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Fall in love with these autumn reads

McHenry County Magazine

Spring always stimulates conversation about reinvention and change, but I find myself to be more stimulated at the start of fall. 

As children, we fall into a pattern of thinking that autumn, as it’s the beginning of a new school year, is a time for new beginnings. School supplies, new teachers, new backpacks and even a new wardrobe. As an adult, this feeling of “newness” seems to have never left. During the start of fall, I find myself considering new hobbies and trying new things. (And sometimes I buy a new wardrobe, too!) 

As the leaves turn, so do the pages of our books. So, when your iced coffees become hot again, grab one of these books and enjoy! 


‘All Things Cease to Appear’
by Elizabeth Brundage 

My favorite kinds of mysteries are not “who-dun-its,” but “WHY-dun-its.” In “All Things Cease to Appear,” we are introduced to the Clare family, which has recently moved to upstate New York from the city. It is the late-1970s, a time when the social conventions of the ’50s and ’60s were put to the ultimate test. 

From the beginning of the novel, we learn that the matriarch of the Clare family, Catherine, has been brutally murdered in the family’s new farm house, which was previously owned by a well-known family that lost the farm due to financial reasons. Her husband, George, is the first suspect. The Clares, the neighbors, the boys who used to live on the farm and the other members of this small town uncover more about their neighbors than they bargained for and have to make some difficult decisions as a result. Only one person is murdered, yet a whole town feels the ripple effect. 

′ 'Modern Lovers'
by Emma Straub

“Coming-of-age” as a descriptor for a book, to me, is limiting. I think there are multiple points in our lives when we “come into” our age and who we are destined to be as people. In Straub’s latest novel, both parents and children are tested, both in their relationships and their ambitions for the future. 

Set in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, two families share a common history with the parents having established a punk music band (called Kitty’s Mustache) during their years at Oberlin College in the 1980s. Now the children are in high school, about to embark on their own adventures into adulthood and the pressures of family life and marriage stir up trouble within their families and between them. This was a fantastic read and one where I was annoyingly unavailable to family and friends because I was so hooked. You’ve been warned! 

Back-to-school picks

‘Little Bites: 100 Health, Kid-Friendly Snacks’
by Christine Chitnis and Sarah Waldman 

It’s so easy to create snacks and treats for kids that are loaded with sugar and salt (and buy them, too). This book provides 100 simple recipes that combine allergen-friendly nutrition with kid-friendly presentation (think bright colors and bite-size portions). I tried a few of these recipes myself and found that many of the recipes were great for transporting, which made them also good for bringing to work parties. So, invite your kids, grandkids or anyone who wants to incorporate healthier treats into their cooking repertoire and try these delicious snacks.

‘The Year of Cozy’
by Adrianna Adarme

You know you’ve found a good book when one of the activities is creating a banner that says “SO HANGRY” to hang in your kitchen (page 174). I expected this book to be an ode to the comforts of home: candles, cozy blankets and maybe a few hot chocolate recipes. What I got was a year’s worth of activities, crafts and recipes that made me want to turn my phone off and reconnect. Adarme’s book starts in autumn, and it prompts us to start DOING things again, instead of pinning projects on Pinterest and binge-watching shows on Netflix. We all certainly have our own comforting rituals that we go to, but it’s delightful to have an entire book from which to draw new inspiration. 

Follow up: Adarme’s is publishing a coloring book to complement her first book, and it will include 40 new recipes! The coloring book is due for publication in November and is available for pre-order now. 

′ ‘Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide’
by Gabrielle Stanley Blair

My poor mother. I can remember the relief in her face as we took the bus to school after every summer break – finally freedom! When children are away at school, it usually means fewer messes and more time to regroup and reorganize. This book is a guide for function and beauty in each room, with tips to make everyday living more functional for the whole family. For example, a mini-recycling bin placed at the front of the entryway for quick disposal of junk mail (genius!). 

The book also offers tips from the author’s household that do not have to do with interior design, such as giving cute dish towels as hostess gifts (so practical) and listening to classic dance music while cleaning the kitchen after a meal. (Who wouldn’t want to sing “Twist and Shout” while doing the dishes?) A house isn’t a home without the people in it, and this book inspired me to seek out function in my own home, as well as to embrace the family traditions that inspire really eclectic home décor. 

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