It’s finally starting to feel like Autumn and I’m so ready. The crisp mornings, the darkening days, the smell of spiced apple and cosy reading corners.
What better way to celebrate the new season by setting myself an Autumn reading list? The books I’ve chosen fit with the dark and cosy aesthetics of Autumn. From non-fiction to modern classics, witchy reads to sadism, I’ve got the lot. Let’s take a closer look at my Autumn picks:
THE MARQUIS DE SADE’S JUSTINE
This is the oldest book on my TBR and probably the darkest.
Orphaned and penniless at 12, the beautiful and devout Justine embarks upon her remarkable odyssey. Her steadfast faith and naive trust in everyone she meets destine her from the outset for sexual exploitation and martyrdom.
If you didn’t know, or couldn’t guess, this is where the word “sadism” comes from. The Marquis de Sade has a very… unusual style of writing, examining the tattoo corners of civilisation. I recently read another French translated classic early this year, The Nun by Denis Diderot, which was disturbing but an interesting read. I hope this one is, too. Understandably, it’s going to be an uncomfortable experience, but I’ve heard great things about this one.
ALLEN RAINE’S A WELSH WITCH
I recently came across Honno Classics, a small publishing house that has a series dedicated to Welsh Women’s Classics. I visited their website out of curiosity. As soon as I saw A Welsh Witch, I knew I had to buy a few.
I’m a sucker for witchy books.
This one just misses the mark for a Victorian classic, being published in 1902, but it’s still fresh from the period. I assume it has a lot of tropes and characteristics of this time. I’ve never read about a Welsh witch before – an English and a Scottish one, yes, but not a Welsh one. It has a long-winded blurb, but here is a lovely little summary that tells you anything but the plot:
A Welsh Witch parallels a superstitious fishing village and an early industrial community with its harsh working conditions, and explores the ways in which human resilience and empathy can make a “romance of rough places.”
DONNA TARTT’S A SECRET HISTORY
Everyone, and I mean everyone, raves about this book. I’ve saved it specifically for Autumn as the dark academia vibes suit the aesthetics of the season. I really, really, really hope it lives up to my expectations.
“Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.”
Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of these kind of books, but I’m hoping it’s as good as everyone makes out. It’ll be my first Tartt read – most of her books don’t sound like my thing in general, so this will determine whether I carry on with her or not.
SUSAN FLETCHER’S WITCH LIGHT
I have quite a few witchy books on my Autumn TBR, such as A Welsh Witch, but this my contemporary choice for this list. I haven’t heard anyone talk about this online – I stumbled across it for dead cheap on Amazon one day and just ordered it. Hopefully it’s as good as some of the other witchy books I’ve read.
It’s a historical fiction set in 1692. Corrag, a wild young girl living in the mountains of Scotland, has been imprisoned as a witch. Terrified, in a cold, filthy cell, she awaits her fate of death by burning – until she is visited by Charlie Leslie, an Irishman, hungry to question her. For Corrag knows more than it seems: she was witness to the bloody and brutal Massacre of Glencoe.
This sounds like one of those dark, gritty stories and I’m so excited to try it!
LUCY WORSLEY’S A VERY BRITISH MURDER
My non-fiction choice of the season is, of course, just as dark and disturbing.
I’ve been fascinated by the national obsession with murder since I did one of my master’s essays on it. I looked at how the cultural phenomena of murder was manifested in penny-dreadfuls – cheap literature for the working class. So I like this kind of thing. Worsley, who is a fantastic writer, by the way, looks at how we, as a nation, are obsessed with murder.
PATRICK SÜSKIND’S PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER
The last book on my Autumn reading list is this modern classic translated from French. I remember someone in my master’s class speaking about this one and it sounded so… bizarre. Haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I reckon it’ll be a good Autumn read.
Perfume is a “terrifying examination of what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion – his sense of smell – leads to murder. He catches a hint of a scent that drives him to create the ‘ultimate perfume’ – the scent of a beautiful young virgin”.
Doesn’t that sound dark and disturbing?
I’m so happy the colder months are back. It’ll be great getting back into some darker stories.
What’s your #1 priority read this month?
Thanks for reading, Lauren X