5 Books to Add to Your Fall Reading List

By Brett
Listen or read.

Whether you prefer audio books, tablets, or good old-fashioned paper, now is the perfect time to curl up with a book and explore new worlds found between the margins. So, kick back, relax, and get lost as you leaf through these great reads, whether in the comfort of your house or on vacation.

To Make Room for the Sea

Adam Clay

The inside of the trees seem like understories
to their leaves.

How do we confront the idea that nothing is permanent? In To Make Room for the Sea, Adam Clay’s poems, “examine a landscape that resists full focus, and conclude that ‘it’s easier to love what we don’t know.’” Clay’s speaker traverses through familiar scenes of everyday life, such as the dreaded blue screen of death, biscuits at the breakfast table, while also fixating on observations of nature that are ripe with anthropogenic grief with lots of shifts from the present to the past with uneasiness about what the future holds.

However, these poems carry hope for what is to come through the meditations of fatherhood, as “life finds its way into the cracks of the world like water” as it enriches the earth allowing the possibility for new growth—a potential for change.

Adam Clay is the author of four collections of poems: To Make Room for the Sea, Stranger, A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World, and The Wash. He is editor of Mississippi Review, a coeditor of Typo Magazine, and a book review editor for Kenyon Review.

FUZZ: When Nature Breaks the Law 

Mary Roach

“So she looks in her rearview mirror,” one is saying, “and there’s a bear in the back seat, eating popcorn.” When wildlife officers gather at a conference, the shop talk is outstanding.”

FUZZ is the latest series of nature essays from Mary Roach as she examines the spaces where wildlife and humans meet. Roach brings her trademark wit as she rides along with animal-attack forensic investigators, bear managers, and other wildlife management groups as she reveals what happens to nature’s lawbreakers.

Those familiar with the North Shore will recognize a couple of familiar “lawbreakers,” such as bears breaking and entering houses or dumpsters and why deer fail to move out of our way near roadsides. Roach’s investigations lead to the conclusion that “humans are more often the problem—and solution” detailing advancements and studies to help both wildlife and humans coexist in spaces humanity has encroached upon.

Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestsellers STIFF, SPOOK, BONK, GULP, GRUNT, and PACKING FOR MARS. Her new book FUZZ: When Nature Breaks the Law, was released in September 2021, with a paperback released in August 2022. Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.

The Man Who Could Move Clouds 

Ingrid Rojas Contreras

"The biggest thing I have learned all these years, Mami confided in a low voice, is that nobody wants the truth, but everyone wants a story."

The Man Who Could Move Clouds, features a ghost story of a familial sort, Ingrid Rojas Contreras writes a deeply personal account and telling of her family’s legacy. Her maternal grandfather had been a renowned healer in the community; a curandero. He possessed what they called "the secrets:" the power to communicate with spirits, see into the future, heal those who were sick, and even move clouds. Contreras spent her days of youth growing up in Colombia eavesdropping on her mom’s fortune-telling clients and anticipating reports of her mom’s apparition visiting other's houses thousands of miles away.

When Rojas Contreras, now in the United States, got a head injury in her twenties that resulted in amnesia--an accident reminiscent of a fall her mother took as a child, from which she woke up not only with amnesia but also the ability to see ghosts. Her family now suspected "the secrets" had passed down again. From here, she spins a powerful tale with a dreamlike narrative as she relearns her family’s history, tracing back to her Indigenous and Spanish roots. The results of which yield the violent and rigid colonial narrative that would eventually break her family into two camps: those who believe "the secrets" are a gift, and those who think they are a curse.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her first novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree was the silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor's choice.

Halloween Double Feature

The Fifty-Year Sword 

Mark Z. Danielewski

And Chintana felt / something within / her part / like a wail. / Butterflying / hope and hold

The Fifty-Year Sword, a short novella by Mark Z. Danielewski, at its heart is a ghost story. At a Halloween party hosted by 112-year-old Mose Dettledown, Chintana - a needlewoman - finds herself trying to avoid Belinda Kite. Unfortunately, Belinda has had an affair with Chintana's husband. To distract herself, Chintana instead listens to a story being told to five orphans by a shadowy figure who introduces himself as "a bad man with a very black heart". He carries with him a box marked “T50YS”. Within this tale, the figure tells a gothic story of swords which can kill seasons, countries and even ideas. To summarize further, would spoil the novella and the experience of reading a Mark Z. Danielewski text.

Books written by Danielewski are best enjoyed in old fashioned print, and The Fifty-Year Sword is no exception. The text itself is cut up (Chintana is a needlewoman after all) and stitched together with featuring fall-colored quotations, for five speakers. Plus, there are beautifully stitched artwork displayed across the pages. There is an e-book version available if you must choose digital.

 House of Leaves

 Mark Z. Danielewski

“The greatest love letters are always encoded for the one and not the many.”

House of Leaves, published in 2000, is Mark Z. Danielewski’s debut novel. The plot focuses on a fictional documentary about a family whose house contains a seemingly endless hallway (“it’s bigger on the inside”) that spirals into a labyrinth. Much like with the Fifty-Year Sword, to expand upon that simple summary would be a disservice to the book and reading of the text itself.

However, it’s been often described as a horror story, with the book featuring multiple narrators (with fonts signaling who is speaking and at time interacting with each other on the page), footnotes, and text arranged in ways that create feelings of agoraphobia and at times claustrophobia to those who choose to read the book, and requiring physical manipulation of the book by turning the book into different orientations to make sense of it all. Or at least have the reader attempt to and draw his or her own conclusions, as the author himself disputes the description of House of Leaves as a horror story. (The featured quote should point to my own interpretation and disagreement as it simply being a horror story.)

Mark Z. Danielewski is the author of the award-winning and bestselling novel House of Leaves, National Book Award finalist Only Revolutions, and the novella The Fifty Year Sword. Between 2015 and 2017, Pantheon released five volumes of The Familiar, each an 880-page installment about a 12-year-old girl who finds a kitten and sets off a chain reaction with global consequences. His latest release, The Little Blue Kite was released in 2019.

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