To Kill a Bookworm: book recs inspired by the season

By Anna Weisel

The leaves are beginning to change in Vermont, and it’s starting to feel like fall. I compiled a list of books that remind me of autumn, my favorite time of year to curl up with a cup of tea and a good read.

“Circe” by Madeline Miller

When I think about fall reading, “Circe” is one of the first novels that comes to mind. Although Miller does not specify the season in which it takes place, “Circe” is filled with magic and stunning landscapes, two aspects that remind me of fall at Middlebury. There is an enchanting feeling on campus that is echoed in the book — the time when the leaves begin to change and golden light filters through the trees.  

Circe is the daughter of the sun god Helios and the ocean nymph Perse. There’s something unusual about her from a young age as she quickly discovers that she possesses the power of witchcraft. This power is strong enough to threaten even the gods, leading Zeus to banish her to a remote island. 

Circe is one of my favorite female protagonists. She is strong-willed, independent and resilient. Miller expertly weaves countless well-known Greek myths into this story, making it a very fun read. 

“Writers and Lovers” by Lily King 

I love stories that are deeply rooted in a place. In “Writers and Lovers,” the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts is tangible to the reader. The novel follows Casey Peabody, a young woman who feels lost as she arrives there in 1997.  She picks up a waitressing job and is forced to find her way in a new place with new people. 

I found a lot of comfort in this book, making it perfect to curl up with in the fall. Casey has no idea what she’s doing, and I read it during a time when I was feeling a bit unmoored myself. Casey is a relatable protagonist, and I appreciated that King does not sugarcoat her experience.

“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt 

“The Secret History” is a classic New England fall read. This novel takes place at a small liberal arts college in Vermont, a place that draws many parallels to Middlebury with its intimate classes and beautiful campus. However, unlike its setting, the plot of “The Secret History” is far from tranquil. The tight-knit group of classics majors, who are the central figures in the novel, murders one of their closest friends. 

I loved the unpredictability of this novel as well as the suspense that grows with each page. It is not a whodunnit story, but instead an investigation into what led to the dire circumstances that are revealed in the prologue. The characters are vibrant and twisted, each carrying their own secrets and demons. 

“Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward 

“Sing, Unburied, Sing” is a Southern Gothic novel filled with ghosts and complicated family dynamics. Jojo and his younger sister Kayla live with their grandparents, since  their parents are largely absent. 

This is a sad read, dealing with drug addiction, prison and parents ill-equipped to raise their mixed-race  children; however,  I loved the relationship between Jojo and Kayla, which is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Jojo is forced to take on responsibilities that no child should have to deal with at the age of 13.

The paranormal aspect of “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” in particular reminded me of fall. It is rare to find a novel that successfully mixes elements of spookiness with strong lyrical writing, something Ward achieves effortlessly here. I also loved the Mississippi setting.