It is official, autumn has arrived! This means that we have now entered 'cosy' season. (As an American, please know that I am mentally struggling with the fact that I now do not hesitate to write 'cosy' instead of 'cozy'.) I have officially brought out my plaid sherpa slippers and mustard-coloured cardigan, so I thought I would make a little compilation of things that warm me up during the colder weather and keep me smiling. Books, of course, are my forte, so I will discuss my top 10 bookish suggestions for the few months, but I also thought I would add a section for 'Films and TV' as well as just a random hodge podge of things I love to indulge in this time of year.
Books to Get You Through Autumn
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Yes, I am aware that the picture provided is the second book in the series, but I could not give up the opportunity to demonstrate how perfect this series is for the upcoming months. How could I not recommend this series when one of the most famous lines is 'How glad I am to live in a world where there are Octobers'? Green Gables and Avonlea are the definition of cosy settings and Anne's hilarious blunders and determination to invoke imagination and love in everything she does is sure to warm your heart.
2. The Familiars by Stacey Hall
This wasn't my favourite book of all time (although, it is very beloved by many people), but it certainly has a very autumnal feel to it. One of my favourite genres to read this time of year is historical fiction, and this novel fulfilled my desire to read more historical fiction outside of the 'WWll' era. It follows a young girl named Fleetwood Shuttleworth (what a doozy of a name) who after multiple miscarriages has been told she will not survive another birth. She enlists the help of a midwife named Alice Grey to help her, but Alice's somewhat unusual techniques raise suspicions, something that nobody wants happening with the Pendle Hill Witch Trials looming.
Twisty, slow burn, and based on the real life Lancashire Witch Trials (near where I live now), this book has 'cosy' written all over it.
3. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
First of all, how incredible is this cover of 'Rebecca'? Second of all, I think it's time we put a spookier read on this list. Thrillers/mysteries are not my thing, but I do love a good classic. If this is you, or if you DO like mysteries but haven't given a classic mystery a try yet, then I think it's time you give it a go. This follows a young girl who gets swept into a marriage with a dashing and wealthy widower on holiday only to learn that his past wife still firmly has her hold on the household. It's a super unique story because while Rebecca is dead, she is very much a main character while our protagonist remains entirely nameless throughout. Plus it's going to be a Netflix film coming out in late October with Lily James and Armie Hammer! Watch trailer.
4. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
The fantasy genre and I have been on the fritz since high school. In my teens, the only thing I wanted to pick up was fantasy, but as I get older I find it harder to deal with the lack of probability. That being said, this series has continued to blow me away with each new instalment. It's been the first fantasy series I picked up since my teens that I found myself utterly enthralled in. The series takes place on the island of Fennbirn where triplet girls are born each generation to the queen. They each have a power: elemental, poison, and naturalist. But in the end, only one can be queen, so they must fight until the death. A lot of people say that the build up is quite slow, but I beg to differ. I got thrown into Fennbirn quite quickly and found myself rooting for each girl for different reasons.
5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
I do not understand why this is the least liked of the Austen novels. Somebody explain it to me. The novel follows Catherine Morland who is an avid reader of the gothic genre. She is quite naive and finds herself pushed into some questionable actions around Bath, but the real suspense and misunderstanding happens when she visits friends at Northanger Abbey, the perfect location for some of her gothic dreams to come true. While the cover makes the story look spooky, it really is not. It holds all the charm and humour of Austen's other novels, but I find it one of the most readable and I also really loved the critiquing of gothic literature that Austen wove into the story. Plus, I found myself getting full-on stressed at her decision-making skills and had to physically hold myself back from yelling at Miss Morland to think before she acts.
6. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I have now read this book 3 times and each and every time it breaks my heart over and over. This is a middle-grade novel that follows a boy named Connor whose mother is dying of cancer. Each and every night the tree outside of his house comes alive and makes Connor face the truths and fears that he is suppressing within himself. This book isn't scary, but it is incredibly powerful and is one of the best portrayals of grief that I have ever encountered. I think that everybody could gain something from 'A Monster Calls' and that it should low-key be required reading. Also, if you're feeling a marathon, the film that came out in 2016 was very well done. But make sure you have tissues.
7. Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell
Unlike all of the other books on this list, this is pretty much the only book that I very heavily recommend to read in Autumn only. I mean, read in January if you want, but I think it will lose a little bit of it's impact. I also thought we should leave some of the heavier reads above and go back to cosy and adorable. This follows 2 friends who have spent their high school autumns working together in the pumpkin patch, but on their last night at the pumpkin patch before they graduate high school, they are on a mission to get the most out of their final shift. Think pumpkins, think pie, think bobbing for apples, think hay rides, think corn mazes, think everything wonderful about autumn thrown into the pages of an adorably rendered graphic novel. Excellent for fall vibes while social distancing.
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Would this really be a seasonal recommendations post if I did not put 'Jane Eyre' on this list? This famous gothic novel follows Jane Eyre through her life as she deals with loss in her younger years and bolsters her strength and courage as she arrives at Thornfield Hall. Here she meets a man that she starts to fall for, but disaster looms. There is a dark secret that separates the two lovers that could lead towards a very unfortunate ending. Set in the desolate Northern English countryside, there is a reason why this timeless story is recommended over and over again by every type of reader. Like many of the other classics on this list, the film adaptations are really great ways to re-live the whole plot again after a first-read or voracious re-read.
9. If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
The dark academia sub-genre is a guilty pleasure of mine. Rich entitled white kids? Check. A degree that will get you nowhere in life? Check. A small cast of morally grey characters? Check. A murder? CHECK. I take the polarising view that 'If We Were Villains' is a more complete and enthralling piece of work than 'A Secret History' by Donna Tartt. Don't sue me. If you are trying to figure out which one of the two to pick up, this is what I would ask- are you more interested in learning about a dead languages and the aftermath of a murder (A Secret History) or a dead playwright and trying to figure out who did the murder (If We Were Villains). Either one of them will fulfil your spooky, yet somehow kind of cosy school-vibes. If you've read both of the above mentioned novels, i'd love to hear which one you prefer.
10. Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series is always hand-in-hand with Halloween and Christmas for me. Each book takes place over an entire school year, but the back-to-school vibes, the spooky magic, and the wondrous magic all kind of come together to make the colder months the best time to pick up HP. That, and the fact that for most of us these books are a huge part of our childhood and picking them up feels like coming home (major major cosy vibes). I feel like the first 2 in particular, before the magic gets really dark, are the best for feel-good reads, but really any of them will do. I want to note that I fully acknowledge that Rowling has been in the media for some pretty heinous things lately, and that I am in full support of the 'Trans Black Lives Matter' movement and very much recognise trans women as women. <3
Films and TV Series to Get You Through Autumn
This is easily one of the most wholesome and heart-warming tv series to date. I am currently re-watching this incredible series at the minute because Coronavirus sucks and I needed a comfort watch, and Gilmore Girls is my go-to. It needs to be said that you will become addicted once you fall into the world of Gilmore Girls, so if you are not ready to daily think about Lorelai and Rory and you don't want to spend every single night dreaming about the possibility of living in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, then you might now be ready for this magic, but if you want something to curl up in a blanket and sip a hot beverage to, go no further.
2. Dead Poet's Society
Remember how I said I like dark academia plot-lines? Surprise! It carries over into films. Dead Poets Society defined by me: 'The influence of poetry/education meets the wonderful Robin Williams'... like what more do you need? You most likely will experience heartbreak and will need a big box of tissues at the ready, but it will also give you a lot of hope and make you want to hug all the people that support your dreams.
3. The Great British Bake Off
This is a quintessential watch in the UK, but I know that it has a fan base in the US as well (even though they call it the Great British Baking Show... wth). It's literally a baking competition to find the next best baker in the country, but it's so wholesome and cosy and perfect. All the competitors help each other & if one of them accidentally knocks over someone's cake, they will cry in remorse. My heart flutters whenever I hear the theme tune come on .
