Fall is descending on us, and even now the earliest leaves are starting to go. In fall, I like books full of introspection—books that I could read by the fire just as well as on the porch, depending on the weather. While very different from each other, in each of these books you’ll find great emotional depth and authors unafraid to ask the questions that make us who we are.
JACOB’S ROOM by Virginia Woolf
One of the first of its kind, Jacob’s Room is a famously plotless and meandering novel. It follows the life of Jacob Flanders, a tenacious and studious young man, as seen through the eyes of his mother, siblings, friends, teachers, lovers, etc. He charms many and confounds a few, and through Woolf’s activating prose you get the sense that it is in tiny, fleeting gestures that we may understand the most about the people around us. That we can only see people truthfully if we are first willing to look.
REAL LIFE by Brandon Taylor
This novel follows a weekend in the life of Wallace, a Black queer man from Alabama, as he navigates the fine social nuance of his friend group, college life, and love in a Midwestern college town. The novel follows Wallace closely, and Taylor’s gorgeous prose examines the subtle (and not so subtle) social cues through which Wallace is made to feel like an outsider by his closest friends, accepted by his community on the condition that he assimilates into it. When a hateful encounter makes this assimilation impossible to bear, Wallace is forced to reckon with the ways his situation stifles who he truly is.
PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK by Annie Dillard
This is Dillard’s most well-known work, and for good reason. In the tradition of transcendentalist writers like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dillard commits herself to live in solitude in a cabin in the woods, observing the changing seasons around her and the awesome and awful goings-on of the flora and fauna. Dillard relishes every Virginia sunset, every stone and critter. Her awe is infectious.
DRACULA by Bram Stoker
I know, I know. Dracula in autumn, how cliché. But let me suggest our copy of Dracula, a velvet-covered edition illustrated by Edward Gorey. Gorey’s style, both whimsical and spooky, seems like it was crafted just for the purpose of illustrating this classic work. Soon you will be picturing Stoker’s scenes in Gorey’s hand as you read.
IN THE DREAM HOUSE by Carmen Maria Machado
A memoir told in vignettes, In the Dream House details the turmoil of the abusive relationship between Machado and her girlfriend. Machado uses the fairy tale to frame her experiences, demonstrating how abusive relationships are present in our cultures in unhealthy ways, as well as the lack of resources for understanding abuse in queer relationships. Machado weaves the cultural and the personal seamlessly, and to devastating effect. As a reader, you too feel trapped in a house of phantoms.
All the books Lily recommends are available for checkout from the Galesburg Public Library.