Cozy sweater weather necessitates that you get the best Fall books to read. This list has it all for adults, including fiction and non-fiction about football, elections, and politics, haunted houses, thrillers, family dramas, magical witches, and ruminations on gratitude.
And since Fall means school is back in session, you may also like my list of the best books set in school.
Best Fall Books to Read for Adults
11.22.63 by Stephen King
- New York Times bestseller
- One of the Ten Best Books of The New York Times Book Review
- Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
In the book, Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Maine, who is enlisted on a time travel mission to try to prevent JFK's assassination. The theory is that preventing his death will prevent a resulting chain of actions that defined history, from Bobby Kennedy's assassination to the Vietnam War.
Jake travels back in time to live as George Amberson, trailing troubled loner (and JFK's assassin) Lee Harvey Oswald and, at the same time, falling in love with the high school librarian, Sadie Dunhill. Ultimately, Jake must figure out whether he can -- and should -- change the course of history.
11.22.63 is a must-read for fans of time travel. It's not necessary to be a King fan as it's so different from his usual horror books. Overall, it's a heartfelt story with a satisfying ending. I loved the Hulu tv series based on the book as well!
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is a book that feels light yet deals with heavy topics. It's about a successful woman in Silicon Valley who moves with her husband and three daughters to her small hometown outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania (my hometown!) to run for the Senate and "make a difference."
Charlotte's campaign is quite the ride! She's keeping secrets that are getting harder to keep as the media spotlight shines brighter on her, especially in that she's a woman of an upper class, and her opponent plays "dirty" with her secrets. Her marriage is in turmoil and she wonders whether it's all worth it.
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is one of the best Fall books to read because it perfectly navigates political ambition, marriage, class and gender and will get you thinking about Election Day.
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living is one of the best Fall books to read that just happens to be a mix between Gilmore Girls and a Hallmark movie. If you love either or both of those things, this is a must-read.
The bulk of the story takes place from Fall through Christmas, after Livvy leaves behind a fancy pastry chef job in Boston after a major blunder and visits her friend in a charming Vermont town with all the New England feels.
She takes a job at a local inn and starts befriending the townsfolk and falling for a former local who comes home to care for his ailing father. There's a Harvest dinner, an apple pie contest, and lots of fairly light drama.
I did take issue with some of the character choices, but, overall, The City Baker's Guide to County Living met my expectations of a feel-good Fall read.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
- New York Times Bestseller
- Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
- A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
- TIME Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books of 2019
- Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, The Washington Post; O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Refinery29, and Buzzfeed
The Dutch House. The book that is everything to me. In short, it's a family drama about two siblings, who more or less, grow up on their own and occasionally return to reminisce at their childhood home in the suburbs of Philadelphia, most often in the Fall around Thanksgiving.
It's poetically and nostalgically written by the beloved national treasure (in my humble opinion) Ann Patchett.
And it's consistently one of the top sellers on this blog. This is how often I have "listed" it:
- Favorite Book of 2019;
- Best Books Set in Philadelphia;
- Best Character-Driven Books;
- Best Character-Driven Books;
- The Today Show's Read With Jenna Book Club List;
- Best Family Drama Books; and
- Best Audio Books of All Time (Tom Hanks is the narrator.)
If it's Fall and you have not yet read The Dutch House, just do it. You'll thank me later!
For more information, read my full review of The Dutch House, with quotes, pairings, book club questions and food.
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
- #1 NYT bestseller
- Sports Illustrated's best football book of all time
Before the movie and the tv show, there was Friday Night Lights the book. This is one of the best Fall books to read, as the non-fiction story of a Texas high school football team whose season is central to the entire small town of Odessa.
The Permian Panthers were the winningest high school football team in Texas history and, while its town is united by football each September through December, it's divided by race, class, and other societal issues.
Bissinger is an outsider observer of the cultural phenomenon that is Texas football in the Fall for an entire season in 1988, in this unforgettable narrative of one town and one team reaching for a championship.
The Good House by Ann Leary
- Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, 2014
- NYT bestseller
The Good House isn't totally set in Fall, but it has a lot of great Fall elements to boost your seasonal reading -- it was also a five-star read for me -- great for fans of Elin Hilderbrand novels.
