Not long ago I awoke in the middle of the night and realized immediately that it had
arrived. The air, when I had gone to bed, was still faintly sultry, the air of evening that comes after a day of golden, soft sunshine. But when I woke in the dark I felt how the temperature had dropped, and the air smelled of autumn. It was like learning a secret, the rest of the city asleep around me, while I felt that I was the first to learn: autumn had come swiftly, quietly, to town. The moment was brief and delicious, and resonant with sudden memories and sensations
that pulled me back into the comfort of sleep, and when I woke it was still there, the edge of the chill, but even more – the faint smell of this change in the seasons.
It made me want to read.
There is much said about the "Summer Read," which suggests beaches and lounging and porches and hammocks. But this autumn, for the first time, it came to me that I seem to prefer to read in darkened, cozy places. I don't like to read on a beach. I like to read in messy coffee shops, or on subways (which, believe it or not, can sometimes feel quite cozy), I like to read at night in strange
hotels when it is raining outside, or in my own kitchen, late, as I eat peanut butter crackers. And now that it really is autumn and getting dark earlier, it seems the joy of reading has come to me as it came to me when I was a child: that sweet tugging on the senses, come here, come here. It is surprising. I would have thought -- I have always thought -- I am a person who likes to read, and the where and the when didn't matter.
Maybe it is because I am at a stage in life where my schedule is not as regulated by domestic needs as it was when I was raising a family, and all reading was done hungrily anywhere I got the time. Now – even while I still feel there is never enough time, never – I will pop onto the couch with a quilt, and tell myself, Oh, just fifteen minutes and I will get back to work, and then pick up one of the many open books lying around. The loveliness of this! The glory of it, as I snuggle down. Through the window, I see the low clouds of autumn that seem to keep me blanketed inside and safe, while I read the stories of people who have felt this, lived through that, and I do not mind that winter will unfold its own carpet one of these days.
Elizabeth Strout is the author of Abide with Me, a national bestseller and Book Sense pick; Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. In 2009 she was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of connected short stories about a woman and her immediate family and friends on the coast of Maine. She can be found online at www.elizabethstrout.com