Fall TV is in full swing. But while in previous decades that would have meant all of the season’s premieres were in the September rearview, in today’s TV economy, it just means we’re still in the thick of it.
And yet! While the beat of new TV marches us ever on, Fall is also the perfect time to snuggle up with a good book. So if you find yourself wanting to take a break from the hottest television currently on air in favor of some light (or not so light!) reading, we’re ready to once again play Pop Culture Matchmaker.
Whether you’re vibing this Fall with inclusively goofy Westerns, twisty magician spectacles, heartwarming hockey rom-coms, or trippy tales of temporal distortion, the nine(ish) books rounder up below that pair perfectly with nine(ish) of this fall’s biggest television hits offer a little something for everyone.
Walker: Independence—which takes the Walker bloodline established in the CW’s Jared Padalecki-led Walker reboot and yanks it back to barely tamed Texas frontier in the late nineteenth century—may be incredibly goofy, but it is, at the same time, incredibly watchable. It is, for a Western, also notably inclusive, taking pains as it does not just to underscore just how diverse (and queer) the American West historically was, but also to incorporate, through the character of Calian (Justin Johnson Cortez), Apache culture and language. If this is the element of Walker: Independence that’s most snagged your attention, definitely pick up Margaret Verble’s Cherokee America, which is set in the Cherokee Nation around the same time period. (Verble is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation.)
Like Independence, Verble’s book tells the story of a woman, alone on the frontier, forced to seek her own justice (slash, vengeance) in the wake of an explosive and mysterious crime. But where Abby Walker (Katherine McNamara) is the daughter of a wealthy white family from Boston, Verble’s Check (short for Cherokee America Singer) is a mixed-race matriarch fighting to protect not just her family, but her nation’s sovereignty—an important distinction in any context, but particularly so in the case of the Western as a genre.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith, runs 15 hours and 16 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
For anyone who’s only watched the first few episodes (or even just seen the trailer), Andrew Joseph White’s viscerally intense, post-Apocalyptic Hell Followed With Us might seem like a total left-field match for Syfy’s campy, candy-colored Reginald the Vampire. And if “campy” and “candy-colored” (or even just “vampire”) are what you, a fan of Reginald, might be looking for in your next read, it definitely is!
Featuring a murderous cult; demonic, bioengineered plagues; and today’s rising violence against trans bodies writ blisteringly literal, White’s YA debut is a total tonal departure from the vamp- and slushie-centric Syfy comedy. But give Reggie and his Slushy Shack pals a few more weeks, and the oblique parallels between the two titles will become a bit more clear. That said, take heed: Hell Followed With Us isn’t for the faint of gory-heart. Here be (so much) blood.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Shaan Dasani, Graham Halstead & Avi Roque, runs 10 hours and 47 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
The target demo of Disney+’s The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers and Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! may not be entirely aligned—Check, Please! featuring college kids and recent grads while Game Changers both stars and is aimed at the awkward middle schooler set—but when it comes to matters of the (narrative) heart, they might as well be cut from the same athletically technical cloth. Both coming-of-age stories spotlight hockey teams with BIG personality and varying levels of on-the-ice skill; both hammer home the ways that the bonding through athletic teamsmanship can help get a person through growing pains and social insecurity; both even oblige critics to type superfluous punctuation over and over (and over) again. But perhaps most crucially, both feature adorably tender first loves—both of the puppy dog variety, with Evan (Brady Noon) and Sofi (Swayam Bhatia) in Game Changers, and of the more serious kind of (queer) romance between Eric and Jack in Check, Please!. The ice may be cold out there, but these two titles are heart warmers, all around.
And for my fellow audiophiles, well, this is a graphic novel! No audio available. Enjoy the rare obligatory foray into another medium.
It would be extremely difficult for any other media property to capture the warm, weird scope of CBS’s Ghosts (save, of course, for the British series of the same name that the American sitcom was adapted from), but insofar as it also features an historic property being haunted by a ghost who’s been trundling about spying on the lives and deaths of its inhabitants for the last several centuries, Nell Stevens’ Briefly, A Delicious Life makes for a satisfying comp read.
