university alongside her two best friends Pip and Jason and is contrasted by her outgoing roommate Rooney. As she begins to navigate university alongside romantic and platonic relationships, her own coming-of-age story unfolds as she explores her sexuality.
Filled with heartwarming banter, found family and a university backdrop, “Loveless” is the perfect read for any college student or anyone interested in a story of an aromantic, asexual experience. The novel combines light-hearted moments of friendship with complicated feelings associated with moving to college, as well as coming out to yourself and your peers. Oseman examines identity and community in a relatable way, her writing accessible and witty. The novel is often noted by reviews as one of the first and most accurate representations of asexuality in the young adult contemporary genre and is widely praised by the asexual community. “Loveless” is a warm and fuzzy read, allowing you to appreciate the loving relationships in life.
“Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado
“Her Body and Other Parties” is a collection of eight short stories where Carmen Maria Machado destroys borders between fantasy and reality, tackling trials and tribulations which women face physically, mentally and emotionally. Machado combines the art of retelling and original psychological stories to explore the complexities of women’s bodies, how they are treated and how women manage their bodies. The stories are unsettling, eye opening, comedic, sexy, queer, candid and are capable of sparking nuanced and layered conversations about their provocative content and how the stories manifest themselves into everyday life.
This collection is not only a stunning debut, but also a National Book Award Finalist. “Her Body and Other Parties” can be enjoyed like a normal novel, from start to finish, or can be cherry picked as each story stands alone with its own set of themes and goals. Elements of folklore, fairy tales and science fiction are also woven throughout the stories. “The Husband Stitch” is a retelling of the childbirth myth of the same name — in which delivery doctors stitch up women after childbirth to please their husbands — and “Inventory” compares the complexities of emoting and attempting to remain in safe relationships amidst an epidemic. The stories themselves are very obscure and can be difficult to interpret individually. Readers must suspend their disbelief and lean into the feminist symbolism which makes this collection worthwhile.