Cozy sweater weather necessitates that you get the best Fall books to read. I have curated a list for adults that has it ALL (fiction and non-fiction) about my favorite season: football, elections, politics, haunted houses, thrillers, family dramas, magical witches, ruminations on gratitude, and more.
After all, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said in one of the best Fall quotes:
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall.”
Re-start your reading life with the best Fall books to read below.
Top 3 Fall Books to Read
Since this is a long list, let’s first explore my top 3 picks by each month of the season.
In October, I recommend The Practical Magic series of four books about generations of witches in Massachusetts and the spell that cursed their love lives
All the 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!
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
The Amityville Horror is the bestselling haunted house phenomenon about a real 1970s family that fled their Long Island home, which was priced mysteriously low, after just twenty-eight days of experiencing supernatural occurrences there.
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
The Art of Gathering is about “how we meet and why it matters.” November is the PERFECT time to read it at the time of Thanksgiving and just as holiday festivities are about to pick up.
Parker uses her expertise as a facilitator of high-powered gatherings around the world to offer practical, real-world advice for gatherings that occur at home, at work, and beyond.
She makes you think beyond the basics and dig deeper into the purpose of your gathering and everything from who’s next to whom and how it should end.
Its principles I will take with me into all my hosting events going forward.
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 the 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 in this small town romance.
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 Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Crucible is the classic play about the Salem witch trials based on a true story. A parable, its purpose is to convey the harms that violence sanctioned by society can cause.
The Death of Mrs. Westway by Ruth Ware
- INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
- A New York Public Library Best Book of 2019
The Death of Mrs. Westway is a popular Ruth Ware mystery novel about a tarot card reader who wrongly receives an inheritance letter. After she attends the funeral for the deceased, though, she starts to believe there’s something very odd about this situation.
The closer she gets to the family, the more she finds mysterious connections to her own life, which slowly builds to one very suspenseful and thrilling conclusion.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
A Discovery of Witches is the massively bestselling first book in a trilogy about a young which who discovers a manuscript and unleashes a spellbinding underworld, which she navigates with her beloved vampire.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula is the classic vampire story of a man who visits Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania and experiences horrifying circumstances, including the Count’s transformation into a bat, and eventually finds himself on a good old fashioned vampire hunt.
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 is the book that is everything to me. It’s a Read with Jenna Book Club pick that’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. Read by THE Tom Hanks on audio, it’s also one of my all-time favorite audiobooks.
For more information, read my full review of The Dutch House, with quotes, pairings, book club questions, and food.
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
New York Times Bestseller
The Ex Hex is a really steamy romance novel with all the Fall vibes. Nine years ago, Vivienne put a curse on her ex. When he returns to town, a quick trip to the Fall festival turns out all wrong, and Vivi realizes the curse has lasting consequences… involving everything from angry ghosts and talking cats.
Together they must work to break the curse and save the town while also managing their palpable chemistry.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein is one of the most influential classic gothic novels in all of literature, making a case about the ethics of creation of life.
When Dr. Frankenstein brings a man-made creature to life, he’s actually a monster who brings about a chain of violence and tragedy.
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 the 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 promised 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.
Halloween Party by Agatha Christie
When an unlikeable teen says she witnessed a murder at a Halloween Party, no one believes her… until a body is found drowned in a tub being used for apple bobbing. The infamous Hercule Poirot is on the case.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Over 500 million copies of the series sold
Every September 1, Harry Potter season begins anew. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first of a series of best Fall books to read about a powerful orphan boy attending wizard school and fighting evil. Each book begins at the start of a new school year in the Fall and has a cozy Autumnal vibe to let your mind escape again and again.
It may even inspire you to dress as Harry’s friend, Hermione Granger, for Halloween (as I did!).
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House unleashes the terror of four seekers who gather at Hill House expecting to encounter spooky phenomenon, but still not prepared for how horrific their visit will become.
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…
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
- A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Real Simple, Marie Claire, New York Public Library, LibraryReads, The Skimm, Lit Hub, Lit Reactor
- AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The Immortalists checks a few boxes here: the book cover is quintessentially Fall, it’s a family drama (which always feels characteristic of the Thanksgiving season), and its main themes are death, dying, and grief (evoctive of Halloween). And it’s one of my favorite books of the past several years.
It’s about a group of 4 siblings from the 1960s-2010, all of whom become obsessed with their looming deaths, as predicted by a fortune teller when they are children.
You will fly through this character-driven novel to see whether the siblings each meet their pre-ordained fates. With rich language and complexity, The Immortalists leaves the reader ultimately questioning whether we are living or dying.
(Answer this question and more with these discussion questions for The Immortalists.)
