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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. Leaving behind her husband and daughter, a writer gets on a flight, carrying not much other than a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. Her temporary escape from domestic life and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends mutates into an extended breakaway from the confines of marriage and motherhood, eventually leading into a bottomless descent into the past. 

Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets a few of her ghosts—her father, her first love whose self-destructiveness still haunts her, and even a member of the most famous cult in American history. She can’t really go back in time to fix any of it, so how does she navigate through it all? Bold, intimate, and archly funny, I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness reaffirms Watkins as one of the best fall reads you’ll ever have.

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 

Golden State author Sam Quinones traveled from Mexico to main streets across the U.S. to create Dreamland, a pioneering depiction of the opioid epidemic that awakened the nation. As the United States struggled to put back the pieces, Quinones was among the first to see the dangers that lay ahead—synthetic drugs and a new generation of products. Traffickers found fentanyl to be a painkiller that’s a hundred times more powerful than morphine. As for The Least of US, Sam argues that fentanyl created swatches of mental illness and a surge in homelessness across the country. A weaving analysis of the drug trade into stories of humble communities, this fascinating book is ideal to read this fall.

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.

These Precious Days 

By Ann Patchett

As an author, Patchett understands what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns even the most literary powerful don’t see coming. The writer ponders this truth in wise essays that offer an in-depth look into the matters of the mind and heart. At the focus of These Precious Days is the title essay, a surprising and moving inspection of an unexpected friendship that explores the meaning of being seen; of finding someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self.

When Patchett chose to have a look at actor and producer Tom Hanks’ short story collection one night, she had no idea that this single choice would define the rest of her life. It would end up introducing her to a remarkable woman—Hanks’ assistant Sooki—a woman who would bring a profound bond into Patchett’s life and monumental consequences for them both.

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 

A Kentucky native, Elizabeth Hardwick left for New York City on a Greyhound bus in 1939 and swiftly made a name for herself as a vital member of the intellectual elite. Her fascinating and eventful life included long stretches of dire poverty, romantic escapades, and arguments with the authors she eviscerated in The New York Review of Books, of which she was a co-founder. She formed lasting friendships with literary alchemists like Marcy McCarthy, Adrienne Rich, and Susan Sontag, all of whom appreciated her sharp wit, progressive politics, and, of course, great penmanship.

Hardwick’s life and writing were shaped by a not-so-smooth marriage to the poet Robert Lowell, whom she adored. She also stood by faithfully through his episodes of bipolar illness. All this and more is explored in Cathy Curtis’ lively and illuminating biography—an intimate portrait of an exceptional woman is one of the best books to read this fall.

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.

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.

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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