To me, there is nothing more self-indulgent and introspective than reading. It’s a selfish and complete escape. It has nothing to do with work, no bearing on my blog (which, really, is another form of work) nor does it involve other people and their unpredictable behaviour (I say this flippantly, of course). It’s just you, paper, words, and pure imagination.
As we come into autumn, I find myself frequently wanting to switch off screens, disable notifications and abandon messages. Why not live in the moment? Let’s watch the seasons shift, pore over pages, think about our place on this planet and what it might mean. Reading is the perfect way to simplify this overcomplicated existence. You breathe and you’re buried within the book.
Another thing I love is matching my books to the seasons. There’s something creepier about reading dystopian thrillers when the dark arrives too soon, when light creates shadows in unexpected places. Here are three novels that I’m reading to send shivers up my spine in the early twilight.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
With the long-awaited film making an appearance in October (watch trailer) now is the perfect time to step into this thriller. It’s a fast-paced, absorbing book narrated by three different women, all with similarly complex stories to tell. The protagonist is Rachel, who finds herself drawn in to a murder case when she spots a ‘crucial’ piece of evidence on her morning commute. The plot is unusual and will definitely get you second-guessing your travel preferences, but — although I devoured it in about five hours — for me it didn’t quite pack the punch of Gone Girl. Regardless of whether or not you suss out the suspect before the bombshell’s dropped, the symbolism and plot are haunting.
A Song of Stone by Iain Banks
In this dystopian novel, Scottish author Banks pulls us into a world where civil war is standard, everyone (no matter their class) is a refugee… and the weather is really bad. A Song of Stone could quite easily be set in some wild area of Argyll, as narrator Abel and his wife abandon their castle and — joining refugees on the road — are quickly singled out by a band of mercenaries and returned to their home, this time as prisoners. Banks really draws on nature as a metaphor in this book, marrying harsh weather and war horrors as well as describing the basic instinct of desire in organic, animal terms. There are also some amazing monologues, my favourite being:
We each contain the universe inside our selves, the totality of existence encompassed by all that we have to make sense of it… Perhaps we think up our own destinies, and so in a sense deserve whatever happens to us, for not having had the wit to imagine something better.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
After reading the insane yet compelling Sharp Objects and Gone Girl, I’m looking forward to adding yet another Flynn novel to my bookshelf. Dark Places traces the childhood of Libby Day, who returns to her hometown as an adult to discover the truth about her brother’s innocence (after her evidence landed him in jail decades earlier). As with all Flynn’s novels, I’m expecting a complex narrator and some seriously dark themes… And I’ll probably have to keep the light on afterwards.