Friday, November 6, 2015

Autumn/Winter Reads


Books, just like every other medium of entertainment, often fit a mood or a season. Late autumn and early winter has a dark, secretive feeling to me, and during the end of the calendar year I gravitate toward books that evoke mystery or a sense of things that are not as they seem. Below I've listed 10 books - some of them my absolute favourite pieces of literature - that I have enjoyed in the past or that I intend to re-read in the coming months, preferably curled up with a coffee and cozy blanket.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
As one of the most popular book series in the world, I assume that everyone has read them at least once. Harry Potter always feels like a quintessential series for autumn/winter because it chronicles events throughout the school year and leaves off at the summer holidays. Even though I know the story by heart, I still love to reread Harry & Co's adventures every so often to immerse myself in the wonderful wizarding world. 

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Anyone who knows me is aware of my deep love for Austen, particularly her (arguably) most famous work Pride & Prejudice. While P&P fits the summer mood perfectly, Northanger Abbey is a gothic parody and thus suits a darker setting. As with the rest of Austen's novels, Northanger Abbey is a romance, this time following a clergyman's daughter named Catherine Morland who is obsessed with gothic fiction and expects her life to follow that of her favourite novels. Though perhaps not one of Austen's most popular novels, Northanger Abbey is just as good a read as Sense & Sensibility or Pride & Prejudice, and I hope to reread it in the coming months.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's longest play and one of the most popular tragedies in English literature, Hamlet never fails to make me laugh, ironically enough. The revenge plot of Hamlet on his uncle Claudius, who has killed Hamlet's father (the king of Denmark), taken over the throne, and married Hamlet's mother, is dramatic and tragic, and yet the ending is so serious and dare I say over the top that I giggle every time. Consequently Hamlet is one of my favourite of Shakespeare's works, and I recommend it to anyone trying to fit a few classics into their reading life.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
If autumn/winter isn't the best time to read a classic vampire tale, I don't know when is. Told in epistolary form, the story tells of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he can spread his undead curse, resulting in a battle between himself and a small group of men and women who have seen firsthand what horror he brings. Though the story moves slowly and is far from the most action-packed vampire story ever told, Dracula has such an impact on the modern vampire tale and has spawned such a legacy that it deserves a read.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Historian earns much of its story from the legacy of Stoker's Dracula, and the plot derives much from the history of Vled Tepes and his fictional double Count Dracula. The adventure starts when a young woman finds a selection of her father's letters addressed to his "dear and unfortunate successor," and from there she unravels the mysteries of her family's dark past and the legends of Vlad the Ottoman ruler. Though it is essentially a vampire novel, it's more clever than the average read, and is well worth working past the slowly unfolding beginning (and it's my favourite book, if that lends any weight).

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
A seemingly favourite among young academics, The Secret History details a group of six young, eccentric college students who, under the influence of a classics professor, discover a new way of thinking and living that sets them apart from their fellow students. This change in mentality ultimately leads them to destruction and murder, and most of the novel is an inverted detective story trying to answer why rather than who. Though the story can come off as pretentious with its classics references, it is a smart, fun read that manages not to insult the reader.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This 19th century gothic tale is a classic horror story of science-gone-wrong. Featuring the young scientist Victor Frankenstein and his grotesque creation of life from human body parts, Frankenstein is a slow moving but emotional and thought provoking piece questioning the very nature of life and humankind and the responsibilities we bear towards others. While not the most uplifting of books, it's well worth its popularity.

The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman's 2013 tale of the power of childhood memories is frightening and full of magic. Narrated by an unnamed man, The Ocean At the End of the Lane follows a seven-year-old boy who stumbles upon an old farm full of magic and is entangled in an ages-old struggle between the farm family and an ancient, evil force. It's a short fairytale novel, which keeps the story sharp and exciting and leaves the reader with many questions.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Thus begins Susie's story, who after being murdered by her neighbour, watches from Heaven as her family and friends struggles to move on with their lives. Despite the devastating premise and a few downright chilling plot moments, The Lovely Bones is also a novel full of hope, and is significantly better than the film adaptation.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue & Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe, with his lasting legacy of horror, is an excellent author to indulge in during the winter months. The Murders in the Rue Morgue & Other Tales is the perfect collection to pick up, featuring madness and dark forces in some of his best and darkest works like "The Tell-Tale Heart" and of course the title piece. 


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