As autumn comes to its conclusion, a recap of sorts is in order. But what better way to wrap up a season than a definite list of its best reads? Naturally, I got in touch with Trinity’s finest knowledgeable minds: none other than the TCD Literary Society, of course. The committee’s quick-witted and shrewd members gave their recommendations for cosy autumnal reads.
Harvest by Jim Crace
Kicking off the list is Lit Soc’s very own Chairperson, Conor, who recommends Jim Crace’s novel, Harvest. Set during the harvest season of a farming village, the sense of idyllic peace is broken with the introduction of outsiders. While seemingly simple, there is an undercurrent of complex class interplay and alienation – a faultless novel to reminisce upon as the golden leaves begin to disintegrate.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Lit Soc’s Treasurer’s favourite autumn read will forever be The Secret History by Donna Tartt. A whodunnit written backwards, The Secret History is a dark academia novel that details the slow descent into madness of a group of friends following a life-changing event. Through the jaded, foggy perspective of narrator Richard Papen, the reader experiences the wild autumn and winter seasons, and the terrible happenings at Hampden College. A spooky classic, it hits all the right vibes of the season..
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
The Events Officer claims that The Vegetarian by Han Kang is the most representative read of the autumn. The book is set in modern-day Seoul and focuses on the life of a devoted housewife, Yeong-hye, who lives a colourless life. Prompted by a dream, she decides to become a vegetarian, a choice that quickly turns into an obsession. Yeong-hye’s psyche is difficult to crystallise, as we never hear her own thoughts throughout the story. This is an uncanny novel, with a resounding protest of deafening silence – perhaps an atypical read, that exposes us to something unusual.
All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
LitSoc PRO Niamh suggests Fowley-Doyle’s novel, a page-turner all-year-round but particularly around Halloween. All the Bad Apples follows Deena as she learns about a family curse whilst trying to find her sister who has mysteriously disappeared. Echoing female voices, family secrets and dangerous truths, it is a fabulous piece of Irish literature that combines history with magical realism – a worthy read for the season.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The Literary Society’s Secretary endorses the experimental novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, by American writer George Saunders. The protagonist, Willie Lincoln, finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts gripe, commiserate, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state a monumental struggle erupts over the young soul – encapsulating in a nutshell all the expected vibes of Halloween.
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Next, the fantastic OCMs perfected the list with their most stellar seasonal must-reads! Maddie suggests Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey as an autumnal essential. McCaffrey is an Irish fantasy author and the first woman to win the Hugo Award for fiction. Maddie highly recommends this one if you have a soft spot for science fiction and fantasy, as it is an intersection between the two. Too much of a description would spoil it, but be prepared for dragons, a massive threat to existence, and an alien planet with many secrets! It is the first book in the lengthy Dragonriders of Pern series and is delightful to read wrapped up under many blankets on a rainy day with a cup of comforting tea.
Stoner by John Edward Williams
Lit Soc’s OCM Nicole believes that Stoner is the quintessential read for autumn. Set in the University of Missouri, the general atmosphere of the novel perfectly conveys the peacefulness and nostalgia of the season. Stoner is categorised under the genre of the academic novel, or the campus novel. The story follows the simple, small and quiet life of William Stoner: his undistinguished career and workplace politics, marriage, affair, and his love and pursuit of literature – but it does not fail to gently investigate more existential matters.
A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
A Month in the Country is OCM Virginia’s top pick for the season. Set in a remote English village, A Month in the Country focuses on the reflections of the past and the nature of life-changing experiences. It takes place during the summer, but its reflective nature arises from summer ending, seasons changing and the inability to extend something for longer than its set time. It is a wonderful exploration of the value of art, memories and relationships, and is written in a beautiful style – the ideal reflective read as autumn begrudgingly comes to an end.
Lanny by Max Porter
Last but not least, OCM Kaia delivers her must-read of the season, Max Porter’s Lanny. She affirms it is quite a strange and sad book, but also sweet at times – much like autumn. The novel follows a deranged village god, satiating his desire to manipulate those who live in his village; particularly a young, curious boy named Lanny, and all of the adults that care about him. It is quite a short read, at approximately 200 pages. Sometimes the pages are filled with just a few dozen words, and perhaps more often the words will curve around each other as they’re being spoken into the air and entering the ears of this aforementioned deranged god. Kaia remarks that this is a worthwhile and cold experience, reminding her of the bittersweetness of fallen autumn leaves on the brink of death.
As November comes in full bloom, we enter the transitory period where the leaves are tawny and not viridescent – alive, yet barely holding on. We march towards a winter that appears isolating and cold on the horizon – but it doesn’t have to be! If you are anything like me, you will be racing to Hodges Figgis to get your hands on a copy of each of these brilliantly recommended fall reads by Trinity’s sensational Literary Society. With a resplendent variety of recommendations to keep you occupied, these fascinating reads consist of stupor, adversity and seclusion, yet also hope, new beginnings and delight; just like autumn.