More and more I noticed that, alongside evoking specific feelings, books can also evoke very specific seasons.
Of course, for some books it is obvious: they very clearly state which seasons their narrative takes place in, so those are easy to assign a season to. But there are other books that either take place across years, or don’t really care to mention their environment, at least not in relation to what the weather looks like or which time of the year it is.
On the other hand, I have noticed instances in which a book is clearly set in winter, but there are elements of the story that give me another season’s vibe.
From the recommendations I put together myself, and from those given to me by other Book Riot writers, spring seems to be the season where most books don’t fall on, maybe because spring is a milder season than all the others. Autumn, on the other hand — especially because of its Halloween traditions — seems to be evoked in many books, including several horror novels.
There are four different lists below, one for each season of the year. For each of them, I chose four books that I associate with spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
The whole list, together, is an invitation to pick up these books during the season I have connected with them, so you know what to pick up if you want to emulate a specific time of year, or if you simply like a good seasonal read.
I hope you enjoy them.
The Other Mother by Rachel M. Harper
This is an amazing family drama that explores the intricacies of queer families.
The main character, Jenry, has just started university, and he wants to learn more about his deceased father, especially after the relationship with his mother has taken a sour turn.
His grandfather is a professor at the university and he doesn’t understand why Jenry is so set on knowing about his son Jasper, when it’s Juliet, his daughter, who is Jenry’s actual (other) mother.
This book unveils many mysteries, with beautiful prose, and the university campus setting will definitely bring you back to spring times.
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
What can I say about Yolk except that it is a wonderful exploration of the relationship between family members, and everyone should read it?
The main plot is about two sisters who are opposites of each other, and whose relationship will take new forms when one is diagnosed with cancer.
I feel that most blurbs fail to describe the depth of this book, so you are better off reading it outside, as the flowers start to bloom in spring.
A Curse Of Roses by Diana Pinguicha
I may be biased because this book is based on a very famous Portuguese legend and I happen to be Portuguese myself, but I can’t recommend this sapphic fantasy romance enough!
This is a retelling of the miracle of the roses, and when you read it, you will understand why it felt like a spring book to me: the images of nature and flowers, and how important they are to the story, are very vivid.
Princess Yzabel has powers she can’t control but are becoming stronger every day: in a land plagued by famine, the food she touches turns into flowers. Not only is Yzabel starving, she is also accidentally wasting food.
With the help of Fatyan, an enchanted Moura, Yzabel will try to use this power in her favour, by reversing it: turning flowers into food, and saving the population from hunger.
The book was first published in English but is finally available in Portuguese, if that is more your jam.
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
Milk Fed is one of those books that speaks of extremely deep issues by concealing those issues with a layer of humour. I would call it dark humour, except that it is something else I don’t really have words for yet.
And I know that many might place it on the season of summer — what with the frozen yogurt scenes so central to the story — but something about it shouts spring to me.
The main character is Rachel, a woman in her mid-20s who counts each and every calorie she consumes, with strict measures to keep her intake in order. But when she places her very calculated order at the local frozen yogurt joint, the employer Miriam decides the customer isn’t right at all, turning not only Rachel’s measured intakes out the window, but also her very controlled life.
There is a lot to be said in this book about family relationships, and desires — of all sorts.
Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis
One of my favourite queer stories, it takes place in Uruguay during the dictatorship that started in the ’70s.
At the time, a group of queer women find themselves getting to know others like them and forming a bond that will last for decades.
We see them growing up and trying to create spaces where they feel safe in a time when being a woman already warranted oppression, but being queer was life-threatening.
It’s a wonderfully told story and, despite its theme, a definite summer read.
The Mermaid From Jeju by Sumi Hahn
In The Mermaid From Jeju, which is based on actual historical facts, we encounter themes like the Japanese occupation of Korea, the famous women sea divers of the island, and immigration.
This is a tale that is set in motion by grief, and contains accounts of parts of the Japanese-Korean history we often don’t hear about.
Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
Mary Jane was recommended to me by another contributor and when I checked the blurb, one of the tag lines calls it ‘the best book of the summer,’ so I decided straight away I couldn’t leave it off of this list.
If you enjoy books in which the main character’s life gets turned around in unexpected ways, you will enjoy this!
The main character is, as the title says, Mary Jane, a teenage girl who accepts a job for the summer being the nanny for the family of a local psychiatrist. Two of the patients who arrive that summer are a rock star and his famous actress wife.
Mary Jane’s expectations of a quiet summer making some extra cash quickly change into something else.
I think it’s important to point out that despite the main character’s age (14), this is not a YA novel.
Unscripted by Claire Handscombe
Unscripted was written by our very own contributing writer Claire, and she assured me herself this is a summer book, so who am I to doubt?