What’s more, while Briefly may not feature a gaggle of ghosts from across the eras goggling at modern technology, it *does* feature Blanca, an endlessly curious, lifeblood-loving ghost of a fourteen-year-old who died under rotten circumstances outside the walls of a Mallorcan monastery in the 15th century, and who slowly comes to be a joyful lover of women in her afterlife—and especially of one particularly unconventional 19th-century woman, George Sand. (Thomas Thorne, eat your heart out.)
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Ferdelle Capistrano, runs 9 hours and 3 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
If you don’t think you’re a fan of the CW’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us, that’s just because you haven’t tuned in during any of its previous eight (!) seasons. Charming, cheesy, and baffling in equal measure, Fool Us—which sees magicians from all over the world attempt to trick Penn & Teller, who then confer and explain back the trick in densely coded patter if they remain unfooled (which is maybe 80% of the time)—is as much a sleight of (expert) hand as it is a particularly successful example of family friendly reality entertainment.
This, too, is how Margarita Montimore’s latest novel, Acts of Violet, plays—not only in how her vanished subject, goth-punk 90s megastar magician Violet Volk, obscures both her real skills and her true objectives behind the flash and flair of her commanding stage presence, but also in how the book’s format alternates between episodes of the podcast investigating Violet’s disappearance, and the more intimate internal point-of-view of the younger sister she left behind.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Alejandro Ruiz, Amy McFadden, Brittany Pressley, Dan Bittner, Fred Berman, Hillary Huber, Johnny Heller, Katharine Chin, Ramon de Ocampo & Suzanne Toren, runs 11 hours and 9 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
The NBA is officially back for its 51st season, and with it, a reminder that Kwame Alexander’s basketball-themed middle grade novels in verse, The Crossover and Rebound, are sitting on library shelves all over the country, just waiting to be added to your Fall TBR.
Punchy, sharp, moving, thrilling, these books will take hoops fans of all ages on a visceral thrill ride across the court.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Corey Allen, runs 2 hours and 16 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
This pairing is less about a shared vibe than it is about the fact that within mere weeks of each other, two entirely different takes on the life of “the last Blockbuster video store in the United States” will be joining the pop culture conversation.
One is a straight up comedy starring two beloved network sitcom vets, the other is a science fiction nostalgia horror fest. Which is which? Guess you’ll just have to watch (and read!) to find out.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Joe Hempel, runs 9 hours and 44 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
There’s some tension inherent to recommending this book as a vibe match for this show, as the best way to go into The Anomaly is with as little information as possible.
So let’s just say, if the existential mystery aspect amidst a motley crew of airplane passengers of Manifest is your jam, give this French novel a shot.
And for my fellow audiophiles, the audiobook is narrated by Dominic Hoffman, runs 10 hours and 35 minutes long, and can be found on Libro.fm here.
It will have been a long two and a half years since we left off with Ava (Alba Baptista) and her possibly heretical killer nun friends when Warrior Nun returns to Netflix for its second season on November 10, but luckily the book-lovers among its fandom ranks needn’t wait even a minute more to get back in the pious assassin mood, as all three books in Robin LaFevers’ historical YA fantasy trilogy—Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph, and Mortal Heart are available on library shelves worldwide.
Featuring a cabal of nun from the convent of St. Mortain in fifteenth century Brittany—sisters, literally, in Death—the His Fair Assassin books are pretty much everything that’s fun about Warrior Nun, just with a bit less science-meets-religion fanaticism, and a little more 16th-century French political intrigue. Plus, you know, a brooding, romantic Death. (This is a 2010s YA series we’re talking about, after all.)
And for my fellow audiophiles, this trilogy has been adapted for audio *twice*, first in 2012 and then again more recently in 2021. Both versions can be found on Libro.fm here to the samples and pick your (pious) poison.
Finally, if your jam is literally any of the nightly made-for-TV holiday movies that now start dropping weeks before Halloween, try Jasmine Guillory’s Royal Holiday, Jean Meltzer’s The Matzah Ball, Alison Cochrun’s Kiss Her Once for Me (coming November 1), or any of the other dozens of titles collected in Libro.fm’s 2021 list of Holiday Romances. (2022 list TBA.)
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She
can be found @AlexisKG.