The Broad’s Seasonal Recommendations: What to Read this Autumn
Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq
The Broad’s Creative Editor, Srishti Ramakrishnan, has put together a list of ten must-reads for this autumn. This list has everything from quick reads, for the necessary bus journeys that keep you out of the autumn rain, to longer tales, perfect for an evening tucked up in bed. You’re sure to find the perfect autumn read for you!
L.M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables (1908)
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
Anne of Green Gables, Wordsworth Collector’s Edition
A timeless classic following the life of a young orphan girl on Prince Edward Island after she is adopted by the Cuthberts, you are sure to fall in love with Anne (with an E!) and all the ‘kindred spirits’ she meets along the way. With Montgomery’s stunning, visceral descriptions of the Canadian countryside, as well as the nostalgically beautiful portrayal of girlhood and growing up, the autumnal vibes are unmissable! This is actually the first in a series of eight books, and I highly recommend reading all of them (if I had to name a favourite book series, this would be it). The Netflix series Anne with an E is based on the first book, and beautifully captures the highs and lows of being a teenage girl.
Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre (1847)
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Jane Eyre, Universal Pictures
Set amidst the dramatic Yorkshire Moors, Jane Eyre follows Jane through her life, from the misery of her aunt’s guardianship, to the nightmarish Lockwood School, to Thornfield Hall where she is employed as a governess for the ward of the imposing Mr Rochester. The epitome of tall, dark and (not so) handsome, Rochester gradually earns Jane’s companionship and eventually her deep love. Where this might sound more like a Jane Austen storyline, the drastic plot twists and dark secrets revealed at the last minute are typical of Brontë and the Gothic genre. Old creepy houses, tons of pathetic fallacy and a healthy dose of Victorian feminism all combine to make this a must-read for autumn! There’s also plenty of film and television adaptations, of varying quality, but I would highly recommend the 2011 film starring Mia Wazikowska and Michael Fassbender.
William Shakespeare – Macbeth (1606)
“By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes.”
Macbeth, Painting by John Martin (1820), Scottish National Gallery
Probably one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth has been studied by almost every school kid in the UK at some point in their lives. Right from the iconic opening scene with the three witches (think “When shall we three meet again / In thunder, lightning or in rain?”), the spooky, supernatural atmosphere is set, and only deepens from there. From murder to ghosts to sleepwalking, and countless memorable lines (Lady Macbeth’s “Out, damned spot!” in particular), this is the perfect play to embrace the more haunted side of autumn. If reading a play, particularly a Shakespearean one, seems like a daunting task, there are an infinite number of stage adaptations to watch, ranging from the traditional to the straight-up odd.
Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey (1817)
“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad”.
Northanger Abbey, ITV
Anyone who knows me knows that no list of recommendations would be complete without a Jane Austen slipped in somewhere! Northanger Abbey is maybe a less obvious choice, as it was published posthumously and never reached the popularity of others like Pride and Prejudice or Emma. It happens to be my favourite Austen novel, though, because no one does biting wit and humour alongside romance quite like Austen does in this book. Following the young, romantically minded Catherine Morland as she experiences life outside her small village for the first time, the book takes a poke at the highly dramatic Gothic novels that were popular at the time, as Catherine discovers that not every big old house is full of ghosts and secrets. The 2007 film adaptation starring Felicity Jones and JJ Field does a great job of capturing both the light-hearted Regency vibe as well as the slightly moodier, autumnal undertones.
Haruki Murakami – Norwegian Wood (1987)
“I want you always to remember me. Will you remember that I existed, and that I stood next to you here like this?”
Norwegian Wood, Vintage
Murakami's Norwegian Wood (named after the Beatles’ song) is a nostalgic story of first love and loss. Toru, from whose perspective the book is written, reminisces on his days as a student in Tokyo, and the trajectory of his relationship with his first love, as their mutual passion faded due to her mental health struggles. This is contrasted with his subsequent attraction to the much more independent and outgoing Midori, set against the backdrop of 1960s Tokyo, when Japanese students were protesting the established order. Murakami's lyrical style, and the themes of young love, loss and coming of age, make this book the perfect sort of melancholic read for autumn.
