Long candle-lit evenings, brisk temperatures, and falling of leaves…there’s just something about autumn that makes you want to curl up with a good book.
But with more books than ever available at the tap of a finger, it can be difficult to decide on what to read first.
With this in mind, we’ve put together this list of autumn reading ideas. Covering new fiction and non-fiction releases, as well as some classics perfect for the autumn season, hopefully there’s something here for everyone.
New fiction releases
1. The Passenger (2022), Cormac McCarthy
After a decade and a half-hiatus, Cormac McCarthy, who’s been touted as America’s greatest living writer more than once, returns to bookshops near you this autumn with The Passenger.
The story follows, Bobby Western, perhaps the most American-ly named protagonist ever, as he tries to unravel the mystery of a jet that crashes just off the coast of Mississippi.
Described as a ‘breathtaking novel of morality and science, the legacy of sin, and the madness that is human consciousness,’ we’re excited for what the author of The Road comes up with next.
2. Ithaca (2022), Claire North
The Odyssey, Homer’s famous epic poem, charts the quest of the ancient Greek hero and king, Odysseus, as he attempts to return home to his island kingdom of Ithaca after the Trojan War. Though, what we hear very little about in the classics is Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, who oversees the kingdom in his absence.
Claire North’s new novel breathes fresh life into this little-known tale. We follow Penelope as she contends with would-be usurpers, restless suitors, and bloodthirsty politics, all while wrestling to keep the realm of Ithaca in one piece.
3. Best of Friends (2022), Kamila Shamsie
Kamila Shamsie’s 2017 novel Home Fire won the Women’s Prize for Fiction and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. So no wonder her follow-up, Best of Friends, has been eagerly awaited by critics and audiences alike.
Best of Friends tells the story of two girls from Karachi – Shamsie’s birth city – Maryam and Zahra. We follow their friendship over the decades, from Pakistan in the 1980s to present-day London – through political upheaval, changing social conventions, and ultimate tests of their bond.
4. The Twist of a Knife (2022) - Anthony Horowitz
The Twist of a Knife is the fourth in Anthony Horowitz’s Hawthorne and Horowitz series; a unique set of mystery novels that pair eccentric detective, Daniel Hawthorne, with a fictionalised version of the author, as they work together to solve murders. It’s like an updated version of the Holmes and Watson dynamic.
But this time things are different as the prime suspect in Hawthorne’s newest case is Horowitz himself. Fans of classic murder mysteries will enjoy this one.
5. Our Missing Hearts (2022) - Celeste Ng
Our Missing Hearts is set in a dystopian future where the United States is ruled by authoritarian and ultra-conservative powers that treat minorities – particularly those of Asian heritage – as second-class citizens. Libraries are heavily regulated, and books that are not seen as ‘patriotic’ are strictly forbidden.
Bird is a young Chinese-American boy who lives a quiet, inconspicuous life with his father. Though, everything changes when he receives a mysterious letter that could be from his mother; a radical poet who left their family when he was just nine.
In Our Missing Hearts, Celeste Ng takes us on a heartwrenching journey that explores the power of literature, how injustice can thrive in supposedly civilised society, and how we can nurture change.
6. Lessons (2022), Ian McEwan
Covering some of the most influential events of all time, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11, the disaster at Chernobyl, and the Cuban Missle Crisis, Ian McEwan’s latest novel might be his most ambitious undertaking yet.
Lessons follow the life of Roland Baines – a complicated and passive baby boomer – as he navigates past traumas, familial relationships, questions of morality, and more.
This sweeping novel tackles universal questions like: how much control do we have over our own lives? And what lingering consequences do our actions have for others?
7. The Love of My Life (2022), Rosie Walsh
Rosie Walsh’s first book under her own name, The Man Who Didn’t Call (published as Ghosted in the U.S) was a New York Times bestseller. And her next novel, The Love of My Life, is certainly a worthy follow-up.
The Love of My Life centres around Emma and Leo. They live an idyllic life, with thriving careers, an adorable daughter, and a happy relationship. Although, when Emma falls ill, Leo, an obituary writer, begins to dig into his wife’s past and uncovers some astonishing secrets.
If you’re a fan of an exciting love story, Rosie Walsh’s new page-turner blends elements of romance and mystery.
8. Fairy Tale (2022), Stephen King
Seventeen-year-old Charlie Reade has had a troubled life. His mother was killed in a hit-and-run incident when he was just a child, and to cope, his father turned to the bottle. Although, when Charlie becomes a caretaker to an ageing recluse, Mr Bowditch (and his dog, Radar), he finally discovers his purpose.
But, out the back of Mr Bowditch’s house, there’s a locked shed containing an unbelievable secret. What Charlie finds in there will send him down a rabbit hole and into a realm of fairy tales.
This spellbinding fantasy epic is another home run for the master of storytelling.
9. The Marriage Portrait (2022), Maggie O’Farrell
In the 16th Century, Lucrezia de’ Medici, a member of the powerful house of Medici, was married to Alfonso II d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara. And after only a year of marriage, Lucrezia died.
The rumours that spread afterwards – that she was poisoned by the Duke – inspired one of Robert Browning’s most famous poems, and now Maggie O’Farrell brings Lucrezia’s story to life in The Marriage Portrait.