It takes place in a small Massachusetts town with all of those New England vibes readers love, and the main character is a middle-aged alcoholic in denial, with psychic abilities and a lineage dating back to the Salem witch trials.
It's both light and heavy at the same time, as well as a thriller, as a new family moves to the small town, setting off a chain of events that cause a total tailspin amongst the tight-knit members of the town, and ending in dramatic fashion.
It also has one of the best written Thanksgiving dinner scenes I have yet to read in a book, filled with the multitude of emotions these types of family events can exhibit, from joy to an air of tension.
The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan
New York Times bestseller
The Gratitude Diaries is one of the best Fall books to read in the abundant month of November. One New Year’s Eve, journalist and former Parade Editor-in-Chief Janice Kaplan promise to have a year of gratitude and look on the bright side of whatever happens. It's a challenge based on attitude and perspective.
Along her journey, she gets advice from psychologists, academics, doctors, philosophers, and celebrities, including Matt Damon, Daniel Craig, and Jerry Seinfeld.
The Gratitude Diaries is a compilation of both personal experiences and data-driven research, exploring how the act of gratitude can transform your life, from marriage and friendship to money and ambition, and health and fitness. This book grounds you during a season of thankfulness.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
- THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
- One of USA Today's Best Books of 2020
Home Before Dark is the ultimate Fall haunted house book and it's my current favorite of all the Riley Sager novels. Maggie returns to her childhood home, which was made famous by her father’s bestselling memoir painting it as a haunted house of horrors, with a trail of sordid deaths within its four walls.
Maggie's family had fled from the house after a series of ghostly encounters. She was only 5 years old at the time and, as an adult, she remembers nothing about the events, as she makes plans to renovate and sell the house.
After a grizzly discovery, however, the haunted house gains notoriety once again. Maggie becomes determined to figure out the true history of the horrors described in her father's book, and dark secrets are revealed.
Home Before Dark is both a slow burn and a page-turner at the same time. While I am often disappointed by thrillers, the ending of this one both surprised me and felt like it truly delivered. And, like so many readers have remarked, after reading this book, you will never think of The Sound of Music the same way again...
And if you are already a fan, check out my reviews and rankings of ALL of Riley Sager's thrillers.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
In Cold Blood is the quintessential true-crime story by classic American author Truman Capote, and it's also on the Rory Gilmore book list. In the Fall of 1959 in a small Kansas town, the Clutters, a hardworking but well-to-do farming family, is murdered in their home "in cold blood" over a handful of dollars in a botched robbery attempt by two released convicts.
In Cold Blood spans the course of the investigation and hunt for the killers thereafter through the lens of 1960s Kansas. It's both character-driven (as Capote's work often is), delving into the tortured psyches of the killers and the grief-stricken townspeople, and plot-driven, taking the reader along on the chase to learn what becomes of the murderers.
In Cold Blood is a classic must-read for literature lovers in the Fall.
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Clare Lombardo
- A New York Times Bestseller
- Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction
The Most Fun We Ever Had is another great Fall family drama that is one of the best Fall books to read. From the gold-toned leaves on the cover to the wonderfully quirky Parenthood-like family at the heart of the story, you will get all the cozy Thanksgiving feels from this one.
Told in sections by "season," Marilyn and David fell in love in the 1970s but, by 2016, they have four very different daughters who each have their own sets of problems. One thing they agree on: They all doubt they will ever have a love like their parents' love.
David and Marilyn often joke that getting married and raising kids is "the most fun they ever had." The characters are complex and sharp, and the seasons of the year juxtaposed with the seasons of life make for a heartwarming theme in this book.
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
“Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.”- Alice Hoffman
In Practical Magic, enter the bewitching world of the cursed Owens sisters. They live with their elderly aunts in Massachusetts, where they are taunted for living in a musty house with mysterious potions and black cats.
As adults, they escape, but when the men in their lives die, they are brought back together and deal with their family drama, leading them back to their aunts.
That concludes my list of the best Fall books to read.
Pair Your Fall Books with ASMR Rooms
In Fall, I love to read with Autumn favorite ASMR rooms on YouTube streaming in the background for the coziest vibes, and I recommend you do so too!
Here's a sample: