Is it technically still summer? Yes. Did we only recently come out of a brutal heatwave? Also yes. But these minor inconveniences won’t stand in the way of coffee shops purveying us autumn enjoyers with their fall-flavoured staples. It’s fall in our hearts, and that’s what matters. And what better way to enjoy a seasonal drink than to sip it alongside an excellent read? Below is a list of coffee shop staples paired with a matching book. Of course, my scientific metric for this is purely vibes, but as a connoisseur of café items this makes sense to me. If you need some fall reading inspo, find your favourite beverage below!
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Let’s start with the ever-iconic pumpkin spice latte (PSL), undefeated queen of the fall menu items (which other drink gets its own acronym?). Sweet, unchallenging, and universally appealing, I like to think of the PSL as the romantic comedy of the fall beverage lineup. It’s the drink you pickup on the way to an orchard for a wholesome (maybe even romantic?) day of apple picking, or to do a Caitlin Covington-esque autumn photoshoot. With that in mind, PSL lovers will want to check out You, Again by Kate Goldbeck. Luring in fans of both autumn and autumn-flavoured rom-coms a la Meg Ryan’s 90s oeuvre, they slapped a When Harry Met Sally inspired cover on the book and said come get your food! And if that’s not enough, it seems the plot is also a riff on the beloved movie: two people who initially didn’t get along accidentally reconnect years later, spawning a friendship that just might develop into something more.
Not technically a seasonal item, but it has the right spirit. Smooth, minimalist and dark (but not bitter), the flat white is the dark academia of beverages. It’s the drink to carry as you step onto campus–preferably a neo-Gothic one like the University of Toronto–amid the blowing leaves. It will also match perfectly with your neutral-toned plaids and sweater vests. And the perfect book to be reading while tucked into an aesthetic reading nook, sipping on a flat white, is Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, a novel I would also describe as smooth, minimalist, and dark. Like the architect after which it’s named, Piranesi features a labyrinthine “house” with endless rooms, statues, and flooding corridors. The protagonist Piranesi is the house’s caretaker and sole occupant–except when The Other visits. Told in epistolary format, Piranesi is a weird one for sure. But if you stick with it, you’ll unravel a compelling and haunting mystery.
Apple Crisp Oat Macchiato
This one is exclusive to Starbucks, a company especially fond of long-winded drink names that are embarrassing to order (catch me in the summer ordering the Iced Apple Crisp Shaken Oat Espresso). Despite the mouthful, it sounds delicious: like a “delicious apple crisp you can sip.” The idea behind this one seems to be nostalgia; a sweet and fruity throwback to an old-fashioned autumn favourite. Something to take us into Halloween season. I’ve paired this drink with The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston, which is ostensibly a rom-com but functions more as a heartwarming exploration of grief with some romance threaded throughout. Protagonist Florence is a romance ghostwriter who has lost her belief in love after a breakup. When her father’s death calls her home, a potential love interest reignites her will to write. The kicker though? The love interest is a ghost! I mean, sign me up.
This aptly named drink evokes the moodiness and cloudy skies of London, but it has an undertone of sweetness. A mix of earl grey tea, vanilla, and milk (or milk alternative), a London fog latte is gentle and smooth. And fun fact, it was invented in Vancouver (no stranger to moody skies itself)! But let’s pretend it’s a British drink. British-Ghanaian author Caleb Azumah Nelson’s new novel Small Worlds is set mostly in London, but moves between the UK and Ghana as it follows the son of Ghanaian immigrants living in the British capital. Nelson imbues the novel with a strong sense of cultural specificity and musicality, crafting a gorgeous novel of family, love, and art. Bittersweet and moving, this novel pairs well with a drink named after the temperate climes of London.
Chai lattes offer less caffeine than coffee while still packing a warm, flavourful punch. Unlike coffee, a chai latte comes with a spicy kick to balance out the sweetness, making it an excellent crossover drink for the December holiday season. What better book to pair it with than A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske? This magical Edwardian-era mystery is cozy like a knit sweater, with a dollop of steamy romance for that little bit of spice. Opposites attract in this queer romance when Robin gets involved in a magical (and secret) civil service alongside the prickly Edwin, a dynamic that should appeal to fans of Red, White & Royal Blue jonesing for more steam and romantic shenanigans (anyone else still crying about that museum scene?). Curl up in a private corner, and drink up!
If you’re not a fan of coffee or tea but you still want to get your autumn beverage kicks, you might find yourself gravitating towards apple cider–a drink that’s equally delicious hot or cold. Versatile! With a tangy and zippy flavour, and a fullness that makes it more satisfying than just apple juice, apple cider is a solid staple on fall menus. Canadian author Patrick DeWitt is known for his snappy wit and charming (sometimes charmingly absurd), empathetic characters, which makes his newest novel The Librarianist a perfect match for apple cider’s flavour profile. The novel follows a retired librarian who lives a very quiet, solitary life, until he helps bring a confused older woman back to her home at a senior centre. There, he embarks on a journey of finding community. More low-key than DeWitt’s other works, but sure to satisfy fans of literary fiction.
Again not a seasonal item, but who cares! When you’re in a pinch and just need that jolt of caffeine, what’s better than just a straight shot of espresso? Sharp, tart, and with a strong bite, an espresso-flavoured book won’t be for the faint of heart, or sensitive of tastebud. Canadian author Mona Awad is always reliable for strange and unsettling works of horror, and her newest release Rouge takes a razor blade to the beauty industry–particularly its emphasis on youth above everything. When a dress-shop clerk’s mother passes, she finds herself caught up in La Maison de Méduse, a wellness cult her mother was involved with. Things get weirder and weirder as Awad spins her fairytale, which includes recognizable motifs like red shoes, mirrors, and thorns (as a shorthand, Rouge has been billed as “Snow White meets Eyes Wide Shut”).
If you’re feeling bookish this fall, be sure to check out our book clubs! We’ve got a little something for everyone. See our book clubs and title selections below–and bring your favourite fall drinks with you!
Great Novels Book Club – Register
- September 27: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg
- October 25: On the Ravine by Vincent Lam
- November 29: Less by Andrew Sean Greer
- December 20: Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
Non-Fiction Book Club – Register
- October 3: How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them by Barbara F. Walter
- November 7: Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- December 5: Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld
Romance Book Club – Register
- October 10: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
- November 13: Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola
- December 11: The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren
Sci-Fi Book Club – Register
- September 18: Lock In by John Scalzi
- October 16: Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes
- November 20: The Institute by Stephen King
- December 18: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey