Celebrate the First Day of Fall with a Good Book

first day of fall

Fall is finally here! Arguably the best season of them all—the season of leaves and pumpkins, scary movies and hayrides, Halloween and Thanksgiving. For those of us who live in the South, it may not feel quite like fall yet, but don’t fret—there was never a problem that a well-chosen book couldn’t solve!

Here a few titles to get you in the autumn mood. Turn down the air, put on your favorite sweater, grab your pumpkin spice latte, and curl up with a good book!

A Fall Reading List

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit FallStart out with this classic from J.R.R. Tolkien—the one book that started it all, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings. Right off the bat, Bilbo Baggins in his hobbit hole, scurrying and flustered from the unexpected company of dwarves who landed on his doorstep, will put you in the fall mood. Tolkien’s beautiful descriptions of nature will not disappoint, and you can follow it up with a movie marathon! Peter Jackson directed both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, for your viewing pleasure.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

For a little old-fashioned horror with a touch of mystery, check out Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. This classic ghost story was one of the first to develop the “strangers in a haunted house” motif, and it will give you some great ideas for Halloween costumes and decorations. For some extra scares, check out one of the two movie adaptations, both titled The Haunting—one made in 1963 and the other 1999. If you like Jackson’s style, also check out the short story “The Lottery,” one of the inspirations for The Hunger Games.

The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe

The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan PoeIf you like being scared, but don’t like being grossed out, Poe is for you. His writing style is both beautiful and readable—he will impress and terrify you. Plus a short story is a great way to pass the time between apple picking and hayrides. Check out “The Raven,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Really any Harry Potter book will do, if you’re a fan of the series and can jump in anywhere. If you’ve never read Harry Potter, or if it’s been a while, start from the beginning. J.K. Rowling is a master storyteller—you won’t want to put it down. Between shopping for school supplies, the beautiful candle-lit castle, wizard robes and pumpkin beer, if Harry Potter doesn’t put you in the fall mood, nothing will.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Based on a true story, Berendt’s novel is a classic Southern Gothic tale with a few modern twists—a great way to get ready for the Halloween season. It’s got everything you need—voodoo, cemeteries, mystery and chills. For a bonus, check out the great film version of the same name, starring John Cusack and Kevin Spacey and directed by Clint Eastwood.

Happy Fall from Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe!

Do you have a special book that gets you in the mood for Fall or Halloween? Let us know!


Thug Notes takes on Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Warning: This video contains mature content.

Whether you’re looking for an insightful summary or just a few minutes of entertainment, the Thug Notes video analysis of Go Set a Watchman is a great resource. Sparky Sweets, PhD.—literature expert extraordinaire—uses colorful language and creative phrasing to take us through the plot of Harper Lee’s follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird. Thug Notes brings much-needed humor to the narrative, translating Jean Louise’s moral journey into a creative and unique story of its own.

Thug Notes Summarizes Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, thug notes
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Thug Notes educates and entertains. Early in the analysis, we learn that the novel is narrated from the Third Person Omniscient point of view, and that this deviates from our expectations—as Mockingbird was a first-person narrative. Thug Notes’ one-liners are nonstop fun. For example, when referring to the “Black Plague” pamphlet that Scout Finds, Sweets explains that she questions what it’s doing in the house, adding that the pamphlet “is exactly as racist as it sounds.”

But my favorite line comes when Sweets explains Jean Louise’s (and everyone’s) feelings when discovering Atticus is racist: “Atticus! You were my man, dawg. And now you practically attending Klan meetings? Et tu, Bra? Et tu, Bra?”

The video is well worth the 10 minutes it takes to watch it, and I definitely recommend it for its insight and humor.

About Thug Notes

So what exactly is Thug Notes? Who is this guy sitting in front of a pretentious-looking library wearing a do-rag? Thug Notes is a sub-project of the website Wisecrack, an entertainment website that also includes “8-Bit Philosophy” and “Boss Bitches of History.”

In the team’s own words, Thugs Notes is “classic literature, original gangster.” Their aim is to make literature more fun and accessible to a wider audience. They’ve reviewed Gone Girl, Grendel, The Outsiders, and many more. The website invites viewers to  “join Sparky Sweets, PhD. for summary and analysis of the world’s most important literature – from Shakespeare and Jane Austen to Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut. Forget about the CliffsNotes and SparkNotes. You don’t know sh*t ‘till you’ve watched Thug Notes.”

Greg Edwards, the actor who plays Sparky Sweets, PhD, explained to the Tampa Bay Times his mission behind the project:

For some academics, I worry they’re not aiming to make the themes of literature universal… But the truth is, the gift of literature is universal in meaning and should be made accessible to everyone on every plane. So, ‘Thug Notes’ is my way of trivializing academia’s attempt at making literature exclusionary by showing that even high-brow academic concepts can be communicated in a clear and open fashion.

What’s your original take on Go Set a Watchman? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.


9 Sequels You Probably Don’t Know About

books undiscovered sequels

As a society, we have sequel fever. Books, movies, plays… we love to revisit beloved characters, watch them grow up and face new conflicts in new environments. Discovering a previously unknown sequel can bring about a multitude of emotions—excitement that a beloved story will continue, and concern that a new story could contaminate the perfection of the original.

