The best atmospheric books for autumn

Who am I?

I’m a novelist who has primarily written in the dark fantasy and horror genre, which often embraces all things autumn. My first novel Black & Orange, its sequel, Nomads, and supplemental short story collection, Reaping October, all take place in autumn and focus on an encroaching dimension of darkness that would change life as we know it. Halloween isn’t just a holiday, it’s a different existence altogether. Having a love for the season and being its steadfast student, I’ve explored these atmospheric themes for decades. I have a solid opinion on what stories take you there.

I wrote...

Black & Orange

By Benjamin Kane Ethridge,

Book cover of Black & Orange

What is my book about?

My first novel, Black & Orange, roots itself in Halloween, but doesn’t adhere to its known origins. What if there’s an even darker truth about things like Jack O’ Lanterns, witches, and ghosts? What if those things exist in an evil dimension full of sacrifice and sorcery? What kind of people could save us if those things took over our world?

This novel won the Bram Stoker award. While different from other Halloween novels, the force of autumn is present. I adore the season. Coils of windblown leaves bring more hope in my heart than the anemic budding of spring flowers, a beach burnt by a summer sun, or the icy demands of winter. Black & Orange is an autumn feast prepared in another world.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Return of the Native

Benjamin Kane Ethridge Why did I love this book?

I read this novel in high school and it left an impression on my young mind, both as a reader and a writer. The main character, Eustacia Vye, longs for true love in her isolated world out on the blustery Egdon Heath. She has her eye on Clym Yeobright, who is set to return from Paris. But this wonderful gothic romance has other things in store for her, because Clym’s dreams are far different than her own. I recall lounging on my parent’s lazy boy in the den, reading about the Guy Fawkes festival, feeling the cold winds on the heath, smelling the damp brown and red leaves, and imagining indistinguishable, mysterious figures slowly emerging from the fog banks. This book breathes the season.

By Thomas Hardy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Return of the Native as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Thomas Hardy's most powerful works, The Return of the Native centers famously on Egdon Heath, the wild, haunted Wessex moor that D. H. Lawrence called "the real stuff of tragedy." The heath's changing face mirrors the fortunes of the farmers, inn-keepers, sons, mothers, and lovers who populate the novel. The "native" is Clym Yeobright, who comes home from a cosmopolitan life in Paris. He; his cousin Thomasin; her fiancé, Damon Wildeve; and the willful Eustacia Vye are the protagonists in a tale of doomed love, passion, alienation, and melancholy as Hardy brilliantly explores that theme so familiar throughout…

Book cover of Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Benjamin Kane Ethridge Why did I love this book?

Dragonlance books have a fond place in my heart. I read most of this series while in elementary school at a swift clip. The first installment begins in autumn and Weis and Hickman masterfully paint their world of dragons, dwarves, and elves with the appropriate hues and textures that make the journey an experience in atmosphere, as well as character and story. The world of Krynn is in trouble. As an evil army prepares for its final slaughter, the populace braces in fear. Only a small band of friends can save the world. Yet, these friendships may fracture. If you enjoy heroic fantasy, this book comes highly recommended. There is no better place to start than a tavern with a slow-smoking chimney in a forest of colorful, falling leaves.

By Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Dragons of Autumn Twilight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Dungeons & Dragons-inspired fantasy adventure is the first installment in the beloved Dragonlance Chronicles, set in the magical world of Krynn

Once merely creatures of legend, the dragons have returned to Krynn. But with their arrival comes the departure of the old gods—and all healing magic. As war threatens to engulf the land, lifelong friends reunite for an adventure that will change their lives and shape their world forever . . . 
When Tanis, Sturm, Caramon, Raistlin, Flint, and Tasslehoff see a woman use a blue crystal staff to heal a villager, they wonder if it's a sign the…

Book cover of The Lathe of Heaven

Benjamin Kane Ethridge Why did I love this book?

My uncle introduced me to The Lathe of Heaven. He explained the concept and I just had to read it. Set in the future, George Orr wakes up to discover his dreams can alter reality and he needs to understand why. Where the story goes from there, I will leave for new readers to discover, but it’s an incredible novel, with a particularly brooding Seattle atmosphere of endless rain. Living in Southern California most of my life, we never got much rain, but when we did, it usually came in autumn. Therefore, my memories of autumn are triggered by a relentless deluge. Guin’s novel concerns itself with dreams and the change they can bring. Seeing that autumn is the season of change, this story set my mind in that evolutionary state.

