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A&E Book Club: Three books to read this September

Get into the spirit of the fall semester with these three horror, fantasy, and thriller reads.

As we depart from sunny vacation into the new semester and new season, do not despair.
As we depart from sunny vacation into the new semester and new season, do not despair.

Autumn is falling upon us, and as quickly as the leaves turn scarlet, summer will race away, leaving behind only wisps of sunshine and memories. As we depart from sunny vacation into the new semester and new season, do not despair. While days relaxing at the pool may be far gone, the days of warm lattes, cozy sweaters and late-night horror films lie ahead — and what glorious days they will be. Here are three books to help inaugurate the new semester and get into the spooky fall spirit. 

“The Basic Eight” by Daniel Handler

Flannery Culp may be a murderer, but does that mean she is really guilty? At a high school full of cliques, Flannery finds herself an integral member of the Basic Eight, a group of teenagers as used to throwing lavish dinner parties — markedly tasteful, sans murder — as they are implementing schemes that can go a bit too far. Like any highschool friend group, the friends face drama, betrayal, love and the aftermath of absinthe, all faithfully recorded in Flannery’s senior year diary.

Perfect for fans of books like “The Secret History,” Handler captures perfectly the perils of a high-stakes academic environment gone too far. Having lost control of her senior year, Flannery retells her story, but it is just that — her story. With an unreliable narrator rife with teen angst and more intelligence than she knows what to do with, the merit of Daniel Handler’s “The Basic Eight” shines through even 25 years after its initial release date. 

Handler’s 1998 debut novel is the often overlooked sibling of the author’s works. Better known for publishing under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, Handler began releasing the critically-acclaimed “A Series of Unfortunate Events” just one year after his debut. Despite the difference in publishing name, “The Basic Eight” is delivered with the same witty narration that many readers fell in love with as children reading “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

“Bunny” by Mona Awad

It’s back-to-school season at Warren University, and though Samantha Heather Mackey may have been accepted into the school’s prestigious MFA program in creative writing, she is a far cry from feeling truly accepted into the university’s culture and social scene. 

In fact, she could not feel more different from the other girls in her program. While the girls, who call one another “Bunnies,” have curated a world that seemingly revolves around all things sweet and sugar, Samantha quickly learns that everyone has a dark side when they invite her to their writing workshop involving pastries, childhood crushes and sacrificing the grotesque monsters that they bring to life. 

While “Bunny” has become a hallmark of the horror genre for many, it delves beyond the terror of the supernatural into the psychological horrors of cults and the profound loneliness of feeling alone in a room full of people. While Samantha looks outward to greet the dangers that the Bunnies create, she must look inward to face the horrors of her own mind, created in response to her isolation. 

Nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Horror, “Bunny” has gained notoriety since its publication in 2019 among fans of horror and dark academia. Beyond its positive reception by readers, the rights to a film adaptation have recently been acquired by Bad Robot, a film studio owned by J.J. Abrams. While an announcement of the film’s official development has not yet occurred, the book’s popularity within Hollywood indicates that an adaptation will soon be in the works. 

“The Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern

Zachary Ezra Rawlins may be the son of a fortune teller, but that does not mean he shares his mother’s affinity for all things magical and mysterious. That is, until he discovers a curious book hidden inside his own university’s library. After unearthing a series of clues, Zachary sets upon a path to uncover the secrets of a library located beneath the surface of the Earth. 

With weaving timelines and an experimental structure, “The Starless Sea” is a love letter to storytelling riddled with vibrant scenes, distinct characters and mystery. The intertwined timelines bend genres as Zachary attempts to discover his own role in the library’s story, as well as the history and eventual fate of the magical place.

“The Starless Sea” is a book for people who love books. Morgenstern forefronts the question of literature’s role in preserving knowledge in this novel, and though the story may progress at a relaxing pace, it still taps into many of the issues that the contemporary world faces. It asks who controls the stories written and to what extent readers participate in the creation of those stories. 

Having received nominations for multiple awards for her writing in the fantasy genre — including a win of the Dragon Award for fantasy in 2020 — Erin Morgenstern is no stranger to writing about the mystical. Her debut novel “The Night Circus” was published in 2011 and she has since sold over 3 million copies in 37 languages worldwide.

From navigating the stress of classes, friendships and the changing seasons this September, these three books have you covered. Just make sure to keep your schemes safe and your mysteries literary.

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