If you love reading period pieces, then this story of an exceptional young woman forced into a doomed marriage is sure to be a worthy addition to your autumn reading list.
Classic autumn books
10. Frankenstein (1818), Mary Shelley
Historians say that Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein when she won a friendly competition over who could come up with the best ghost story. And what started as a way to pass the time on a rainy afternoon soon became one of the most famous Gothic novels of all time.
More than just a spooky story, Shelly tackles some weighty themes like ambition, alienation, and the responsibility that comes with creation – the latter of which is particularly relevant in a world where technology is developing at an astounding rate.
11. The Catcher in the Rye (1951), J.D Salinger
There’s something about a coming-of-age story that’s perfectly suited to the autumn season. Maybe it’s something to do with the epic transition that the natural world is undertaking, or perhaps, more simply, the start of a new school/university year reminds us of our younger days.
Whatever it is, coming-of-age novels (referred to as ‘bildungsromans’, in the literary world) don’t get much better than The Catcher in the Rye. Consistently ranking in lists of the best novels ever written, J.D Salinger’s magnum opus tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a melancholic teenager with a sizeable chip on his shoulder, trying to find his place in the world.
12. The Hallowe’en Party (1969), Agatha Christie
Another classic to honour the spookiest season, Agatha Christie’s The Hallowe’en Party takes place at – you might have guessed – a Halloween party. But things turn sour, as they so often do in each of Christie’s whodunnits, when a murder occurs: enter everyone’s favourite moustachioed detective, Hercule Poirot.
The victim is 13-year-old Joyce Reynolds who, after confessing to witnessing a murder when she was a little girl, is drowned in a bucket used for apple bobbing.
Though probably not one of Christie’s best, if you’re a fan of murder mystery, this one will keep you engrossed on those long autumn evenings.
13. Autumnal Tints (1862), Henry David Thoreau
If you’re not in the mood for a novel but would still like to immerse yourself in some beautifully descriptive and poignant writing this autumn, why not give Autumnal Tints by Henry David Thoreau a go?
Essentially an ode to the season of autumn – in all its natural beauty and themes of life, death, and rebirth – this work of non-fiction originally appeared as an essay in an 1862 issue of The Atlantic. And while it’s available in book form, you can read it for free on their website here.
Blurring the line between essay and poetry, this isn’t exactly an easy read, but those who’re interested in nature writing and philosophy might enjoy this pick.
14. A Poem for Every Autumn Day (2020), edited by Allie Esiri
Though not a ‘classic read’ in its own right, A Poem for Every Autumn Day is jam-packed with classic poems from literary heavy hitters like Robert Louis Stevenson and William Shakespeare.
Designed to ‘keep you company every day of autumn’, this book will treat you to a steady stream of sonnets, villanelles, elegies, and more, all dedicated to this spectacular season.
New non-fiction picks
15. The Song of the Cell (2022), Siddhartha Mukherjee
Cells: they’re the building blocks that make up all living things, from the vegetables that we eat to the lips, tongue, and teeth that we eat them with. Although, many of us don’t know very much about them.
In his latest book, Pulitzer prize winner Siddhartha Mukherjee charts the history of the cell from its discovery in the late 1600s to our modern understanding of them and the scientific advances we can make by manipulating them.
The Song of the Cell is essential autumn reading for anyone interested in the human body.
16. Just Sayin’ (2022), Malorie Blackman
As an author of 60 books for children and young adults, as well as being the first person of colour ever to become a writer on Doctor Who, Malorie Blackman has had an astounding and influential life and career. And in her much-anticipated memoir, Just Sayin’: My Life in Words, she reflects on everything she’s been through.
From overcoming sickle cell disease, racism, and publishing rejection, to writing one of Britain’s best-loved YA novels and becoming a Children’s Laureate, Blackman takes us through all the highs and lows in her beautifully written prose.
Just Sayin’ is a perfect choice for aspiring writers and people looking for a bit of inspiration.
17. Undoctored (2022), Adam Kay
This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay’s unflinching and hilarious account about his time in the NHS – was a smash hit. Not only did it sell millions of copies but it also was also crowned Book of the Year at The National Book Awards and was made into a BBC series. But, as the book jacket of his new release states, that was only part of the story.
In Undoctored: The Story of a Medic Who Ran Out of Patients, Kay examines his time since leaving the NHS. With the same unrestrained and endlessly witty writing style, Kay ponders over old battle scars while looking to the future.
18. The Book of Phobias and Manias (2022), Kate Summerscale
People are strange. We all have our quirks and eccentricities, as well as our fears and desires. It’s part of what makes us interesting (and human!).
In The Book of Phobias and Manias, Kate Summerscale takes an interesting approach to help us understand why people do the things they do: by taking a deep dive into the world of phobias and manias.
Covering common conditions like arachnophobia (fear of spiders) to rare ones like aboulomania (pathological indecisiveness), Summerscale’s compendium is a great coffee table book choice.
If you’re looking forward to settling down with a few books this autumn, then we hope that this list has given you a few ideas.
For more reading ideas, why not head over to our books, literature, and writing section of our website?