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Lathe of Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Her worlds have a magic sheen . . . She moulds them into dimensions we can only just sense. She is unique. She is legend' THE TIMES

'Le Guin is a writer of phenomenal power' OBSERVER

George Orr is a mild and unremarkable man who finds the world a less than pleasant place to live: seven billion people jostle for living space and food. But George dreams dreams which do in fact change reality - and he has no means of controlling this extraordinary power.

Psychiatrist Dr William Haber offers to help. At first sceptical of George's powers, he comes…

Book cover of The Inheritance: A Novel

Benjamin Kane Ethridge Why did I love this book?

I recall when Blockbuster Video had a books section they discontinued. I went and merrily bought anything I could get my bookwormy hands on. I found Tom Savage and was never the same. He is one of those authors that everybody should read, but few have. A master thriller writer, he uses so many twists, you never know where the story goes next. In this book, Holly is about to collect on an inheritance from the mysterious Randall family. Set in a spooky mansion, high above Long Island Sound, she discovers that fortune comes at a terrifying price. Wrought iron gates, moonlit nights, a shadowy mansion—this novel hits all the correct notes in an October symphony.

By Tom Savage,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Inheritance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


With these words, an ordinary young woman is ushered into a strange new world. Yesterday, she was Holly Smith, living a comfortable, middle class life in Southern California. Today, all that has changed. For Holly Smith is actually Holly Randall, born twenty-four years ago to a woman convicted of a heinous crime, and given up for adoption as an infant. Now, the mysterious death of a great aunt she never knew has made Holly one of the richest women in America–and heiress to a magnificent Connecticut estate.

In the beautiful mansion above Long Island Sound, they…

Book cover of The Shadow at The Bottom of The World

Benjamin Kane Ethridge Why did I love this book?

Thomas Ligotti writes dark magical realism short stories. The Shadow at the Bottom of the World is an unforgettable collection written by a modern master of atmosphere. His stories rarely have complicated plots, but the feeling they leave you with is the whole point. In the thousands of books I’ve read, I can safely say he writes like no other-- he enshrouds your spirit with dread. The title story showcases a small town that encounters the arrival of a threatening breed of darkness. Written with the stunning imagery of Bradbury, the mysticism of Lovecraft, and the disquieting tone of William S. Burroughs, this collection will have you brightening the blaze in the fireplace, just to make the shadows retreat.

By Thomas Ligotti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Shadow at The Bottom of The World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A longtime Lovecraft devotee, who has extended the weird tale to the next level via the likes of Borges and Burroughs, Thomas Ligotti is usually published as part of a general anthology of horror writers. But now Ligotti has pulled together a collection of his favorite fiction, both old and new, representing his best and most characteristic works.

Thomas Ligotti's stories are perhaps best described as dark magical realism. Many of his stories center on the distorted perspective of a frequently doomed narrator. The title story, "The Shadow at the Bottom of the World," reimagines a kind of Bradbury-like small…

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The River of Eternity

By Bruce Balfour,

Book cover of The River of Eternity

Bruce Balfour

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What is my book about?

1184 BCE. Ramesses III, who will become the last of the great pharaohs, is returning home from battle. He will one day assume the throne of the Egyptian empire, and the plots against him and his children have already started. Even a god can die.

Ray was raised with the teenage children of Ramesses as their friend, but his own mysterious past exposes him to threats inside and outside of the Egyptian court. When a prince is killed, Ray is framed for the murder and must run to protect Bull, the oldest son of Ramesses. So begins Ray’s dangerous journey from the snake pit of royal palace intrigue into a violent world of treachery and enemies that will take years to conquer if he can survive.

The River of Eternity

By Bruce Balfour,

What is this book about?

From the national bestselling author of The Forge of Mars and The Digital Dead, an Ancient Egyptian epic adventure thriller series, based on real events, for fans of Wilbur Smith, Steven Saylor, and Paul Doherty.

This is the first book of a series leading up to the event known as The Harem Conspiracy, the assassination of Pharaoh Ramesses III in New Kingdom Egypt (1184 BCE), which was led by members of his own family. Details were drawn from the first recorded judicial trial transcript ever recovered (Judicial Papyrus of Turin plus other fragments of the original papyrus).

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