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Jack O' Lanterns by macwagen

BOOKS YOU NEED TO READ IN THE FALL (AND WHAT TO WEAR WHILE YOU DO)

September 30, 2023

Ava Balbuena

There is no way to impress upon you how integral literature is to my life. My summer breaks are a whirlwind of dog-eared pages and Kindle downloads. I log more screen-time on Goodreads than on Canvas. As a comparative literature major, I think I allow my reading to control me a bit more than most others would. Whatever book I’m carrying around doesn’t just dictate my mood, but my coffee order and which library I’m drawn to for the day. Why shouldn’t it decide what I wear as well? I’m of the opinion that there is no accessory more functional than a book. As you get bundled up this fall, let a paperback be the finishing touch... 

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The Woman in White By Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins invented the epistolary novel with The Woman in White. Written as a collection of statements and diary entries from various characters in the story, the mosaic of perspectives only amplifies the dizzying effect of the sensational novel. Blackwater Park, the estate where much of the novel occurs, is an almost-sentient malevolent force, with abandoned wings and towers where evil husbands lock their innocent wives. With deeply atmospheric writing, Collins transports you from Providence to 19th century Northern Ireland, where I’m sure it’s much more romantic to recover from the life-threatening cold you got while eavesdropping.

 

To suggest a white dress to don while reading would be too easy. Instead, take notes from Marian Halcombe, who I’m certain would have worn baggy jeans every day if she wasn’t forced to wear a crinoline petticoat. Incorporate a boxier silhouette, like a blazer, or cardigan so oversized that it borders on grandpa-chic. Don’t forget to bring a notebook along for the ride– you never know when you’ll need to document a murder.

Bunny by Mona Awad

Mona Awad got her MFA at Brown, immediately making her novel relatable to today’s Providence cohort. Samantha Heather Mackey, the main character in the novel, is an MFA student at an Ivy League university down the street from a prestigious art school, in a city she nicknames “The Lair of Cthulu.” The similarities are a little too glaring for Warren University to be anywhere other than Brown. A gripping combination of gore and psychological thriller is balanced by “the Bunnies,” a micro-cult of girls in pastel dresses, pink lip gloss, and migraine-inducing braided updos. As Samantha dissolves into their clique, she discovers what has brought them so close. With all the familiar scenery of fall on Brown’s campus, and the mystery that defines autumnal literature, Bunny needs to burrow its way onto your shelf.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Vampires are a fall staple. A blend of campus boots and jewel tones. And who better to kick off fall than the OG vampire, Dracula himself? Bram Stoker’s classic opens with Jonathan Harker traveling to Count Dracula’s castle. Buried in the mountains of Transylvania, his journey begins on a fateful night when “all the evil things in the world will have full sway.” Dracula doesn’t just utilize the hallmarks of gothic horror, it invented them. If you still aren’t inspired to undertake the 400 pages in the peak of midterm season (your loss), the film adaptation stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Gary Oldman.

 

Though the novel takes place in 1890s London, I wouldn’t recommend you wear any “leg-o-mutton” sleeves while reading. Instead, pair long lace slips with excessive jewelry. You might not have to worry about a centuries-old leech latching to your neck, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t play it safe and stack five to nine pounds of chunky necklaces and long-chain pendants. Jonathan and Mina’s romance inspires soft, romantic silhouettes, but let the weight of responsibility in eradicating Dracula manifest in heavy boots and metric tonnes of jewelry. 

The Fall of he House of Usher and Other Writings by Edgar Allan Poe

“I looked at the scene before me – at the house itself – at the ground around it – at the cold stone walls of the building – at its empty eye-like windows – and at a few dead trees.” Doesn’t it just sound like walking up to the SciLi? This collection of short stories spans genres, from gothic horror to the first detective fiction story. Between Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Tell-Tale Heart, the enormity of Poe’s literary influence is quickly apparent through the pieces gathered. The collection of essays, stories, and poetry offers something for everyone, whether it’s a valentine with the name of Poe’s beloved hidden in its stanzas or violent locked-room mysteries that leave you questioning the morals of Poe’s great detective Dupin. 


This is the perfect “reading by the fire with a warm mug of something spiced” book, so dress accordingly. It’s finally time for the chunky knits and braided hair, for dark wash jeans and the Sambas that are defining Fall 2023. 90s and 2000s rom-coms are back on our screens this season– borrow a turtleneck from Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail or Rory Gilmore’s iconic fisherman sweater.

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” Daphne DuMaurier invented suspense with Rebecca. No need to fact check me on that. Rebecca is a novel about a young woman swept off her feet to a dream house haunted by memories of the dead wife she’ll never live up to. The narrator is never named, only amplifying how unimportant she feels to the story of her own life. She’s the other woman in her own marriage. It’s a classic book that everyone must read at some point and there’s no better time than the fall, when dark clouds loom like Rebecca’s presence at Manderley. 

 

Rebecca was unmatched. So much cooler than whoever narrated the novel. Leather jackets, mocha cherry nails, and smudgy black eye makeup. I’m not sure that’s exactly how she wooed Maxim, but I know that if she was around today, going to Brown or RISD, she would be the influencer we all follow, balancing a residency at Art Bar with her honors thesis. 

Whether you breeze through Bunny or commit to undertaking Dracula this season, leave some time for a novel or two. Now that I’ve finished the aforementioned books, I’m reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. It’s only fitting that I wear military surplus-sourced cargo shorts and soft knit sweaters.

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