Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Books of Autumn... and The Best Places to Read Them

The Books of Autumn...
and The Best Places to Read Them

A lot of fuss is made about summer reading.  I’m as guilty of this as anyone.  Choosing the one, or two, special books to take along with you on a summer holiday is vitally important to the success of that holiday.  How dreadful it would be to return in the evening to your rented cottage at the shore, sated and slightly sunburned, climb into that porch hammock that sways ever so slightly in the ocean breeze, open up the special book you’ve brought to read for the week, and discover it’s as boring as a textbook, or worse, dumb as a teenager’s diary.  No, summer reading deserves all the attention it receives.

But for me, the really interesting season for books always starts in autumn.  Beginning in September, the release dates of my favourite authors line up like train departures, all the way through November till they culminate in that wonderfully tempting lineup of Christmas books, a clutch of special titles designed to tempt even the most disinterested.
For the reader, it seems we turn the clocks back every year just to gift us with more atmospheric hours in which to pull our chairs a bit closer to the fire, position our mugs of tea just so, invite our dogs to curl up on our feet, and crack open that one magic book that will reach out and envelope our reality so completely we will simply cease to exist in the present. This is the time of year that my handbag is always just a little bit heavier, a fat book being forever inside in case I pass a particularly inviting park bench beneath an especially colourful maple tree.  It’s the season when the stack of enticing titles by my bed grows precariously tall, the television is rarely switched on, and Edward gets many absentminded scratches behind his ears as he lays contentedly beside me, big white head in my lap, as I read.
So on this first day of fall, in honour of this special time of literary bounty, 
here are a few of the books catching my eye at present
 along with a few places and scenarios that seem to fit them.
 Click on the book covers to find out more about them.
 Do enjoy!

Inspiring Creativity
The first time you saw this place, you knew it had to be yours, though at the time it looked much different, filled as it was then with boxes and crates and covered over with a grey shroud of ancient dust.  You signed the lease that very day and set about transforming this old attic room into your own cabinet of curiousities, the one place in the old city where your secrets could roam freely, your creativity flourish unleashed.  It’s been years now, and still your heart skips a beat or two when you turn off Piccadilly and head down the dark, tiny side street.  You open the heavy leaded door to the tailor’s shop, nod to the varying collection of bespoke suited men inside and make your way to the twisting staircase behind the fabric storage room.  Climbing up to the attic, you take the large Victorian key out of your coat pocket, open the door and... sigh, you are home once more.  You turn the kettle on and when the transferware teapot is full, you reach for a sack of new books, books about inspiring people, books that promise to spark your imagination and cause you to dream even more fanciful dreams.

Grace, A Memoir
The life of American Vogue’s beautifully enigmatic creative director, Grace Coddington. 
In her own words. 
 Need I say more?

Alexander McQueen, The Life and the Legacy
by Judith Watt
With a foreword by his good friend, Daphne Guinness, this book promises to be the definitive biography of this much-missed genius of fashion.

Stella Adler on America’s Master Playwrights
Edited by Barry Paris
Great acting is a complete mystery to me because with the truly great actors one never sees the effort, never notices the technique.  Stella Adler was one of the world’s most revered acting teachers and in this book, compiled from her many lectures, she illuminates some of America’s most celebrated plays and playwrights, most of whom she knew intimately.
  One has to be fascinated by a woman who once told writer Clifford Odets,
 “Clifford, if you don’t become a genius, I’ll never forgive you”.

The Brontes, Wild Genius on the Moors
By Juliet Barker
The definitive biography.
Now updated with new information.
You won’t be able to put it down.

Return Journey

Up before dawn, you watched a pink peony sun melt away the grey morning as you packed the old wooden basket with shortbread, red apples, and books.  Tucking a bottle of pear cider in alongside a carefully wrapped crystal goblet, you set off through the woods to the river.  Your dog chases brown rabbits through the bracken as you follow along, wondering. Will it still be there?  That wonderful chair hanging from the tree limb above the swiftly moving water?  Even though no one has seen it but you, somehow you know, no matter when you return, if your arms are full of the books of your childhood, that magical chair will be there waiting for you.  Your pace quickens as you hear the laughter of the river at the edge of the wood.  Stepping out into the September sunlight, you see it.  You reach into the basket and pull out your books.  This is going to be a perfect afternoon.

