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Autumn Reads: Fall Books To Read By California Writers

Autumn Reads: Fall Books To Read By California Writers

The Bests, the Most Anticipateds, the Reccomendeds; Californian authors have quite the lineup for you this year.


5 min read

November 26, 2021

Every time autumn rolls in, there’s a slew of fall books that you should read. And why not? Nature loves a list—that’s how the saying goes, doesn’t it? The Bests, the Most Anticipateds, the Reccomendeds; Californian authors have quite the lineup for you this year. Whether you’re listening to an audiobook, popping by your local independent bookstores, or searching for the next fierce femme to add to your library, our final tally is the greatest companion to your pumpkin-spice-everything.

These Are The Best Books To Read This Fall

There’s no better smell than the spine of an old book. So many books, but not enough shelf space. Hold on, just one more page

On Freedom

By Maggie Nelson

Few books in the past half-decade have been as indelible to the discourse as Nelson’s The Argonauts, a mountain-moving autumn read of memoir-slash-cultural-criticism that meticulously dissected the ways we think about gender, intimacy, and parenthood. Now, the author returns with a volume of literary philosophy no less blazing. On Freedom is a collection of provocative essays about the felt complexities and patient labor of personal and political liberation.

So often deployed as too nationalistic or limited by a focus on fleeting moments of liberation, the topic of freedom can both rouse and repel—a rhetoric that both binds and divides. Does it remain crucial to our autonomy and well-being or is its long star turn coming to a close? On Freedom examines these questions by uncovering the concept’s complexities.

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness 

By Claire Vaye Watkins

For this year’s fall reading, we’re recommending you check out Claire Vaye Watkins’ I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness. The author’s debut novel—2015’s Gold Fame Citrus—was a post-apocalyptic tale set in a parched future America. Her follow-up, however, suggests that there’s no time like the present for catastrophe. A novelist embarks on a journey, leaving her family behind with little more than a breast pump and the weight of postpartum depression on her shoulders. This flight from her routine life, intended as a brief respite and a chance to reconnect with long-lost friends, transforms into a profound exploration of her independence, challenging the roles of wife and mother she has known. Her journey leads her back to the stark landscapes of the Mojave Desert of her youth, where she confronts the echoes of her past: a distant father, a first love marked by self-destruction, and an encounter with a notorious cult figure.

Navigating through these encounters, she searches for a way to reconcile with her past without the possibility of changing it. With a blend of boldness, intimacy, and humor, "I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness" emerges as an unmissable read this fall, showcasing Claire Vaye Watkins's prowess as a storyteller and reaffirming her status as a must-read author.

The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night. If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.

The Least of Us 

By Sam Quinones 

In "Dreamland," author Sam Quinones embarks on a journey from Mexico to the heartlands of America, chronicling the rise of the opioid crisis in a narrative that served as an early wake-up call to the nation. As the U.S. grappled with the aftermath, Quinones was one of the pioneers in identifying the looming threats of synthetic opioids and the evolution of drug trafficking. Fentanyl, a painkiller far more potent than morphine, emerged as a critical player in this saga. In his subsequent work, "The Least of Us," Quinones delves into the profound impact of fentanyl on society, linking it to increased mental health issues and homelessness. His insightful exploration into the drug trade, set against the backdrop of community stories, makes his books compelling reads, particularly fitting for the autumn season.

With only a quick look at a book, you may hear the voice of a person who has been dead for a millennium.

These Precious Days 

By Ann Patchett

Patchett, as a novelist, is well-versed in the destinies she crafts within her stories. Yet, real life often unfolds in ways that elude even the most imaginative storytellers. This dichotomy forms the heart of her reflective essays that delve deeply into the complexities of the human spirit and the intricacies of relationships. Central to "These Precious Days" is its namesake piece, a heartfelt exploration of an unforeseen friendship that examines what it means to truly understand and be understood, to encounter someone who allows you to be authentically and wholly yourself.

Little did Patchett know that her decision to peruse a collection of short stories by actor and producer Tom Hanks would dramatically alter her trajectory. This seemingly small act led her to meet Sooki, Hanks’ assistant, sparking a deep and meaningful connection that would enrich Patchett's life in unimaginable ways and forge lasting impacts on both of their lives.

Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book. There's more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.

A Splendid Intelligence: The Life of Elizabeth Hardwick

By Cathy Curtis 

Elizabeth Hardwick, hailing from Kentucky, moved to New York City in 1939 aboard a Greyhound bus and quickly established herself as an influential figure among the city's intellectual circles. Her life, rich in experiences, spanned periods of profound poverty, romantic adventures, and spirited debates with fellow writers, particularly those she critically reviewed in The New York Review of Books, a publication she helped to launch. She cultivated deep connections with literary giants such as Mary McCarthy, Adrienne Rich, and Susan Sontag, who all revered her for her incisive intellect, forward-thinking views, and exceptional writing skills.

Hardwick's journey was also marked by her tumultuous marriage to poet Robert Lowell, a union filled with love and challenges, especially as she supported him through his struggles with bipolar disorder. Cathy Curtis' engaging and insightful biography paints a detailed portrait of this remarkable woman, offering readers a compelling look into her life and legacy. It stands as a must-read this autumn, providing a window into the life of a woman who left an indelible mark on the literary world.

Classic Autumn Books to Read if You’re California Dreamin’

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.

Where I Was From

By Joan Didion

Golden State native Joan Didion takes a look at her home state in this thoughtful and well-researched piece of literary genius. Both proud and critical, Didion explores California’s past and present in this delicate autumn read, and nothing’s off-limits. From robber barons and water crises to thoughts on individualism versus incarceration, Didion’s craft shines throughout the pages, and her passion for this beautifully complex place is more than palpable.

Nothing else so exquisitely adorns a home as books, even though they are not meant to be furniture.

The Girls

By Emma Cline 

Perhaps one of the most buzzworthy books of 2016, Emma Cline’s novel takes place in 1960s Northern California. It follows teenager Evie Boyd, who—like many other young girls—feels like a bit of an outsider; that is until she meets the mesmerizing Suzanne and is drawn into a group of people following a charismatic (albeit dangerous) man. A tense, thrilling, and psychological book for fall reading, Cline’s take on coming-of-age is a tale unlike any other.

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