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What better way to usher in the autumn season than with a cup of pumpkin-spiced tea in one hand and a book in the other? With California’s fall foliage on full display and the summer heat gone, now is the time to compile an autumn reading list that’ll transport you to another dimension.
Whether you’ve been wanting to read a well-known classic or finish that last novel on your summer reading list, you can keep yourself busy this autumn by flipping those pages and losing yourself in new stories. So, get ready to visit the best used bookstores in California and find your next read: From memoirs to sci-fi novels, here are several books to include in your fall reading list.
“Muscles aching to work, minds aching to create—this is man.”
Your fall reading list needs to have at least one book by John Steinbeck. The “giant of American letters” wrote his greatest work in 1939: The Grapes of Wrath. One of his finest and most ambitious novels, the classic California-based book tells the story of an Oklahoma family making their way to the promised land of California during the Great Depression.
Portraying the injustice and strength of the powerful and the powerless, this Pulitzer Prize-winning epic perfectly captures the mood and angst of the times. The novel depicts the horrors and the harsh realities of the Great Depression—chronicling the pain and suffering Americans endured during that time.
“Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of 'wrong' ideas.”
In the mood for an insightful, thought-provoking book written by one of the greatest science-fiction authors of all time? Then it's time you add Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred to your fall reading list. Combining historical fiction with fantasy and slave memoir, Kindred tells the story of a young Black woman named Dana. Finding herself wrenched back in time, she is transported to a pre-Civil War plantation in Maryland. There, she meets a proud Black freewoman who happens to be her ancestor as well as a white planter who has forced her into slavery and concubinage.
Exploring the dynamics of antebellum slavery and the intersection of power, gender, and race issues, Kindred is a must when it comes to fall reading—especially since the Butler is one of California’s Black writers you should know.
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“The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life.”
Written by San Francisco native Jack London, the events of The Call of the Wild take place during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush. The main character, Buck, is a dog who's taken away from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. Given the harsh environment, Buck gradually becomes more savage and gains keen survival skills, dominating other hounds in the process. The tale of the unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen tundra is perfect for fall reading.
“I was born gifted. I can speak of my gifts with little or no modesty, but with tremendous gratitude, precisely because they are gifts, and not things which I created, or actions about which I might be proud.”
Legendary singer, songwriter, activist, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Joan Baez describes her illustrious career in this memoir, reflecting on her power as an artist, those who influenced her, and those she championed. With an intimate and heartfelt narrative, And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir captivates readers with the recollections of the people and events that inspired her albums. She also recalls her harrowing experiences as an advocate for peace, so the memoir will resonate as much with readers interested in the anti-war movement as it will with fans of Baez, who moved to California when she was a teenager. The beautifully written work is as honest, unpretentious, and courageous as Baez is, making it the perfect addition to your fall reading list.
“Sometimes things are just what they seem to be and that's all there is to it. The best interpreter of the dream is the dreamer.”
The last completed novel by German-American author Charles Bukowski is Pulp. His works are heavily influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambience of his hometown of Los Angeles. The novel focuses on the obsessions of the pulp fiction genre, often acting as a meta-pulp work. Making fun of the writing as a stereotypical example of the genre, Bukowski displays his acceptance of his own pending mortality in the book. Spice up your fall reading list and include this novel showcasing Bukowski’s sense of humor and love of realism.
“I was confusing familiarity with happiness. Because that was there even when love wasn't...”
Sonoma native Emma Cline published her debut novel, The Girls, in 2016. The book received positive reviews thanks to its deep and intelligent narrative. Loosely inspired by the Manson Family and the murder of actress Sharon Tate, The Girls takes place in 1960s Northern California. The novel follows 14-year-old Evie Boyd, who feels lonely and unloved. Boyd meets the fascinating Suzanne, who spends most of her time on a ranch with other girls. The group takes in Boyd and introduces her to the ranch’s dangerously charismatic leader, Russell—shortly after, chaos ensues. Although the story seems familiar, this daunting, coming-of-age psychological thriller will have you on the edge of your seat.
“I am ashamed she is ashamed. Because she is my daughter and I am proud of her, and I am her mother but she is not proud of me.”
The Joy Luck Club revolves around conflicts between Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-raised daughters. The novel features 16 interwoven stories told from eight different perspectives. Four mothers residing in San Francisco start The Joy Luck Club; the women meet to play mahjong and eat dim sum as they discuss the struggles with their daughters. (An interesting fact about the novel is that the story itself is structured like a mahjong game and split into four sections.)
The Joy Luck Club shows how mothers and daughters cause pain to each other but deep down possess a tremendous amount of love and respect—nothing compares to a mother-daughter relationship. A must-add to your fall reading list, this book will make you want to call your mom and talk for hours.
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