The leaves are changing, there’s a chill in the air, and girls are exchanging their maxi skirts for leggings. Fall is seriously underway, and we’re moving swiftly from light sweater weather into hibernation-necessary cold. There’s no better chilly weather activity than snuggling on the couch with a good book, and we have the perfect picks for you as November hits.
1. “A Little Life: A Novel” by Hanya Yanagihara
This is exactly the opposite of a beach read: heavy, long, dark. Yet there’s a reason this book is being hailed as one of the best of the year. The novel tracks four close friends in Greenwich village, exploring how their lives intertwine and relationships change over the decades. While it’s supposedly a story about friendship and growing up, Jude, the main character, is haunted by a dark secret as he grows older. Again, this not a light read, but it’s a book with something meaningful to say.
2. “Why Not Me?” by Mindy Kaling
Of course, a good fall book also brings some light into a bleak fall day, and that’s exactly what you can expect from “Why Not Me?” Everyone’s imaginary best friend Mindy Kaling is at it again with a second book of essays. Her trademark humor and confidence are on full display as she dishes about everything from her always BFF/sometimes BF B.J. Novak, to the rocky road, to creating her own show, to a semi-relationship with a White House staffer. Kaling’s conversational style and honesty about taboo celebrity topics (one chapter is enthusiastically titled “I love Sex Scenes!!!”) makes it actually feel like a chat with a friend, which is exactly why we love her.
3. “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
Set in Sweden, this beloved crime novel will remind you that there’s always somewhere colder and darker. There’s been a lot of controversy lately since a fourth novel in the Lisbeth Salander series was published, based off some unfinished writings from original (and now deceased) author Stieg Larrson. While it’s been difficult to determine whether this fourth book goes against his wishes, his first novel remains an example of a truly great crime story. Lisbeth Salander, the tough, asocial computer hacker protagonist Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikhail Blomkist try to figure out what happened to a young girl who vanished 40 years ago. Along the way, they find ties to a string of brutal murders against young women.
Larson’s central themes of violence against women, business corruption and the importance of investigative journalism remain as relevant as ever and set this thriller apart from your typical airport book fare.
4. “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski
Fall is when the days get shorter and darker, making it the best time possible to read this haunting and unusual book. “House of Leaves” is a story within a story about a haunted house that expands and grows, terrifying its inhabitants. With its mess of footnotes, multiple unreliable narrators, and layered framing devices, the book is as intentionally confusing as the house its centered on. “House of Leaves” is not an easy book to read thanks to its creepy vibe and crazy structure, but you’ll be so engrossed you won’t notice the day passing away.
5. “Pretty Girls” by Karin Slaughter
You might be groaning at the prospect of yet another crime story about damaged women, duplicitous marriages, and fractured families, yet “Pretty Girls” is a twist on the formula. The novel ultimately becomes a tale about sisterhood.
Claire, the main character, is horrified when her husband is stabbed right in front of her during a mugging, but her grief turns to confusion and fear when she discovers her husband’s hobby-watching snuff porn. She is forced to reunite with the sister she has been estranged from for 18 years to uncover the truth about her husband, and maybe solve the mystery of their older sister’s disappearance as well. With crazy twists and fast paced action, “Pretty Girls” is a real ride, but it is the focus on the bond between sisters that gives this dark mystery some warmth and optimism, something usually missing from this genre.
6. “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is definitely one of the funniest essayists around, and this book with essays on his brush with speech therapy, his horrible performance art stints, and his crazy family, is arguably his best. Winter is coming, and that sucks. Take some time to cheer up from the miserable weather and some of the heavier books on this list with Sedaris’ hilarious tales.