Photo via Pexels / Pixabay
There’s something about October that I find humbling, and nourishing to the mind, which, after a hot and dry summer, can feel parched, slowed, stagnant.
October, and Autumn in general, welcomes with it glints of dusk-light, a sunset hue, cooler temps, and . . . yes, memorable-as-hell stories.
Books, short stories, poems — there’s plenty of this to go around during the Fall. It’s a great season to read. Well, okay scratch that — every season is a perfect time to read. But there are some incredible books and stories that capture the essence of Fall and, for writers, can spike the inspiration a little higher on the muse-o-meter (that’s a thing, right? Yes, that’s a thing.)
Okay enough rambling, here are five of what I consider to be incredible things to read this October, and/or this Autumn in general.
The October Country — Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s one of my favorite writers of all time. His voice, his style, his poetic approach to the novel and the short story. He breathed love into his writing, allowed it to live through its own light and dark elements, and as a result, released some of the most compelling works of the 20th century.
Not the least of which includes The October Country, one of what I consider to be his best collections of short stories, each of which is haunting and memorable in its own way. You don’t need to read this front to back; like many such collections, you can read these in any order. But I always look at his collections as more pseudo-novels, each story a different chapter in a larger, more hidden tale.
The opening of the book begins with the following thought from Bradbury, which to me, perfectly captures the essence of the season:
…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…”
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle (from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories From the Sketch Book) — Washington Irving
I was exposed to the tale of Sleepy Hollow at a relatively young age. And it scared the SHIT out of me.
But I always left that story smiling. The scariest rendition I’d endured was a strange stop-motion animated film I watched in elementary school. It’s hard to remember exactly what this rendition is now, but to this day I remember it as haunting and, in a way, terrifying (something about the animation amplified the creepiness of the tale).
About a decade ago I read The Sketch Book in full, right around this time of year, and it renewed a sense of love for the haunting elements of the season within me. Rip Van Winkle, for its own part, wasn’t so much scary as it was eye-opening and hard to get out of the head. The two stories are standout in the collection, but the whole book is worth a read, which, if you dive in, you can probably finish in an afternoon (a cool, leaf-blown Saturday afternoon closer to Halloween, if you dare).
“The Railroad Earth” (from the book Lonesome Traveler)– Jack Kerouac
I’ve been a fan of Kerouac’s work for well more than a decade now. Always a lover of books, it was Kerouac who helped thrust me into the threshold of really wanting to pursue a life of writing. I take pride in knowing we’re from the same home state of Massachusetts, and I’ve had the privilege to visit his grave site in Lowell on a couple of unique occasions. Each was, to say the least, a humbling experience.
This little snippet from Lonesome Traveler (an incredible collection, by the way), has a rustic element to it, and I’ve often listened to the audio version (dubbed “October in the Railroad Earth”), in the late afternoons to enter a pensive state.
Here’s a great little b-roll video produced with the audio, for your viewing and listening pleasure:
It — Stephen King
Yes, part of the reason I’m recommending this is because of the newly-released film, which, my God, if you haven’t seen yet, and aren’t timid about a solid horror film (and I don’t mean in the same sense as a lot of the demonic hands-come-through-walls-to-grab-you type of films that have been portrayed in recent years), then please, please, PLEASE see this movie.
The film terrified me, for sure, but what I loved about this was its ability to stay close to the source material (yes, there were some changes to the film from the book, but many of them subtle and none of which actually took away from the story or film). Another part that’s worth noting about the film (like the book) is the emotional element here — I not only felt incredibly connected to the characters in this story when I read the book earlier this year, I felt even more connected seeing them come alive on screen. It reminded me of my own youth, and I consider every member of The Losers Club a hero in their own right.
The movie, awesome. The book, incredible. Read it, then see it.
And enjoy the terror of both.
The Passage — Justin Cronin
It is not the only book with characters I’ve felt a great connection to. Another would be those of King’s The Dark Tower series (see “Honorable Mentions” below), and, more recently, Justin Cronin’s The Passage.
Thus far, I’ve completed two-thirds of Cronin’s trilogy, the first of which was a mind-boggle of a story. Characters coming together to face an evil that permeates all sides of their world. There’s a terrifyingly familiar sense in this book, an element that makes you think, “Holy shit, this could kind-of-sort-of actually happen.” But, like Bradbury, Cronin brings a poetic, ethereal element to his writing that allows the words feel as though they lift off the page.
Strap on your boots, open the first pages and dive in. Then when you’re finished, head over to The Twelve to see how the story continues.
Hint: It doesn’t slow down.
I’ll be honest, it’s hard as hell for me to suggest only five things for you to read this Fall. I wanted to highlight the five that have stood out most to me.
HOWEVER, here are some other suggestions for books that have blown me away and that are ideal reading for the season. (I’m always on the lookout for more books to read, too, so if you’ve got suggestions to add, pop ‘em into the comments section below.)
- Wool (Book I of The Silo Trilogy) — Hugh Howey
- Blackbirds (Miriam Black Book I) — Chuck Wendig
- Under the Empyrean Sky (Book I of The Heartland Trilogy) — Chuck Wendig
- Salem’s Lot — Stephen King
- The Gunslinger (Book I of The Dark Tower series) — Stephen King
- The Town and the City — Jack Kerouac
- NOS4A2 — Joe Hill
NOTE: I have not been asked to endorse any of the above books; I’m simply recommending them based on my own enjoyment reading them and with the hope that you do as well, in addition to finding inspiration for your own writing and/or creative work. Likewise, this post does not currently include affiliate links.
Sign up here to get updates like this direct to your inbox!
Also, if you’re a writer and in need of an editor and/or mentor to help guide your project, take a look at my editing services and let me know if you’d like to connect.