If you’ve ever had a crush on any celebrity as a young person, you might recognise how it was to nurse that crush, within this book.
The main character is Libby, a huge fan of actor Tom Cassidy. Tom has no idea Libby exists, but Libby is certain she is going to marry him.
She comes up with a flawless plan to make Tom fall in love with her, and nothing can go wrong.
Well, almost nothing.
This is the perfect holiday read, with summer vibes all around.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
This is my autumn book of choice, and the autumn vibes start immediately with the cover. You see those red, yellow, and brown tones? They leave no doubt about it.
Aiden Thomas manages to create an amazing spooky atmosphere, not only with his descriptions of the celebrations — and mysterious shenanigans — on Dia De Los Muertos, but also throughout the book.
The story is centered around Yadriel, a trans Latine boy who also happens to be a brujo, even if his family doesn’t believe it yet. When Yadriel tries to prove it to them, and things seem to be going well…he ends up summoning the spirit of the school’s bad boy, Julian.
Julian has no idea how he could have been summoned since he can’t recall his death, but he knows only Yadriel can help him figure that out. And although neither of them likes it, they don’t really have much choice but to collaborate.
It’s one I definitely want to read again this October.
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Faith Erin Kicks
I mean, I could leave this book out of this list because it is so obvious, but because it is so obvious I would very likely have readers in the comments going “I can’t believe you didn’t include Pumpkinheads,” so here it is for the masses, and also for me, because it is one of my favourite autumn books.
Desia and Josiah work together every year from the 1st of September until the 31st of October, and then they go their separate ways. But this is their last year working together at the pumpkin patch and they want to say their goodbyes in a more special way.
So they make a plan to enjoy the patch as much as possible, and even find love before the end of October.
The illustrations are amazing, and although it is highly recommendable to read this during autumn, you’ll enjoy it for sure year round.
Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake
In this duology, both ghost hunter Cas and the ghost he is hunting — Anna — take central stage.
This is novel is for those who like to sit inside reading by the fireplace with a blanket wrapped around them. Unfortunately, you might need the big lights to be on, even if you don’t mind being spooked a little because this is a highly creepy read.
Fortunately, the spooky vibes fit the horror season perfectly.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Interesting how a book by the March sisters makes for such a wonderful autumn read (bad joke, I know).
There is so much melancholy and sadness in Little Women, that it is easy to relate it to this season.
I can imagine myself sitting in the living room of their house, sipping some warm tea by the window and looking out, watching the leaves fall from the trees, a brown, red, and yellow mat covering the front garden.
And this is why, in my own world and from my own front window, this is the perfect book for autumn.
Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
We don’t often find novels with older protagonists, especially older women. And this book, with its (amazing) main character and talk of astrology, mostly takes place during the winter. It is the darkness and melancholy throughout — it is a thriller, after all — that give this book a wintery mood. And it is, in my opinion, best enjoyed then. With a veggie meal alongside it…for reasons.
Moon Of The Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
When people ask me for the ultimate dystopian read, I always direct them to Moon Of The Crusted Snow.
It has so many clever elements that just work: a dystopian future, an end-of-the-world feeling, an Indigenous town put in danger due to a blackout, a very good depiction of white saviourism. There wasn’t anything about this book I disliked.
One of the reasons why it works so well is the fact that it is set in winter. In summer, lack of provisions and light would not be a major issue, but once the winter settles in, so does the desperation.
Its sequel, Moon Of The Turning Leaves (that I expect will be an autumn read) comes out this October.
Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
The book follows Korean American Fee, the tragedy he goes through as a child, and the ways the tragedy follows him across life, up to adulthood.
It is a book that deals with very heavy themes, but it is as beautiful as it is tragic nonetheless, much due to Chee’s writing.
There is a certain layer thrown upon this book, and I could not help but think as I made my way through it that it is definitely a winter read.
Trust me, you want to add this to your shelves.
Don’t Fear The Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones
If you know anything about me, you know The Only Good Indians is one of my favourite books, and it has opened the way to my love of horror.
Stephen Graham Jones knows how to tell a horror story where the events in the book are as important as the characters we get to know.
Now I wonder which seasonal vibes the third book in the series will inspire in me and for that I’ll have to wait until 2024. If there is one thing I have learned about Graham Jones’s writing, is that it is worth the wait.
And if you’re wondering if you can read this without the first instalment, technically you can, but there is a reason why I told you in which season the first instalment falls on, and you will want to understand all references.
Of course, you may read one of these and think: “this book has nothing to X season,” and we would be more than glad to hear about it, so don’t hesitate to find us on social media and have a chat! And if you liked this post, here is another seasonal one you will certainly enjoy!