The Wind in the Willows, An Annotated Edition 
by Kenneth Grahame
Supposedly a children’s book, The Wind in the Willows seems to gain, rather than lose,
 more wondrous appeal the older one becomes. 
 This new annotated edition is divine.

Wonder Struck
by Brian Selznick
The author of the deliciously imaginative, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is back 
and ready to take us on another adventure which, I am sure, will be
impossible to resist.

He Was There From The Day We Moved In
by Rhoda Levine
Drawings by Edward Gorey
Just what do you name the shaggy sheepdog waiting patiently in the back garden of your new house?  This is the problem facing Ogdon and his big brother.
Completely irresistible.

On a Dark and Stormy Night
It was dark before you set out and it wasn’t long before you were wishing you’d left earlier.  Every time you visit your Great Uncle Frederick, the weather seems to turn.  Driving out this evening for a weekend with the old man, the skies grew darker, the winds wilder, with each bend in the road.  Saucer-sized raindrops were bouncing off the pavement by the time you ran for his front door and Uncle Fred threw it open before you could knock.   Due to the lateness of the hour and the paleness of your countenance, he ushered you immediately to your favourite room, kissed you absentmindedly on the forehead and closed the door with a promise of pancakes for breakfast.  You turn to see a pot of hot tea, a basket of warm muffins, and a stack of new books by your bed.  Dear Uncle Freddy.  Slipping into your cotton nightgown, you climb into bed and open the first book on the stack just as a flash of lightning pierces the leaded window like a scream.

by Mary Shelley
I am utterly ashamed to say it, but I’ve never read this. 
This new annotated edition, so beautifully bound, is going to change that fact this fall.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A gorgeous new set.
Legendary, atmospheric writing for the ages.

Ghost Stories
A delightful little edition of classics.
Should be by every guest room bed in autumn.

Lost in Contentment

The fire is blazing now.  You’ve stacked extra logs by the hearth and there’s a hearty minestrone simmering on the stove.  You’ve left the front door cracked just a little so the dogs can let themselves in when they’re done with their run on the beach.  There are orange roses in every available vase.  Though it will still be several hours before he gets home, the setting is perfect.  Pouring yourself a glass of pink champagne, you wrap a crimson cashmere blanket around your knees, climb into your tufted leather chair and reach for the sackful of new books you purchased at the bookshop just this afternoon.  By the time the dogs return, sandy and tired, you are completely lost in the pages.

The Secret Keeper
by Kate Morton
Kate Morton's books fill a void in the heart of a certain sort of reader, one besotted with old houses, tweed jackets, and a bracing glass of brandy before bed.
I confess, I am so looking forward to this new one.

The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
No, this is not Harry Potter - The Adult Years.
That's what makes this book so exciting.
I can't wait to see what J.K. has in store for us next.

Flight Behavior
by Barbara Kingsolver
Resembling a lake of fire, millions of flame-coloured butterflies
take up residence in an Appalachian Valley.
The residents are divided.
Is it one more definitive sign of disastrous climate change?
Or is it a sign from God?
A book for our day if ever there was one.

Dancing to the Precipice
Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution
Fascinating and fun!

Binocular Vision
New and Selected Stories 
By Edith Pearlman
Extraordinary, remarkable stories.
Each one different from the last; each one springing from a 
well of imagination fathoms deep.
I defy you to read Self Reliance and not be struck completely dumb.

Into The Woods

You come to the woods to feel small.
To reassess your role in the world, to remember who you are.
You stand silently still beneath the tall trees, with a thousand unseen observers in communion.
Breathing deeply.
Whispering prayers.
You bring along a book, or two.
You leave lighter of spirit, warmer of heart.

A Thousand Mornings
by Mary Oliver
How lucky we are to have a new volume of poems by this brilliantly observant poet.

Help, Thanks, Wow
 The Three Essential Prayers
by Anne Lamott
Readers love Anne Lamott for her unflinching honesty in the face of harsh and posing piety.
I know these three prayers are the ones I pray most.

