Autumn Reading List | The Chuffed Store Autumn Reading List | The Chuffed Store

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There are few things I love more than snuggling up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of tea in autumn. Ideally to the sound of rain pattering ever so gently against a closed window and with a blanket wrapped around me. It can be hard finding the time to read as our routines return after the summer and we no longer feel that we have the headspace for it. But I think it’s crucial that we carry the ritual with us into this season during which we tend to be kept indoors more and slowly retreat more and more into our little shells, perhaps encountering, in a way, fewer strangers than in summer when the streets are full of life and we all seem to be better at smiling at one another. But in books you can meet people too, and in fact learn a whole lot about them. Let’s never stop trying to learn something about one another– whether it be the ways in which we differ or the million things we have in common.


The way I read changes with the seasons and I tend to welcome a bit more gloomy reads this time of year. Beneath are a mix of my all time favourites and some gems I’ve read recently. So here’s what I think you should be reading this autumn. I hope you find something you like.


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 

As an English literature student, I often get asked what my favourite book is. Well, here’s the answer. I have never felt so touched by and involved with a book’s characters as I did this one’s. I read it over a few weeks and found myself thinking about the characters as if I really knew them. I would catch myself, while cooking dinner or whatnot, thinking “Oh I wonder what Jude is up to today”, and spoke incessantly about the novel to everyone around me. I also have never sobbed as much reading a book as I did this one. The best way I can describe it, I think, is that it’s a book about friendship and how friends resemble both family and romantic relationships; a book that explores the inherent intimacy and depth of real friendship, in this case experienced through male eyes and bodies. Also, without giving too much away, it’s a terribly difficult and devastating read about trauma, sexual abuse, suffering, and the difficulties of recovery. You may have to take a little break from it sometimes, to process it, but it really is worth every second spent reading it. It takes place in New York City, which provides a brilliant, bustling backdrop to the story, and the four main characters are a diverse crew of young, artistic men trying to establish adult lives for themselves in the city. 



Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Spellbinding, fairytale-like, dystopian and alarming, Elsewhere is a novel that imagines and explores the lengths to which the patriarchy would go in order to control women and maintain an illusion in which they are made to think that motherhood is the greatest purpose they will ever serve. I truly cannot remember the last time I was so captivated by a book. I stayed up all night finishing it, finding it physically impossible to put it down. It certainly hasn’t happened since I was a child. Elsewhere did just that. I gasped for air at one point, I kid you not, that’s how thrilling it was. Schaitkin does an absolutely brilliant job of deceiving and shocking her readers while raising questions about the world as we know it. For the society we encounter in this book, hidden high up in the mountains, enveloped in a thick fog, is so very very alien to ours, but at the same time, so disturbingly alike our own, and this creates an unsettling complexity similar to what we find in Margaret Atwood’s work. 



Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Brooklyn is a beautiful tale of love, loss and immigration. It is the story of a young Irish girl in the 1950s and her emigration from a small Irish town to New York in search of a better life than the one laid out for her in Enniscorthy. It is saturated with a sadness, rooted in her longing for Ireland, that slowly lessens as the memories of home begin to fade and are replaced by new familiar faces. I felt entirely swept up in its setting and the pictures Tóibín paints with words, desperately wanting to be there myself. At the end, I wanted to write to Tóibín to ask about his choices because I couldn’t bear the way it played out. I felt so involved with the story that I experienced great sadness and rage on behalf of its characters. It’s a light read, despite its darker themes, and really rather romantic. Oh and if you end up liking his writing, you’re in for a treat, for Tóibín has a wonderful way of weaving his stories and characters into one another – despite them being independent stories having little to do with one another – so that you’ll encounter characters from one book in another, and be let in on little secrets as to how their lives played out. It’s genius! 