Now, this film doesn't necessarily shout 'Autumn' at you or anything, but it's one of those slow-moving but incredibly enticing story lines that draws you in bit by bit until you are holding yourself and rocking back and forth in tears because it's literally the definition of perfection. This is 100% a 'curl up on a cold night and drink a hot apple cider' kind of film. This film is all about an Irish immigrant who comes to New York to try and build a better life for herself and it explores how it feels to be torn between your old family and home and your new family and home. As an expat, and also an unwavering fan of literally anything with Saoirse Ronan, this film is one of my favourites of all time.
5. The Crown
I was in the first wave of people to watch 'The Crown', the group that jaw-droppingly watched all of the first season in the first couple days after it was released and have non-stop been hounding the rest of the human population to sit down and watch it themselves. It watches like a historical fiction drama, but when you let it click inside of you that the characters and the events are based on real life, you're like... dang. History is interesting, y'all. The actors are all spot on, like legitimately, they are all perfect and the cinematography takes my breath away every single episode. All 3 seasons that are out already are pretty much flawless, and they're the perfect drama-filled autumnal binge.
Midsommar was my Halloween film last year. It's what I had playing in the background while trick-or-treating was in full force and I was actually really glad when I ran out of candy and could pay full attention to the horror that was happening on my screen. This is not your typical 'scary movie'. There aren't a lot of jump scares or monsters, but it is WEIRD. Like full on bizarro. The opening scene devastated me and left my heart raw and struggling to comprehend what was going on. I don't want to really explain too much what it's about so you can experience the unsettling feeling for yourself. It's about a girl that goes to a Midsommar festival in a small village in Sweden and it'll mess you up.
7. Anne of Green Gables (1985) & (2017)
I wanted to choose different films/shows from the books that I recommended, but Anne is just meant for autumn, so even if you don't feel like reading the novel (which is weird, because the novel is perfection), but if you don't, then I fully endorse both of the television series. The old one reminds me of my childhood and Anne with an E was a wonderful update to a classic story. They both make me cry and smile uncontrollably.
8. Little Women (2019)
I want to get it out there that I really enjoyed 'Little Women' as a book, but fact of the matter is, I fell completely and madly in love with the film that came out last Christmas. We have already established that I respect the heck out of Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, so I thought I was going to love it, but my heart was not prepared for it to be a piece of actual art. The colours, the music, the acting, the nod to Louisa May Alcott... Greta Girwig, you did us all proud. This film is actually one that I would stick on my 'Winter' seasonal guide to film watching, but the cosiness and the sisterly love is something can be very much appreciated in all seasons. I must know.... which one of the March sisters do you love the most? Which one do you relate to the most? Have an autumnal viewing and let me know!
Seasonal Bonuses to Get You Through Autumn
Heat up some apple juice and steep a cinnamon tea bag in the hot juice. It's a delicious seasonal beverage and something you can do on a budget. If you aren't on a super budget, get yourself the hot cinnamon spice tea from Caribou Coffee, it's divine, but an off-brand from the grocery store will still taste lovely.
I finally bought myself some proper slippers with a rubber bottom and sherpa lining instead of those slipper-socks with the sticky dots on the bottom. I love that I can go get the milk bottles from out front with these on and they look very seasonally appropriate. Perfect for the chilly mornings.
Go to your local dollar store/pound shop and get 5-10 seasonal decorations to get yourself in the autumnal mood. I love all of the decor at HomeSense and more expensive places, but you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a warm-toned leaf garland and an apple pie candle, ja feel?
It's not too late to stack up on 'back to school' stationary, yes, even if you're an adult. I don't care how long you've been out of school, it's still exciting to pick up a brand new notebook and pack of your favourite pens.
Autumn is prime time to start pulling out your cosy jigsaw puzzles. Puzzles are a great way to stimulate your brain (which may think it's time to start hibernating) while watching one of the excellent films or shows listed above or while listening to an audiobook (hint hint).
Alright, that's about it for me! Let me know what some of your Autumnal traditions are. Is there a book you read every year around this time? A quintessential fall-themed film that I completely forgot to add to my list? I would love to know.
Also, for a fun drinking game, take a shot every time you read 'autumnal' or 'cosy'. You're welcome.
Until next time,
A. C. Woodruff