Sequels to popular novels can also pass under the radar if they’re written long after the first or if their caliber doesn’t match the original. But a sequel can also be an undiscovered gem, waiting for you to come across it and revisit favorite characters. Here at Ol’ Curiosities, we love sequels and undiscovered novels. This Friday, as a special gift, here are nine sequels just waiting to be discovered by you!

9 Sequels You Might Not Know About

required reading lois lowry the giverThe Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry

In addition to The Giver, Lois Lowry actually wrote three more books about her dystopian society—Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son. Each novel has a different protagonist but takes place in the same controlled, totalitarian society as The Giver. These novels explore themes of freedom, otherness, memory and motherhood.

The Little Women Trilogy by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott revisits the March sisters of Little Women in books two and three of her trilogy—Little Men and Jo’s Boys. The first novel follows Jo, who is now Mrs. Friedrich Bhaer, and her husband as they run the school, Plumfield, alluded to at the end of Little Women. The final book, Jo’s Boys, follows the characters introduced in book two—the young students who have now grown up and left the school.

Paradise Regained by John Milton

John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, catches up with Satan after his fall from heaven. He’s on a particularly devious mission to corrupt man. Considered a classic, it’s full of imagery, simile and Milton’s ornate style. Paradise Regained is much more subdued, and follows Satan’s temptation of Christ and Christ’s ultimate victory.

Closing Time by Joseph Heller

Closing Time isn’t just the name of Semisonic’s one-hit-wonder—it’s also the sequel to Joseph Heller’s classic war novel Catch-22. The novel catches up with protagonist Yossarian 50 years after the war, as an old man in New York City facing death and dealing with the lingering effects of war. Two new characters are also added and given their own story line.

The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling’s follow-up to The Jungle Book, aptly named The Second Jungle Book, featured eight stories about Mowgli, Shere Khan and other characters, interwoven with poems about India and the jungle. Disney released a sequel to The Jungle Book as well, but it did not follow Kipling’s story.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

stephen king doctor sleep sequelStephen King wrote The Shining in 1977 and only recently released its sequel—Doctor Sleep. In the novel, Danny Torrance is grown up and dealing with the psychological effects of the events of The Shining. His psychic abilities, suppressed from years of drinking, begin to return. He must deal with his own inner demons while battling ghosts and protecting his loved ones.

The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook—arguably Nicholas Sparks’ most popular novel and movie adaptation—has a lesser known sequel entitled The Wedding. The book is about Noah and Allie’s daughter Jane and her husband Wilson, as they plan their daughter’s wedding and deal with their own relationship.

Small Steps by Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar’s widely popular novel Holes has a follow-up novel entitled Small Steps. This book is about supporting character Armpit and his struggles to hold his life together and take care of his neighbor Ginny, who has cerebral palsy. Like the characters in Holes, those in Small Steps deal with issues of law, authority, luck, fate and hard work.

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas’ follow-up to The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, catches up with D’Artagnan after 20 years as a Lieutenant in the musketeers. He is unhappy that his career has gone nowhere. The novel features a reunion of the four musketeers and precedes another novel—The Vicomte de Bragelonne—which was the basis for the film The Man in the Iron Mask.

Have you discovered a sequel that others don’t know about? Let us and our readers know! We’d love to hear from you!


Tracking Your Reading: The Why and the How

track your reading

young adult literature reading trackingHave you ever gotten 10, 25, or even 50 pages into a book and realized you’d read it before? Maybe the cover caught your eye… twice. Maybe a character seemed familiar or a piece of description or a line of dialogue jogged your memory. Accidentally re-reading a book—it’s happened to the best of us.

Rereading a book can be fun and rewarding when done on purpose, but it can be a waste of time and money if you didn’t actually want to reread the book. There’s an endless amount of books out there—you’ve got a lot to get through in your life! To avoid wasting precious reading time, many people keep track of what they’ve read. There are definite benefits to tracking your reading—and multiple ways of doing it.

The Benefits of Tracking What You Read

Besides avoiding the dreaded “accidental reread,” there are plenty of reasons to track what you read. First, you can easily sort and search through what you’ve read in order to give someone a recommendation. Tracking your reading allows you to search by title, author, genre and more.  You can also search through what you’ve read to get gift ideas for friends and loved ones—books you’ve read can be a quick and easy go-to gift that you can tailor to someone specific. Keeping track of what you’ve read can also double as a library inventory, so you can search your books quickly, and keep track of those you’ve lent out to friends.

open bookMethods of Tracking

Tracking what you read may seem cumbersome and daunting, but there are plenty of options out there to help you get started. You can find the method best suited for you, and get started today!


Goodreads is a website that combines reading-tracking with social media. You can mark books as “to read,” “reading” and “read.” You can rate them and get recommendations based on your ratings. You can also create “bookshelves” that allow you to group the books you’ve read in different ways. On top of all of this, you can “friend” people and follow their reading progress and take a peek at their shelves. Goodreads is a great way to keep track of your reading and find your next great read.