Red Sky at Night
The Book of Lost Countryside Wisdom
   by Jane Struthers
In our concrete, air-conditioned world, I’m afraid we have indeed lost the sort of seamless communication with the natural world that our ancestors enjoyed.
This book, with its advice on everything from navigating by the stars
 to baking one’s own bread, promises to reacquaint us with the realness of life.

And finally.....

There's a special new book coming in a couple of weeks.


  1. I confess, I love book lists which do cause my TBR stacks to grow. The Bronte biography attracts me, and the two romantic photos of the interiors. Who lives in these fabulous places? And ah, a mystery book to be published soon!

  2. I do love The Wind In The Willows and still have the copy I read to my children. I'll revisit it! I'm intrigued by the Kate Morton book and of course I never go wrong with Sherlock Holmes. I love your list. Thank you. Put me in your first photo and I'm in heaven.

  3. I do so wish there was a book by author Pamela Terry....B:)

  4. Your must-read list makes me feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store: May I have more than one? Which one should I choose first? Where do I begin? Several are old favorites; some are tempting "firsts." Let me add one to your autumn list: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. It's a stunning novel--a love story/drama set against the backdrop of the unfolding events of WW II. You won't be able to put it down!

    White Rabbit

  5. Splendid choices. I'm intrigued. I am looking forward to reading Catherine de Medici by Leonie Frieda and the new book about Edith Wharton's The Mount. I also need to get the Downton Abbey dvd's to see what all the fuss is about. I love English theater so I'm sure the series will be good. Though I usually only read non-fiction, I think I'll give fiction another look.

  6. Hello Pamela:
    This wonderfully presented post is in itself an autumn read. And how kindly and thoughtfully you tempt us with innumerable choices of book for this new season. Yes, like you, we agree on the importance of books to be taken away on holiday, but as the year approaches its end and the long, winter nights beckon, then the real time for reading most surely comes into its own.

  7. Hello Pamela

    Great list! The Bronte biography is on the top of my list.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Tracy :)

  8. Pamela

    You always find such incredible pictures to share. And I appreciate the phrase 'harsh and posing piety'. Do you know, I've never read Wind in the Willows...must go get a copy and sit down in front of the fire.

  9. As absolutely enticing all of these titles are--and they truly are all-absorbing in their breadth of style and selection--it is your writing that fascinates me the most. Add my name to the list of those that hope the next book to come is yours.
    With all my Best from a Provence that refuses to bow to Autumn,

  10. That list should keep me going a long time Pamela. Have you read The Snow Child? I have lent it to a friend, so I can't remember the author, although she is Alaskan. It is a wonderul book - do look out for it. I also enjoyed Steph Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves.
    Book recommendations are brilliant, although of course, I don't need to be reminded to read Wind in the Willows - it is always close at hand.

  11. Thanks for the recommendations - I just added several to my "to read" list for the fall!

  12. the list i always await. and i'm NEVER disappointed.
    and the pictures before and through . . . well. no words.
    my favorite reading place once upon a time when i was 7 . . .
    not a swinging chair on a tree . . . but the tree itself.
    a hollowed old giant of a cottonwood on the bank of a canal
    in colorado. aspens nearby. you know that sound. and me. and the tree. and a book that was my friend.

  13. I've been looking forward to your reading list since you mentioned it a couple weeks ago. I agree whole-heartedly with White Rabbit's comment in that your list, Pamela, is a pleasure reading itself.

  14. O WOW..thank you for the books but even more for the places...marvelous I enjoyed this very very much>>!! And now for that mistery book.....????? Do tell...:-)

  15. You weave such magic with your words and images, Pamela, that I could be enticed to read everything on your list. I'm definitely that 'certain sort of reader' who wants to disappear for hours into a Kate Morton book. I think you could give her a run for her money. Could that be the Wow announcement? Also, where in the world did you find that photo of the skylit attic garret? Dreamy.


  16. Oh! Marvelous post. Books and images and of course wonderful words. Thank you for working so hard to share all this feelings with us


  17. Pamela,

    Thank you for the list of books and the amazing images. I am sure you would enjoy "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" by Helen Simonson. It is a wonderful love story, British setting, polished writing.

    Sandra Bird

  18. Pamela,
    I read more in the fall/winter months than I do in the spring/summer. My allegiance is drawn to the garden with my minimal free time in the spring and summer.
    This list has so many books that appeal to me. The Secret Keeper might have to go to the top of the list. All of the "children's" books sound like fun.
    Thanks for this and Happy Autumn!

