There’s just something about autumn. Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly captures it perfectly in You’ve Got Mail: “It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
While I cannot send each of you dear readers your own bouquet of writing instruments, I share the changing of the seasons with you with another round of recommended reads and drinks to match. (You can reminisce about summer and get excited for winter with the earlier chapters in this series.) So without further ado, here are a few stories that will put you in that wistful, back-to-school mood—and one to get you ready for Halloween!
Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh) + Brandy Alexander
This is easily one of the best books I have ever read (and the audiobook is a dream). The novel centers on an Oxford graduate’s relationship with his best friend and his friend’s family, and how the connection shapes his life beyond the college years.
Champagne might seem like a natural first choice to accompany this book, since the main characters luxuriate in a fine bottle paired with strawberries in the opening chapter. But that opening scene is set in the bright glory of June. So, I have a special cocktail to recommend for the fall. In one scene, class eccentric Anthony Blanche downs four Brandy Alexanders in one sitting. Given how sweet—and strong—this drink is, I recommend sticking to just one. But there is no denying it is indeed a “delicious concoction”!
Daddy Long-Legs (Jean Webster) + Black Coffee
This epistolary novel chronicling young orphan Jerusha Abbott’s years at college is the perfect “back to school” read. Jerusha is given the life-changing opportunity to leave the John Grier Home, the orphanage where she grew up, to attend college thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. Although her benefactor wishes to keep his identity a secret, Jerusha does catch a glimpse of his incredibly long shadow and nicknames him “Daddy Long-Legs.” The book chronicles her coming of age through a series of letters to this mystery man.
It is best enjoyed with a cup of black coffee—a beverage that occasionally keeps the main character up at night—and the charming, magical soundtrack to the musical adaptation.
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) + Mint Julep
The melancholy that sets in at the end of the summer in this American classic will take you back to your final days of summer during high school (where you may have read this novel for the first time), before the school year commenced. Gatsby did not receive recognition as a great work of fiction until after Fitzgerald’s death, but is now a well-respected short novel on the fickle nature of the American dream. It is narrated by Nick Carraway, a Midwestern man who relocates to New York City to profit from the stock market boom of the 1920s. There he finds himself neighbors with the wealthy and enigmatic Jay Gatsby, who invites him into his world for the summer—a world filled with romance, regret, and very, very extravagant parties.
Pairs well with a mint julep, as served in the suite in the Plaza Hotel in Chapter 7.
Anne of the Island (L.M. Montgomery) + Ginger Tea
This novel centers on the college years of beloved classical heroine, Anne Shirley, as she goes off to make her own way in the world, find new friends, and learn a few lessons in love along the way. (In my opinion, Anne’s friend-turned-love, Gilbert Blythe, is the real highlight!)
When a tragedy befalls Anne’s hometown of Avonlea, Anne brews Janet, who is hosting her at Valley Road, a comforting cup of ginger tea—or rather, she accidentally brews a cup full of white pepper instead. (Of course, kitchen mishaps are fairly common for Anne.) I like my ginger tea with a hint of lemon rather than pepper, and my personal favorite is the Pukka brand—a fragrant and organic blend that is readily available in grocery stores.
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) + Dark and Stormy
With Halloween just around the corner, now is the perfect time to revisit this classic tale of horror and hubris. In case you have not yet read this classic novel, let the record show it is named not for its iconic monster, but rather the scientific mastermind who brings it to life. When Dr. Frankenstein abuses his scientific knowledge to animate a creature constructed from the remains of the dead, he is horrified at the result: an oversized, grotesque, but nevertheless rational creature. The creature, finding himself alone in the world, demands that Frankenstein make him a partner and helpmate. The young doctor must decide whether to comply—and reckon with the consequences.
Dreary weather and dramatic storms play a prominent role in this novel, lending it an alternately eerie and sinister tone. Given the ominous setting, this novel pairs perfectly with the appropriately named Dark and Stormy cocktail.