Fall Into Good Books: An Autumn Reading List

Autumn is here! Houston’s fall is fickle. It arrives, seemingly overnight, with cool temperatures and bright blue skies. It lures us into a false sense of joy, with sweatshirts and pumpkin spice lattes. Then, by late morning, the 90 degree heat has us peeling off those sweatshirts and ditching the hot coffee for a crisp cold brew. Still, even with the ebb and flow of Houston weather, fall brings with it a desire for curling up with your drink of choice and getting lost in a story. I love to read, and I love sharing my favorites with you! I’ve pulled together a list of some of my favorite fall inspired books. As always, I’ve separated them out into Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and a couple for us moms. If you’re looking for an excuse to cozy up with a good book, check out the books on my autumn reading list below!

Picture Books

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
by Marjorie Priceman

Fall is a glorious time to eat cozy treats, preferably with a cup of tea. My children love books about food, especially if it includes a recipe. In this story, a little girl is planning to bake an apple pie. “It’s so easy!” she says. Except if the market is closed. In that case, she will just travel the world to collect her ingredients! Italy for some wheat, Sri Lanka for the best cinnamon, Vermont for a few rosy apples. The story teaches children that our food doesn’t just come from a grocery story. So much work is involved in the journey from farm to store. And the illustrations are a delight. Don’t forget to try the apple pie recipe at the end. Hopefully your market won’t be closed!

The Pursuit of the Pilfered Cheese
by Haley Stewart; illus. by Betsy Wallin

In addition to craving cozy foods, I also find myself reaching for cozy mysteries during the autumn season. This recently published tale is about an order of mouse nuns who live and work at St. Wulfhilda’s Abbey, a convent/school beneath the floorboards of author G.K. Chesterton’s house. If you don’t know, Chesterton wrote, among many other books, a mystery series about a detective priest who solves crimes. In this beautifully illustrated chapter book, the sisters of the abbey are inspired by the tales of Father Brown to solve the mystery of the missing prize winning cheese, destined to be auctioned off at the community fundraiser. Without the money raised for the cheese, the school will have to close! Will the sisters find the culprit in time? This story delights me a personal level because I am Catholic, but readers of all backgrounds will enjoy this cozy mystery!

The Gigantic Turnip
by Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy and Levin Kipnis

This story on my autumn reading list is an adaptation of a famous Russian folktale. An old man and an old woman live in a cozy little cottage, with a gaggle of farm animals. One spring day, they sow the seeds for their garden: carrots, potatoes, beans, and turnips. Spring turns to summer, and summer fades to fall. The old man and the old woman harvest their vegetables, but the last turnip on the end is enormous! They try to pull it up, but the turnip won’t budge. They must work together with their animals to accomplish the task. The repetitive prose, paired with the silly illustrations, humorously teach us about cooperation, and that the smallest actions sometimes make the biggest impact.

Dumpy the Dump Truck
by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton; illus. by Tony Walton

This book is a gem. It begins, ‘Way out east, where the country meets the sea, there is a little village called Apple Harbor.’ Does that not sound just like the perfect fall setting? Charlie live on a farm in Apple Harbor. He loves to play on a rusted old dump truck, Dumpy. One day, his father says he is going to get rid of Dumpy to purchase a new truck to help build the new barn. Charlie and his grandfather, Pop Up, decide that instead, they will fix Dumpy up, good as new. Each day, the two of them work hard to scrub and clean and paint, until Dumpy is a happy, healthy, gleaming dump truck again, ready to work on the farm. Charlie and Pop Up show us that, in a throw away culture, we have a responsibility to care for the things we have and work to make them last. Also, this book is written by Julie Andrews. THE Julie Andrews. Go check this one out!

Monster Trouble
by Lane Frederickson; illus. by Michael Robertson

This adorable tale on my autumn reading list is perfect for Halloween for little readers. Winifred is brave and tough. She’s not afraid of spooky things, which is a good thing, as monsters have taken to coming to her room every night! Winifred thinks the monsters are cute, but they are keeping her awake all night with their belching and growling. She decides to get clever and attempts to capture them with several traps. Then, she learns the thing that all monsters hate to banish them for good! Sweet and silly, this story will make your kiddos laugh out loud. I think it would be especially great if you need a book to help chase away monsters under the bed!

Ox Cart Man
by Donald Hall; illus. by Barbara Cooney

This is a sweet, old fashioned story about a 19th century man {dubbed simply “Ox Cart Man”}, as he packs up his wagon with all the wares his family grew or made that year. Wool from the sheared sheep, candles, carved birch brooms, apples, potatoes, honey, maple sugar. He then walks to Portsmouth to sell his goods at the market. After selling everything, including his ox and cart, the man buys a few necessities for his family and heads back home to do it all again for the next year. I just love how the story shares the cyclical and seasonal nature of farm work for Ox Cart Man and his family. And the illustrations of the New England autumn landscape are just gorgeous. This book would be a timeless addition to your home library!

Middle Grade

Anne of Green Gables
by L.M. Montgomery

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a pair of older siblings living on their family farm of Green Gables, intend to adopt a young boy to help them with the farm work. Instead, a young orphan girl named Anne Shirley is delivered to them instead. Anne is spirited and charming, often living in her own vivid imagination, and she struggles to adapt to life on the farm. The reader follows Anne as she meets new friends, delights in the glory of nature on the farm, and finds adventure in her new life. Anne’s famous line, “Thank goodness I live in a world where there are Octobers!” always makes me want to read this timeless story in the fall, preferably with a dish of plum pudding.