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.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Interview with the Vampire is considered to be one of the best Anne Rice books — if not THE best. It’s a gothic horror novel set in New Orleans, where a 200 year old vampire tells his life story to a reporter.
There’s arson, murder, sinister actions and, of course, lots of blood sucking.
IT by Stephen King
#1 New York Times bestseller
Fall reading wouldn’t be Fall reading without at least one of Stephen King’s books. And IT seems like the perfect once since it’s about a creepy clown.
In Derry, Maine, seven men who once experienced haunting as children reunite where they battled an evil creature as teens. Since children are being murdered again, they must once again fight evil.
Layla by Colleen Hoover
- Wall Street Journal bestseller
- USA Today bestseller
It seems like popular author Colleen Hoover has written just about every type of love story, and this one is her “ghost story.” It felt a bit odd at first to me with the paranormal elements, then took a twist that made it really suspenseful and just as satisfying as all her novels.
Leeds wants to spend his life with Layla, but he’s torn because she was left a different woman as the result of a violent attack. When they retreat to a “bed and breakfast,” Layla’s behavior becomes downright bizarre, and that’s not the only odd thing happening in this place.
When Leeds meets a “guest” named Willow, he starts falling for her, which ultimately leads to him learning the truth about what happened to Layla and the strange occurrences.
For more, read my full summary and review of Layla.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
In the classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, schoolmaster Ichabod Crane seeks the love of Katrina Van Tassel, but local hero Brom Bones has his own plans to marry her, and this conflict climaxes with an appearance from the spooky Headless Horseman.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Macbeth is an exceptional work of art about the tragic rise and fall of the King of Scotland, with powerful language that has inspired other famous works over many generations.
Most notable is that of the three witches, who make predictions with their chants and manipulate Macbeth’s behavior with their famous spooky lines like: “Double, double toil and trouble: Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”
It’s such a marvelous, timeless read you won’t soon forget.
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.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
Fans of The Night Circus don’t just “like” this book — they are completely captivated by this mesmerizing tale of two star-crossed magicians engaged in competition in a magical, moody setting.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey is a good Fall book for those seeking a classic. It begins when a naive young woman named Catherine Morland is swept up in high society and her vivid imagination runs wild.
After she befriends Isabella, who shares an affinity for Gothic romance, as well as the esteemed Henry and Eleanor Tilney, she visits the Tilney estate and envisions the patriarch committing crimes in this haunting setting like those in her books.
November 9 by Colleen Hoover
New York Times Bestseller
November 9 isn’t exactly about Fall, but since it’s set in November, why not read it at this time?!
Fallon is a young woman wishing to escape from a past that left both physical and emotional scars. The day before her big move across the country, she meets an aspiring novelist named Ben.
While Fallon and Ben go in separate directions, they continue to meet every November 9, and the one-of-a-kind Fallon becomes Ben’s unexpected muse.
However, as Fallon deals with deeply rooted personal issues, she also questions Ben’s true motives and wonders how their lives and his novel will end.
October Sky by Homer Hickham
#1 New York Times bestseller
In 1957, Sputnick flew across the Appalachian October sky, inspiring young Sonny Hickham to build a rocket and work in the space business as his small town was slowly crumbling.
Besides the Autumnal title, it’s also filled with Fall themes like the pursuit of education.
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M. Graff
New York Times bestseller
The Only Plane in the Sky is one of the most breathtaking books I have ever read. It’s a minute-by-minute, painstakingly researched account of the day of September 11, 2001, told from the dialogue of five hundred people, from children in distant parts of the United States to President George W. Bush.
The award-winning audio version of The Only Plane in the Sky is told by an entire cast of narrators, plus real audio clips, and is easily one of my favorite audiobooks of all time. Raw and fascinating, it’s an absolute must-read for September.
A Poem for Every Autumn Day by Allie Esiri
Name a more beautiful Fall book cover than A Poem for Every Fall Day. I’ll wait. This seasonal collection can be kept on your nightstand to put you in the mood every morning or night, or it can be read aloud with families for all the Fall feels. The compilation includes poets from Shakespeare to Robert Louis Stevenson, and beyond.
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.
Practical Magic is a long-beloved and exquisitely crafted character-driven novel reminiscent of Elizabeth Strout’s writing. It will make you want to binge the entire Practical Magic book series, which I highly recommend for Fall!
Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”– Daphne du Maurier
So begins the eerily moody thriller Rebecca (also a fantastic Netflix adaptation!). Its creepy and atmospheric vibes at the Manderley estate, haunted by the ghost of Rebecca, just make it feel like a great thriller for Fall.