The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis

I swallowed this book on my tube rides to and from university last year, it is brilliant. Édouard Louis will be remembered, in the future, as one of the most important voices of the working class in France– you may mark my words. The End of Eddy is his debut novel, a coming-of-age story inspired by the author’s own, and an extraordinary portrait of entrapment. Brave in its brutally honest depiction of what it was like to grow up homosexual in a homophobic, patriarchal, misogynistic, working class enviroment in northern France, and devastating in its honesty, Louis has created a subject of political discussion to be taken very seriously. It provides unusual insight into a world ruled by toxic masculinity and toxic masculinity only. If you’re interested, he’s since written two more books; one about his father, called Who Killed My Father, and one about his mother and her escape from his father, called A Woman’s Battles and Transformations. I would get started now and read them in that order, if I were you! 



The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is one of my favourite writers and this book pierced a hole in my heart when I first read it. This first novel of hers was revolutionary in its placing African-American girls at the centre of the story and Morrison remains one of the world’s most important writers on race, in my opinion. Told and seen mostly through the voices and eyes of children, the story and its tone takes on a devastating vulnerability. It revolves around eleven-year-old Pecola, a young African-American girl from a poor family growing up in the aftermath of The Great Depression, who prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows. It is a novel charged with pain and the nightmare at the heart of her yearning. Morrison writes the inner workings of children’s minds, as well as the cruelty inherent to humankind when faced with threat, so truthfully that it hurts. 



Happening by Annie Ernaux

I’ve just finished this and I feel very moved by it. Characteristically, it’s an autobiographical piece of writing, in which Ernaux sifts through her memories and recollects her experience of having an abortion in 1963, a time where abortion was illegal. It’s a mosaic of fragmented writing made up of old journal entries dating from those days and present reflections that are trying to come to terms with, and understand, the trauma she’s suffered. Her memories of the world she was living in in 63, are grey-toned, bleak and characterised by an immense loneliness. There was no one to look to for support and barely any help to find. What carried, and carries, her through it all, is an underlying understanding of the traumatic event as a collective female experience, through which her story is embraced by the stories of so many others. Ernaux powerfully writes of her book that ‘(…) if I failed to go through with this undertaking, I would be guilty of silencing the lives of women and condoning a world governed by the patriarchy.’. Living in a world today where women are being deprived of the right to abort, and where it continues to be a subject of intense political discussion in many countries, I think it’s very important we’re reminded what a world without the right to abort looks like for women in reality. 


Exhalation by Ted Chiang 

Exhalation is a collection of science-fiction short stories. I gave this book to my boyfriend, who is impossible to buy books for, last Christmas, and it was the first physical book he finished reading in years. It was my brother, who also loved it, that recommended I buy it for him, and I couldn’t help myself from stealing it off his bedside table – despite not being the biggest sci-fi fan usually – and reading a few of its stories. They are thought-provoking, clever, provocative stories in which Chiang wrestles with the question of what it means to be human. It will leave you wondering where our world is headed and at what speed and cost. Each story deconstructs a highly complex idea, making it into a story that reads effortlessly and with pleasure. I was particularly fascinated by ‘What’s Expected Of Us’, a story wrestling with our understanding of free will. 



Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons vol. 1, 2 and 3

Koestler Arts is a prison arts charity which encourages people in the criminal justice system to change their lives by participating in the arts. Every year they put together a collection of poems written by prisoners around the UK. I went to the poetry reading of the 3rd volume at the Southbank Centre last autumn where a selection was read aloud, and I left with every single poetry collection they’ve ever published. Both my boyfriend and I were incredibly moved by the event. The way in which the different poets depict themes of loneliness, loss, regret and longing, is excellent. They watch the world go by outside their windows and battle coming to terms with the loss of it; the loss of the outside world and being part of it. Some of my favourite poems from vol. 3 include ‘I Think They Know’, ‘Plum Blossom (unswept)’ and ‘The Wrong Path’. If you live in London, I recommend you check out the event hosted by Koestler Arts at the Southbank Centre on October 27– it’s the same concept as last year, with poetry readings from their 4th volume.