Fall reads

We’re all familiar with the summer read — a beach read, if you will … like, say, Beach Read.

Maybe it’s set on Nantucket, filled with colorful locals who despise the “summer people” but still depend on (and even fall in love with) them. Or we meet estranged sisters who return to the old summer cottage to mend fences after the passing of the family matriarch. Or, ooh! College friends who have grown in different directions, but reunite once a year to remember who they used to be before launching their high-powered careers (in PR, natch) with “free time” spent scrubbing at baby spit-up in the back of the minivan. If an old flame happens to show up on the shore, well … all the better.

I’m not putting down summer reads … not at all. Adulthood is fun because there is no syllabus. I read what I want and I don’t feel guilty about it. And a novel being classified as a “summer read” is no statement on its quality or general awesomeness. Take Taylor Jenkins Reid’s popular Malibu Rising, for example. Wow.

Anyway, you know all this. Summer reading is clearly a thing well beyond those mandatory lists in high school. That’s why there are so many lists.

I get it. And as a list enthusiast, I also respect it.

But I think we’re missing a big opportunity here: Fall reads.

The fall read is where the magic truly happens. Trading our piña coladas for pumpkin spice lattes naturally lends itself to all things cozy, including stories … the classics, perhaps. Little Women. Or simply books set in autumn, regardless of subject — books that capture the warmth and anticipation of my favorite time of year.

I took a mental health day last week. After assisting with a family emergency, my husband made it quite clear that I was to actually enjoy my day while the kids were at school … not, you know, fill the hours by scrubbing toilets or reorganizing closets. That’s hard, of course. With Hadley and Oliver occupied, I can actually do the things that need to be done around the house. But much in the way that I once forced myself not to always spend my newborns’ precious nap times doing dishes, I decided I was going to read.

Well — binge-watch “LuLaRich,” the new LuLaRoe documentary on Amazon Prime … which is so nuts it feels like satire. Then read.

That’s how I found myself outdoors with a bag of fancy caramel apple kettle corn (from Target, don’t get too excited for me) with Joanne Rendell’s Crossing Washington Square, which has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a solid decade. That cool Friday afternoon held a whisper of fall with its golden, slanted sunlight. It was basically perfect. Even I, an indoor cat, could not waste it.

So I sat outside for two hours (!), getting swept up in the politics of an elite English program with warring professors in this modern twist on Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. We have college! New York City! Pompous MFA students! A budding romance! Fall leaves! It’s not earth-shattering, but it sure has been entertaining for this erstwhile English major.

So now that I’m fully embracing the fall read, I want more. I know some folks are again participating in RIP-XVI, the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge for spooky season — but I get freaked out enough by the nightly news. I did once stay up until 2 a.m. reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, devouring it all at once because I’d mistakenly believed I had another week to finish for a British lit course. But have I read anything creepy since? No. Suspense is OK, but, like … Harry Potter-level suspense. Kid-friendly suspense, basically.

So what’s on your Fall 2021 Reading List?

I’m ready to pounce on all autumnal suggestions.

Just let me grab that latte first.

Musing Mondays: Recommendations

musing_mondays Back to work and everyday life now! Here’s this week’s question:

How often do you recommend books to others, and who do you recommend them to? Do you only recommend books to your “reading friends” or to anyone you think might find the book interesting? What does it take for a book to make it to your “recommendation” list?

I would say I recommend books pretty frequently — to others online and through my blog; at LibraryThing; on BookMooch . . . and then to all the folks I see every day, like my friends, family and coworkers. My sister and I have pretty similar tastes in fiction, so I usually put all of the books I’ve read and loved into a stack for her. My coworkers are also book lovers, so I usually recommend good fiction I’ve come across or grab a book or two for my friends’ children when I can.

I don’t recommend books exclusively to my bookish friends — anytime I chat with someone and can think of a book I know they’ll like, I usually tell them about it. It’s a blessing and a curse. Just this past weekend I told a cousin about Scared of Santa — a photo collection of children screaming and crying on Santa’s lap. My little cousins DJ and Lane weren’t so big on Santa this year! Maybe next year!

For a book to make my “recommendation” list, especially when I used to work at a bookstore, I had to have really felt something about it. If it’s fiction, it has to be one of those books you think about a long time after the cover has been closed and the book slapped up on a shelf. The sorts of characters that seem to peer over your shoulder while you’re typing, whispering advice in your ear or sharing a good story, are the novels I tell others about. In terms of nonfiction, I usually base my opinions on what friends and family have told me — and I would listen closely to the recommendations of customers, actually. If I didn’t have a lot of experience in a particular subject matter, I would recommend books based on what other folks were telling me about them — they’re tear-jerkers, too serious, really funny, etc. The system worked pretty well!