Ghost Squad
by Claribel A. Ortega

For 12 year old Lucely, ghosts are just a normal part of life. She can see spirits, her father runs a Ghost Tour, and she has breakfast with the ghosts of her family members every morning. When something sinister threatens her family, Lucely and her best friend Syd attempt to cast a spell to drive them away. Only, the spell doesn’t work out quite right, and now the whole town is in danger. Together with Babette, Lucely’s witchy grandma, they must work together to save the town and their family. Rooted in Dominican folklore, this story is a fast-paced supernatural fantasy, with well developed characters, and delightful family relationships. Perfect for your kiddos who want a spooky {but not too spooky!} Halloween read. Bonus: Ghost Squad is rumored to be fantastic on audio, if you’re looking for an atmospheric read aloud to add to your autumn reading list!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill

Each year, the people of the Protectorate sacrifice one of their babies to Xan, the old witch on the edge of the forest, in exchange for her leaving the town to themselves. Little do they know that the supposedly evil witch is actually kind and good, nourishing the babies with starlight and finding them good homes with the town on the other side of the forest. But this year, she accidently feeds the baby moonlight, which gives the girl magical powers. The witch decides to raise the girl herself, together with the help of a swamp monster and a tiny dragon. As baby Luna grows and her powers develop, this sweet adoptive family must work together to save themselves from the Protectorate and the townspeople who have decided that they need to kill the witch. This book won the coveted Newberry Medal in 2017, and is just a delight. If your kids {or you!} love fairy tales, you absolutely have the pick this one up!

Young Adult

The Dark Days Club
by Alison Goodman

18 year old Lady Helen is always being told by her proper aunt and uncle to be more ladylike, to not be like her wild and reckless mother, who drowned at sea when Helen was a child. She is preparing for an audience with Queen Charlotte when one of her family’s housemaids mysteriously disappears. At her audience at Buckingham Palace, she meets Lord Carlston, whose family is charged with fighting demons determined to plunge the world into darkness and chaos. Helen finds herself drawn into the investigation with Lord Carlston, who believes there is a supernatural explanation to the housemaid’s disappearance. The first in a trilogy, this book is very Jane Austen meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A lot of adventure, a sweet romance, and plenty of demon butt kicking.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
by Paul Krueger

Bailey Chen is a recent college graduate who, after being the golden student her whole life, is suddenly struggling to find her way. She is working at her ex best friend, Zane’s, bar to pass the time, when she realizes one night that she can see monsters. She later learns from Zane that these monsters are called tremens, and that there is a secret society of Bartenders fighting these monsters with magical mixed drinks. A screwdriver mixed just right will imbue the mixer with super strength. Together, she and Zane must figure out how to take down the dark forces attempting to overtake Chicago. While being buzzed on magical drinks, of course. This book is just plain fun, a rompy urban fantasy with a great cast of diverse characters, a fun plot, and great cocktail recipes. I would categorize this book on my autumn reading list as somewhere in between YA and adult because of the age of the characters, but the content is appropriate for an older teen to read.

Adult

Uprooted
by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka loves her little village. She loves her family and her best friend, Kasia. But she and Kasia were born in a terrible year. Every ten years, a man known only as the Dragon comes down from his tower and takes a young woman as a servant, in exchange for protecting the people from the corrupt and sinister wood on the edge the village. This year, everyone knows that he’s going to take Kasia, the most beautiful and graceful among them. Instead, he takes Agnieszka, surprising everyone, including himself. Uprooted from everything she knows and loves, Agnieszka must learn to cope with her new life and discover who she truly is. It turns out that Agnieszka has magic, and it will take her and the Dragon working together to fight the Wood and its terrible magic. Uprooted is storytelling at its finest. It is beautiful and atmospheric, with lyrical prose, compelling magic, and a slow burning romance. Run, don’t walk, to pick this one up!

Mexican Gothic
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Noemí is a socialite, living in Mexico City in the 1950’s. Her life is very Alexis Rose before she moves to Schitt’s Creek: parties and boys and fun. However, she is also extremely intelligent and dreams of earning her master’s degree. So, when her father dangles higher education in exchange for checking on her recently married cousin, Catalina, in a secluded mountain town, Noemí jumps at the chance. But when she arrives at High Place, Catalina’s husband’s family home, she finds that things are not quite right. The family is, at turns, cold and eerily friendly. And the house around her seems to be alive. This book was whoa, a journey. It starts out like a typical Gothic novel, but then sidesteps into covering colonization, racism, and eugenics. It also takes a sharp turn into horror, which I can sometimes be squeamish about, but I was absolutely fascinated and on the edge of my seat. The story kept me reading way past the time I should have gone to bed.

What books are on your autumn reading list this year?


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Rebecca S. is a born and raised Houstonian; she grew up in Katy, graduated with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston {go Coogs!}, and made a home in West Houston with her native Houstonian husband. She quickly realized that the chaotic lifestyle of the hospitality industry was not for her and soon found her calling in education. She taught while earning her masters in Library Science from the University of North Texas. Currently, she is staying home with her son, Thomas {2016} and daughter Charlie {2020}. In her free time, she loves to read, write, run, and roam the world. While her roots are firmly planted in H-town, she takes every available opportunity to go on an adventure and explore historic cities, hike and run new trails, and, of course, try beers from every country.

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