An Ode to Autumn Reading

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A few weeks ago, I saw the first sign of autumn: not a falling leaf, or a Buzzfeed quiz to assign you a Halloween movie according to your taste in pasta, but the unveiling of Starbucks’ latest line-up of pumpkin spice drinks. As an avid bookworm, this immediately triggered daydreams of falling temperatures and shorter days. Why? Because I am a firm believer that autumn is the best time of the year for reading.

Advocates of summer as the best season for reading may protest, but I find that between June and September, the endeavour of reading outside seems appealing (Belle does it all the time in Beauty and the Beast!) until you’re actually doing it and only half of your attention is on the book, because the rest of your brain is occupied by swatting away the cloud of mosquitoes hovering dangerously near and shifting your position constantly in order to keep from being blinded or burned by the sun, and that perhaps you should take up rowing after all since the weather is so nice.

I am a firm believer that autumn is the best time of the year for reading

Come late September, however, the bugs retreat and the need for SPF decreases. Sunny early-autumn days are the ideal days to read outside–just warm enough to sit under the sun for a long while without having to worry about finding enough shade. Even better for reading are the rainy days that we get so often in Durham as Michaelmas term progresses. If a cosy seat can be found, all I need is a good book and a cup of tea, and it seems like all my worries can be banished for the next couple of hours.

This time of year, I’m very partial to the so-called ‘campus novel’. For me, stories set in universities and schools always seem to recall the feeling of new beginnings that come with the start of the new academic year. If you’re looking for a sign that you should read Harry Potter (again), this is it. Some of them also capture the autumn aesthetic flawlessly. The characters wear comfy flannels, colourful plaids, and cosy cardigans that the offerings from real-life stores on a student budget never seem to measure up to. For me, the effect is that reading these scenes enhances the feeling that it’s autumn, as well as highlighting all the good things about this season: the colours, the scenery outside, comforting snacks, and so on.

Mystery fiction is also a great genre to dive into in autumn. I often find that such novels are a bit heavy for summer, but with the autumn chill and the advent of Halloween, the ambience is perfect to focus on thrilling detective chases for a couple of hours. Besides, what other season gives us so many opportunities to put on a trench coat or a deerstalker hat and channel our inner Sherlock?

For me, stories set in universities and schools always seem to recall the feeling of new beginnings

My other favourite genre for autumn reading is fantasy. So many fantasy novels seem to be set in autumn – potentially due to the forest and weather-describing opportunities, but don’t quote me on that – that this time of year seems perfect to revisit them. If you’re a fantasy fan looking for autumnal reading, my go-to books for this time of year are The Scorpio Races and The Night Circus.

Therefore, if you’re looking for your bookworm friends this term, your best bet is to check the weather: if it’s sunny, chances are that they will be settling into Palace Green or Observatory Hill with their latest read. If not, check all windowsills, couches and beanbags in the vicinity. Chances are that they will be curling up with a blanket and a warm, spiced drink, ready to get into the next item on their to-be-read list. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year for reading.

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova via Unsplash

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