"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time
to sit still and watch the leaves turn."
We usually imagine leaves from trees turning into autumn colours when we read this quote by Elizabeth Lawrence. But today, I'm thinking more about pages in a good book turning leaf by leaf through a fascinating novel, a cozy mystery, or something inspirational from a favourite non-fiction author.
Around here, autumn has truly settled in. So far, it's still sunny and warm during the day, but we now don a sweater if we plan to wander through streets lined with yellow topped trees in the fading light of an evening. And, thoughts turn homeward where we think of cozy nooks, mulled ciders, lamps aglow on table tops, woolly shawls....and books. Piles and piles of books. On bedside tables, by the fireplace, around comfy wingback chairs.
A dear blogging friend recently emailed me asking if I would share a list of my favourite autumn books. Although I'm not up on the latest novels and stories these days, I decided to share a list of my long-time favourites—reads I tend to reach for this time of year when evenings grow dark. It didn't take long to gather a small pile on the floor by my desk. Hopefully you'll find one in the list you haven't read before or be inspired to reach for your own copy and read it all over again.
1. Autumn from the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch
This book is listed as a cookbook, but in true Susan Branch style, Autumn is so much more. Alongside Susan's yummy recipes, like Ginger Crisps and Butternut Squash Soup, these pages are chock full of seasonal art and crafts, cheerful quotes, and leafy sketches, not to mention Susan's little stories that make us feel cozy and warm. Last year, I made her star pumpkin lanterns which made for a fun afternoon in time to hand out candy to children at the door. If you love everything Autumn, then this book is a must for your library!
Opening Lines: A quote from Gladys Taber ... "We are in for a spell of perfect weather now, every day luminous, every night brimmed with stars. Picnics at noon, supper by the applewood fire at night, a walk in the cool moonlight before bed."
2. Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Windy Poplars is the fourth book in the Anne of Green Gables series written by Canadian author L.M. Montgomery. If you haven't read the earlier Anne books, I highly recommend reading those first -- they make for cozy reading too. However, it's enough of a stand alone story that a reader could enjoy this book even if you haven't read them.
I love to read this story in the Fall -- the novel opens in September where Anne Shirley, now a teacher living away from Green Gables somewhere else on Prince Edward Island, Canada, unfolds her new life in letters addressed to her now-fiance, Gilbert Blythe. She writes from her cozy little room where shadows play in corners, lamps send out their comforting glow on a dark evening, and contented kitty-cats purr away in some warm spot.
Opening Lines: A letter from Anne Shirley to Gilbert Blythe. Address is Windy Poplars, Spook's Lane, S'side, P.E.I., dated Monday, September 12th. "Dearest, Isn't that an address! Did you ever hear anything so delicious? Windy Poplars is the name of my new home and I love it. I also love Spook's Lane, which has no legal existence. It should be Trent Street but it is never called Trent Street except on the rare occasions ... I have already asked Rebecca Drew about it, but all she can say is that it has always been Spook's Lane and there was some old yarn years ago about its being haunted. But she has never seen anything worse-looking than herself in it."
3. Jenny Walton's Packing for a Woman's Journey by Nancy Lindemeyer
If you are Victoria magazine fan, you'll no doubt recall Nancy Lindemeyer was the magazine's wonderful founding editor. In an old September issue (1995), she tells her readers of a running conversation she once had with her son about the seasons of the year. His favourite season was spring, hers was fall. He asked, "How can you like misty mornings and falling leaves instead of clear spring mornings and trees in fresh green?" Her answer was always the same ... she is a romantic, and as a romantic, she loved rainy days and fall afternoons because they gave her time to reflect. I totally understand that, don't you?
You may also remember that Ms. Lindemeyer contributed a column in the magazine's early years under the name Jenny Walton. Packing for A Woman's Journey is a selection of those pieces, in which she recalls memories of the large Victorian home of her Connecticut childhood, a knitting club with high school chums, and her grandmother's homespun wisdom and skills. As one review put it, these essays muse on the activities and sentiments traditionally associated with domesticity, or, as Lindemeyer puts it, "the beauty of a woman's life through the artfulness of the things she has gathered about her."
Even though this lovely little book isn't 'autumnal' per se, you'll sense its warmth and loveliness in every page which makes it a perfect read for this time of year.
Lines From the Foreword: "My girlhood was not unlike that of many others of my time, nor, really of today. Our clothes are different; but being cared for, accepting that care, and all the while learning what love is about -- these are timeless. But there are ways in which my growing up was unusual, not to mention unique."
4. Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie
This is one of my top favourite Agatha Christie novels. It's a day in November when Miss Jane Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London. She finds that Bertram's, though now a restored London hotel with traditional decor and impeccable service, is just as she remembers it when she visited as a girl. Beneath the clatter of china teacups and the happy chatter with old acquaintances over hot buttered scones and real seedcake, there lurks an unmistakable atmosphere of danger. It's time to pour yourself a cup of tea and sink into this mystery as Miss Marple knits away by the fireside in the hotel's comfortable lobby.
Opening Lines: "In the heart of the West End, there are many quiet pockets, unknown to almost all but taxi drivers who traverse them with expert knowledge, and arrive triumphantly thereby at Park Lane, Berkeley Square or South Audley Street. ... Bertram's (has been) patronized over a long stretch of years by the higher echelons of the clergy, dowager ladies of the aristocracy up from the country, girls on their way home for the holidays from expensive finishing schools. ('So few places where a girl can stay alone in London but of course it is quite all right at Bertram's. We have stayed there for years.')
5. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
Essential Ingredients became an instant top favourite for all time ... and maybe eternity too. Truly! From the first word to the last, I was drawn in and captivated by this memorable story, its characters, and its sensual, inviting ambience. Exquisitely written, this book creates a perfect recipe for escaping from life's stresses.
Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant kitchen for a cooking class. They come with different reasons for taking the class. One by one, they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.
This reader was transformed too. The first time I read the book, I read as slowly as I could, savouring every word, every scene, every page. And when I finally got to the last word in the book, I went back to the first page and started over ... this time reading it aloud to my husband over the next few days. He was as captivated -- the story, so rich in sensual descriptions, made us feel so alive to our own five senses.
Opening Lines: Lillian loved best the moment before she turned on the lights. She would stand in the restaurant kitchen doorway, rain-soaked air behind her, and let the smells comes to her -- ripe sourdough yeast, sweet-dirt coffee, and garlic, mellowing as it lingered. Under them, more elusive, stirred the faint essence of fresh meat, raw tomatoes, cantaloupe, water on lettuce. Lillian breathed in, feeling the smells move about and through her, even as she searched out those that might suggest a rotting orange at the bottom of a pile, or whether the new assistant chef was still doubling-dosing the curry dishes. She was. ....
See... don't you just want to keep reading? Go, find that book. I can't imagine you'll be disappointed one tiny bit!
I started this post earlier in the day, and now that I'm wrapping it up to sign off, I see outside my window the warm, sunny day with blue skies has transformed into a blustering, wildly overcast evening. Where's my sweater?
We'd love to hear about your own recommendations for cozy fall reading.
On that bookish note, I'm wishing you a cozy rest of the day.
Top photo: ptrikutam from unsplash.com