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings (1954)
“But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema
Let’s face it, The Lord of the Rings could probably be on the list for any season, but I’ve decided to put it here. To me, nothing screams autumn more than the cosiness of the Shire, the majestic fading beauty of Rivendell, and the hellishly fiery Mount Doom. Full to the brim with every kind of fantasy creature imaginable, wonderful words of wisdom from Gandalf, and endless descriptions of landscapes and battles and walking (oh my!), these three hefty books take commitment to get through, but then, so does taking the one ring to Mount Doom… Tolkien’s undeniable genius, both linguistically and as a storyteller, is clear, even in Peter Jackson’s iconic film adaptations of the books, which have gone down in cinematic history as one of the greatest trilogies of all time.
Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus (2011)
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
There’s something about a circus that always feels just a little spooky, and Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is no different. Open only at night, the wondrous performances at Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) are only the foreground for a deeper tale which unfurls through various perspectives. Two young magicians, both alike in skill and talent, in the circus tent where we lay our scene: trained from childhood by rival instructors to engage in a fierce duel of imagination and magic, they inevitably fall in love. Morgenstern’s spellbinding flair and style ensure that this is not just another ‘Romeo and Juliet’ type romance, but an entirely captivating experience that will leave you wanting to start the book again as soon as you’ve finished it. (All this to say, someone please turn this into a film!)
Edgar Allen Poe – The Raven (1845)
"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary”
The Raven, Illustration by Edmund Dulac (1912)
There had to be some poetry on the list, and nothing screams ‘Gothic autumnal’ like The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe is notorious for his macabre poems and short stories. This poem follows the narrator as he sits hunched over piles of dusty old books (just like many of us this midterm season), trying to forget his dead lover, Lenore. When he hears a tapping at the window, in flies the Raven itself, and as we all know, “Quoth the Raven, nevermore.” What this means remains a mystery both to us and the narrator, but he certainly tries to figure it out. From the ominous tapping at the window, to the melancholy death of Lenore which hangs over it all, the poem is perfect for those dreary autumnal days when we’re stuck inside. It’s also pretty short, so it won’t take too much attention away from all those dusty old books we have to read!
Donna Tartt – The Secret History (1992)
“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”
The Secret History, Penguin Books 30th Anniversary Edition
The Secret History, turtlenecks, autumn: the holy trinity of the dark academia aesthetic. Told retrospectively by one of a close-knit group of classics students, the book reveals the events leading up to the murder of one of their friends, and the impact it has on the group; under the influence of their professor, they have become academically and socially isolated. Tartt’s portrayal of life at an elite college, and the questions she raises about the boundaries of morality, are gripping and more than a little disturbing. The New England college setting, classical Greek influences, and psychological murder mystery plot are sure to make you feel both autumnal and rather intellectual.
Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights (1847)
"He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
Wuthering Heights, Faber Young Adult Classics
If Jane Eyre is going on the list, there’s no doubt that Wuthering Heights must also be here. If the title doesn’t sound haunted enough to you, the characters in this book absolutely will. Inspired, just like her sister Charlotte, by the unkempt, untamed nature of the Yorkshire moors where they grew up, Emily Brontë depicts the deeply passionate, almost supernatural, love between the upper-class Cathy Earnshaw and the orphaned foundling Heathcliff. Upon Cathy’s betrayal, Heathcliff enacts a cruel revenge on the innocent next generation, which is revealed through the story told by Nelly, one of the Earnshaw’s servants. Emily Brontë, who wrote under a male pen name, was criticised at the time for the book’s shocking challenge to Victorian standards of morality, religion, and the class system – but it has since been given the praise it deserves, and it is perfect for a slightly uncomfortable autumn read.
Make sure you check out The Broad’s other seasonal picks on the creative section of our website!