The main character is a servant who meets and quickly marries a wealthy older widow. Upon her arrival at his Manderley estate, it quickly becomes clear that Rebecca lingers in the memories of the staff.
But, like all thrillers, there’s so much more to the story and the truth behind Rebecca‘s tragic death, and the ending will leave you wanting even more.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Secret History is the quintessential “Dark Academia” novel and a Read with Jenna book club pick (it’s actually one of her favorite books). A modern classic, it contains some of the best dialogue I’ve ever read.
Filled with moody scenes of New England in the Fall, it’s about an outcast from California, who attends a preppy Vermont college in the 1980s and befriends his Greek classmates. Ultimately, their obsession with Greek has deadly consequences.
It has all the vibes of The Catcher in the Rye mixed with The Talented Mr. Ripley, and the ending will keep you glued to the pages.
September by Rosamunde Pilcher
Name a better book for September than… September! Rosamunde Pilcher is a master to moods and slow-burning character-driven novels, and this one explores Scotland in the beginning of fall, with themes like homecomings, friendships, betrayals, and love.
The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
In The Simplicity of Cider, a cider maker wants nothing more than a quiet life on her family’s Wisconsin orchard, but her brother has plans to sell. When a single dad and his young son arrive and help her run the orchard, feeling begin to run deep in this charming story of love and family as sweet as the delicious Fall drink it’s named after.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Filled with Fall imagery and magical forces, it’s about two young boys’ obsessions with the night carnival that comes to their town during Halloween week.
Strange things start happening, and it becomes clear darker forces are at work. It’s a unique coming-of-age story that also deals with aging, identity, and death. I enjoyed both the book and the movie in Fall!
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the iconic tale of a good man who takes a drug that unleashes an alternate evil persona that readers around the globe still reference in relation to two-faced people.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In The Sun Down Motel, a woman took a job as a night clerk at a haunted motel, from which she disappears. In 2017, her niece visits the motel and finds herself caught in the mystery.
There There by Tommy Orange
… so much development had happened there, that the there of her childhood, the there there, was gone, there was no there there anymore.– There, There
- finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
- one of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year
- winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award
- One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, Time, O, The Oprah Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe
There’s no better time than November to read books about Native Americans, and There There is easily one of the best. It tells the unique, often overlooked plight of modern, urban Native Americans in Oakland, California, through the lens of over a dozen characters dealing with issues like identity, addiction and grief.
Their lives all interconnect and ultimately converge in an epic and powerful finale at a pow-wow that will leave you compulsively turning the pages.
One thing to note: Since there are so many characters to follow, I recommend you read a paper copy and/or take notes. (It’s worth it.)
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
Fall is, without a doubt, the best time to read Edgar Allen Poe, and The Tell-Tale Heart is the most spooky of his stories to read. Just try not to let that beating heart make you as paranoid as the narrator!
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Instant #1 New York Times bestseller
The Thirteenth Tale is a ghost-filled Gothic story for book lovers to read in the Fall. An elderly, reclusive author reveals the truth about her past, and it’s a haunted one that leaves her biographer spellbound by its oddities.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of the creepiest books I have ever read! I mean, just look at that book cover. Teenager Merricat lives with her ill uncle and agoraphobic sister, Constance, in an isolated New England home.
Six years earlier, the three survived a tragedy that left Constance on trial for murder. To protect Constance from the judgmental eyes of the town, she practices magic.
When their cousin Charles visits, they sense danger, and their lives, once again spiral out of control, leaving the townspeople with an even grander folklore type of story to tell about the family. It’s truly a masterful work of Fall fiction.
The Whisper Man by Alex North
NEW YORK TIMES bestseller
The Whisper Man is a thriller that just feels like Fall with its creepy things lingering outdoors. When Tom’s wife unexpectedly dies, he and his young son Jake move to a new home.
At the same time, a young boy has been abducted in a manner similar to that of the serial killer “The Whisper Man,” who was jailed twenty years earlier and is in jail.
Tom and Jake become involved in the investigation, and interesting twists link the characters when young Jake begins to hear whispers at his window.
The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais
The Witches of Moonsyne Manor hails from an author who always delivers books that are both well-written and full of heart.
This one is about a group of five octogenarian witches who are determined to save their home from demolition and, in doing so, must face their own aging powers as they confront obstacles in their way.
It will break your heart then put it back together again.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights is a gothic classic, set on the windy moors of Yorkshire, where the ill-fated love between Catherine and her father’s adopted son, Heathcliff, has violent, tragic, and even haunting consequences spanning even beyond their generation.
That concludes my list of the best Fall books to read.
Related post: Since Fall means school is back in session, you will also love my list of the best books set in school.