The publishing industry is informed, in large part, by long-established truisms. People only buy hardcovers at Christmas. Summer reading means fluff. Nobody buys books in January. Only men like scary stories.
Some of these are verifiably true, of course. Others not remotely so. In particular, I have always doubted the “right book for the right season” approach to reading (and publishing, and bookselling). Are we really hard-wired to crave sombre literary doorstoppers from November 1 to December 24? Are low-brow thrillers best consumed on a beach in July? Do we want romance in the two weeks leading up to the fourteenth day of February any more than we want romance any other time? For me, it’s a no to all of these self-fulfilling “facts” of readerly habits. All of them…except one.
If you live in a geography where there are pronounced seasons that include autumn you know the shivery magic of October. There’s something about the coolness of the evenings, the leaves scraping down the street, the solitary walks home with the branches chattering your name overhead…
Ghosts didn’t invent the autumn. But it may well be that the autumn invented ghosts.
This year, I’m currently curled up with a work of non-fiction that, while a serious work of scholarship, conveys its fair share of brainy chills: Satan: A Biography, by Henry Ansgar Kelly (University of Cambridge Press). It’s research. But utterly fascinating research (I feel another blog coming on, but will resist for now).
Naturally, this being an author’s website, I would recommend my own books for an October read. (Didn’t you notice? The Guardians is out in paperback in North America!) But I would personally be interested to hear of any of your own scary recommendations. I’m looking for a new Halloween read. Something I’ve never heard of before. Ideas?
5 Replies to “Is There a Right Book for the Right Season?”
We met years ago in Peterborough — I was a student of Ross Davies at the time and you were kind enough to sit down and chat with me for 20 minutes over a cup of coffee before a reading. I’m glad to have “rediscovered” your site after quite some time.
And though, sadly, I do not have a good recommendation for a Halloween read, I’ve taken some value out of this post myself in the form of your recommendations. Satan: A Biography looks fascinating, for one, but first it’s time to catch up on the back catalogue. I’ve been desperately searching for some good fiction, and fiction that promises to be a quality read is so hard to come by these days. The Killing Circle? The Guardians? I had no idea! I’m off to Amazon right now to get the Kindle versions. I’ll be back in Canada at Christmas time so I’ll pick up the hardcovers as well to add to the collection (and, it seems, prove the publishing industry right).
Keep the posts coming.
Good to hear from you! Long time, though I certainly remember the evening and the conversation. Hope your travels have proved exciting and happy… Let me know how you like the books! Best, Andrew.
You’ve likely read it already but my pick for a Halloween book is Affliction by Russell Banks. It begins, as I recall, on Halloween (after a bit from the narrator, the surviving brother), and the descent of Wade Whitehouse deeper & deeper into himself and his suspicions as the novel goes along, and the lingering effects of abuse, makes for a startling tale.
Congrats on The Guardians, it’s a great read! Hope it takes off south of the 49th.
For a real scare, of course, you could just watch the Leafs… (Go Habs!)
Satan: A Biography as research? For your next book, I hope! I’m intrigued now…
As for a Halloween read recommendation that you’ve never heard of before (a bit late for Halloween, but never too late for a spooky read, I hope), that’s a bit tough, as my go-to spooky recommendations are either a Stephen King book or your own The Guardians. I also figure you’ve heard of/read Val McDermid, Jo Nesbo and Stuart MacBride, who are all fantastic writers of creepy psychological mysteries.
So, not sure how scary these books are, but they’ve both caught my eye for creepy covers and titles:
Boxer Beetle, by Ned Beauman
The Hangman’s Daughter, by Oliver Potzsch
I started reading The Guardians yesterday, on Halloween! How appropriate is that? I am already properly spooked. I bought your book after the Rower’s reading night and babbled on and on to you about how I used to live in a haunted house. Sorry about that…