The best literary quotes about autumn

From Zadie Smith to Donna Tartt, these beautiful passages from famous authors relish and reflect upon the season readers love best. 

A text collage of words and leaves
Autumnal words. Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

Rolling mists and falling leaves have long inspired writers as the nights draw in. No wonder so many novels make perfect autumnal reading – the kind that, like Anne of Green Gables, make us "glad to live in a world where there are Octobers". Over the years, different perspectives on autumn have been offered in all sorts of books. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best.

Zadie Smith, On Beauty

“Summer left Wellington abruptly and slammed the door on the way out. The shudder sent leaves to the ground all at once, and Zora Belsey had that strange, late-September feeling that somewhere in a small classroom with small chairs an elementary school teacher was waiting for her. It seemed wrong that she should be walking towards town without a shiny tie and a pleated skirt, without a selection of scented erasers. Time is not what it is but how it is felt, and Zora felt no different.”

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

"Aprils have never meant that much to me. Autumns seem that season of beginning, Spring."

F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." 

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cézanne

"At no other time does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.'"

Jane Austen, Persuasion

"Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn – that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness – that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling." 

Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

"Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly."


Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!” 

Donna Tartt, The Secret History

“Even now I remember those pictures, like pictures in a storybook one loved as a child. Radiant meadows, mountains vaporous in the trembling distance; leaves ankle-deep on a gusty autumn road; bonfires and fog in the valleys; cellos, dark window-panes, snow.” 

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

"It was Velutha. That much Rahel was sure of. She’d seen him. He’d seen her. She’d have known him anywhere, any time. And if he hadn’t been wearing a shirt, she would have recognized him from behind. She knew his back. She’d been carried on it. More times than she could count. It had a light-brown birthmark, shaped like a pointed dry leaf. He said it was a Lucky Leaf; that made the Monsoons come on time. A brown leaf on a black back. An autumn leaf at night."

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