  19. P.S. There's an interesting article/interview with J. K. Rowling in The New Yorker about her new book. Did you see it?

  20. Ah, to read Frankenstein for the first time! What a literary treat is in store for you! Hollywood committed a terrible injustice when they took an articulate and misunderstood being and turned him into a bumbling, stumbling "monster." This is a story for "everyman" in search of love and a sense of belonging.

  21. Hello Pamela,
    I am new on your blog. I am enchanted by your universe and your words.
    I will certainly purchase some of your recommended books.

    Have a nice week

  22. Oh, my, you made, made, made my day, my month; so filled with old favorites and new books to explore, I adored this post, Pamela, and will come back for more inspiration later, I am sure. You have cited so many favorites and, wow, gee whiz, a new Mary Oliver and Anne Lamott. Thank you.

  23. What a great list! Yes, I agree, fall is the time for so many new and interesting books. I am especially excited about the updated Bronte, the new editions of Frankenstein and the Sherlock Holmes collection. You have supplied us with the most inviting places to do this reading and now, I am ready. Bring on that cup of tea and let's light the fire in the fireplace!

  24. What wonderful places you have conjoured up for us to read in and what interesting books you have chosen. I love Red Sky at Night and it is always good to hear of a new Kate Morton. Now, what is this 'special new book' I wonder? I hope it is what I would like it to be:)

  25. Your last sentence is most intriguing. I wonder if it is indeed a book from you!
    The first picture sets me dreaming, and Wonderstruck is the book on the list I am most drawn to read.

  26. Anything to do with the Bronte's must be good! I'll have to put that on my list. Enjoy Shelley's Frankenstein. My son is reading it for the first time this year as well and I can't wait to discuss this with him. I remember when I was an undergrad,I took a course called The History of Science and Technology and we read and analyzed Frankenstein. I absolutely loved the novel and the greater themes of Romanticism vs Technology/Industrial Revolution...brilliant!

  27. Pamela! Not fair at all! You have to tell what is that new book coming out. Please tell me it's yours! I would be in heaven to read it. And promote it. And offer it as a giveaway. Is it? Please do tell!

  28. What a lovely list to print out and save. I was surprised that only a few were on my own list - surprised and pleased, because I love a good recommendation!

  29. Gorgeous! I wish I was reading in any of those places. I got my copy of Rowlings' book yesterday. I'd love to read the one about the sheepdog, and the ghost stories!

  30. Thank you for the wonderful book list and the beautiful photos. Fall is my favorite season because of all of the things you've written about and shown in this post. I've been reading Susan Vreeland's historical fiction about art and artists and loving every one I've read. I'm adding the Bronte biography, the Sarah Morton book and Red Sky at Night to my "to read" list. The new Barbara Kingsolver was already on it. And The Wind in the Willows is one of my very favorite books of all times - such beautiful and poignant writing.

  31. I have just finished 'The Casual Vacancy' by J.K.Rowling and I am moved and still shaken by her profound and honest description of the happenings in this seemingly idyllic small English town. Although it could be anywhere. It holds a mirror in front of us and it is not a flattering image I see reflected. Rather a view which is also familiar to me, living in a small town, which fancies itself superior to the neighboring places....
    But not a hopeless view. There are moments, when a little of the familiar Rowling shines through, but she has departed far from anything Harry Potter-ish. I like it very much, despite the critical revues I have read.
    I still work on the Bronte's biography. It's the labour of love and immensely entertaining, if 19th century life is only remotely interesting to you! It is an eye opener...
    Thank you for all the other lovely recommendations, as always a pleasure to follow your footsteps!

  32. Thank you for all the work you have put into this post. I have scribbled down several titles. Just off to order Mary Oliver's book,she is my favourite poet.

  33. Hello- I thank you for such a nice book list. I can say Wonder Struck is a great book. I love all of Kate Morton's books and am so anxious for her new one. I am just reading Frankenstein for the first time myself. It's very good so far. The Wind in the Willows in on my TBR pile. I am so hoping to hear that you have a book coming out. I'll just have to wait and see. Have a wonderful day!

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