As we stumble out of a stagnant summer, the ever-growing number of rainy days turns our attention towards the encroaching autumn. We’ve compiled our favourite transitional books; stories which document change and growth to help you read your way through the changing of the seasons.
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
When you are young, each new experience pushes you further into adulthood and further away from childhood. Sweet Sorrow follows the transitional summer of 16-year-old Charlie Lewis after his GCSE exams. This summer is a liminal space between childhood and the rest of his life; when he simultaneously feels he has the world at his feet, and like it is the end of life as he knows it. Being told retrospectively, adult Charlie reflects on this life-changing summer – falling in love, losing friends, making new ones, and pushing his own boundaries – showing the catastrophes of being a teenager and the survival at the other side.
Compliment your reading by listening to “Changing of the Seasons” by Two Door Cinema Club and eating a cold ice lolly.
The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
This is the coming-of-age story of Esperanza, a 12-year-old Chicana girl living in Chicago. Told in a series of vignettes, it is loosely based on Cisneros own experience growing up as a Mexican American. Esperanza’s narrative is oriented around her family’s time spent living in the house on Mango street. She yearns for a house like she sees on TV - one in a whiter, affluent space - and deals with feelings of suffocation, navigating her transition from childhood to adulthood in a space that she’s not proud of. As she grows, she comes to understand that her neighbourhood has made her who she is.
This book would be a perfect way to begin the day, a cup of green tea in hand.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
This short, addictive fantasy novel is all about children from portal fantasies adjusting to reality after returning from their otherworldly adventures. The story takes place at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, where these young people work through their jarring life transitions together. When a treacherous mystery overtakes the establishment, the characters’ lives take a dark turn. The isolated location of the setting induces a woodsy vibe that is perfect for those who can’t wait for autumn.
I would suggest listening to “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. or watching the music video for “Cardigan” by Taylor Swift to get into the mood for this whimsical read.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie through the form of letters as he tells the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school, one of the most transitional periods of our lives. Caught between trying to live his life and run from it, it’s a deeply affecting coming-of-age narrative, suggesting we all make our own futures. Relatable, insightful, and poignant in tone, Chbosky explores the naivety of teenage life, friendship, heartbreak, first dates and new friends. This book will transport you back to that wild and transitional period in your life known as high school.
Perks is a long summer night and best consumed while listening to “Heroes” by David Bowie, perfect for making you feel infinite.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Secret History is considered a classic by many. Tartt perfectly encapsulates the emotions of being a young adult and feeling like you are on the outside, even if you’re on the inside. Written as a murder mystery in reverse, The Secret History is an extreme version of a coming-of-age book. It captures the transition of summer into autumn by casting a mature eye over the adventures of youth as the sunny haze fades and the cold reality of a situation settles.
For a perfect musical companion, Breezeblocks by Alt J consolidates the chaotic nature of the plot as well as the desperation of the narrator.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Autumn ‘arrives without warning’ – just like The Night Circus – with long summer nights giving way to cool breezes and rainy showers. Just as the monochrome brilliance of the circus comes to life at night, autumn provides a blanket of darkness perfect for exploring tales of spell-binding fantasy mixed with romance and mystery.
The story of two young magicians, Celia and Marco are locked in a fierce, and deadly, game against each other. Set against a backdrop of fantastical and enchanting events, it becomes clear that the two young lovers are not only fighting for their own survival but for those closest to them.
A perfect autumn curl-up, don your cosiest cardigan, grab a pumpkin spice latte and let The Night Circus captivate you.