Smartphone Apps

There are plenty of apps out there for tracking your reading on your smartphone. Book Crawler, iBookshelf, iReaditnow, BookBuddy, ReadMore… Some are free, some have barcode scanners, some allow for exporting or sharing. You can find whatever you need in a tracking app—just search your phone app store for “tracking reading” or “tracking books” and browse descriptions and reviews.

Do-It-Yourself Spreadsheet

True Crime BooksFor those who like more control and who are willing to put in the work, making a spreadsheet on your home computer or laptop is a great option. You can tailor each column to your liking so you can note the information that is useful to you and sort by it. Some column suggestions are:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Date Published
  • Date Read
  • Genre
  • Sub-Genres
  • Summary
  • Rating
  • Tags

Have you ever accidentally reread a book? Do you keep track of your reading? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you!


8 Quotes from Atticus Finch

scout atticus parenting

Atticus Finch To Kill a MockingbirdAtticus Finch—the Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird—has inspired generations with his kind words, his rational advice and his patient parenting. He courageously stands up for what is right when popular opinion is against him. His unwavering moral compass is a guide for his children—he teaches them love for their fellow man, empathy, kindness and rationality. Lawyers cite him as their inspiration for going into law, and parents name their children and pets after him.

His recent fall from grace in Go Set a Watchman was difficult for many readers to swallow. In Harper Lee’s new novel, Scout discovers her father to be a closeted racist. She must confront him and separate her moral compass from his—from the man who was her hero, counselor and protector for the first two decades of her life. There was an important lesson in this, but it came at the cost of a fallen hero.

Yet the Atticus of Mockingbird remains a separate entity, and the moral lessons he teaches his children and readers remain undiminished. Here are 8 reminders of the Atticus we grew up with.

8 Inspirational Quotes from the Atticus:

Atticus and Scout
Atticus and Scout, front porch scene from To Kill a Mockingbird

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

“When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles ’em.”

“You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anyone says to you, don’t let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change… it’s a good one, even if it does resist learning.”

scout atticus parenting
Mary Badham as Scout and Gregory Peck as Atticus

“It’s not okay to hate anybody.”

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

“But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal- there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest JP court in the land, or this honourable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal”

What’s your favorite quote from Atticus? Let us know!

Seven Novels Set in Small Towns

Vintage Old Town Photo

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square.

Great Depression
“Maycomb was a tired old town.”

In literature, small towns can serve as microscopes—the good and the bad in life are magnified and closely examined. Human relationships are tested, explored and expanded. The actions of characters affect not only themselves and their close friends and family, but also ripple throughout the community. A small town can also serve as microcosm, a contained whole representative of something larger—a state, our nation, or humanity in general.

In the case of Maycomb, Alabama—the fictional setting for Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird—the town served to present and examine the racism that permeated small southern towns—a racism that infected the justice system, as well as the day to day lives of the those in the community. It also showed the devastating effects of the Great Depression, as well as the resilience that carried our nation through that dark period.

Here at Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of our favorites. In honor of Maycomb, here are seven more novels set in small towns.

7 Books Set in Small Towns

Cold Sassy Tree

Historical novel Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns, is set in the fictional town of Cold Sassy, Georgia. The name of the town comes from the sassafras trees that grow there. Nature is often a motif in small town stories, as small towns are closer and therefore more connected to nature. Cold Sassy Tree is about a scandalous marriage and the town’s reaction to such, as well as a young boy growing up.

The Notebook

The Notebook Nicholas Sparks Small TownMost of Nicholas Sparks’ books could be on this list, so The Notebook is representative of a larger group of similar works. Sparks sets his (many) novels in small towns in North Carolina. The Notebook tells the love story of Noah and Allie, who meet and fall in love in New Bern, NC. In an interview with CliffsNotes, Sparks explains why he likes to set his novels in small towns:

I think that setting a novel in a small town taps into a sense of nostalgia among readers. People tend to believe life is different in small towns, and frankly, it is different. The pace of life is slower, there’s less traffic, and people tend to know their neighbors; each town has its distinct idiosyncrasies and charms.

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, is set in a fictional town on Prince Edward Island—Canada’s smallest province. Modeled after the town of Cavendish, where the author grew up, the novel’s setting is a charming small town with sprawling farmland, mysterious woods and a beautiful coastline. Those interested in the Anne of Green Gables experience can visit Avonlea Village, a small park attraction in Cavendish modeled after the fictional town.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

In Fannie Flagg’s novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, elderly Ninny Threadgoode narrates the adventures of her youth spent in Whistle Stop, Alabama. Ninny and her friend Ruth ran the Whistle Stop Cafe in the 30s. As in Mockingbird, in Fried Green Tomatoes we see the effects of the Great Depression on small southern towns. The novel and the town are filled with quirky characters, humor, mystery, terror and triumph.

Salem’s Lot

Salem's Lot Stephen King Small TownsStephen King’s second novel, Salem’s Lot, is set in Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine. Writer Ben Mears returns to his small town home after 25 years only to discover the town is filled with a great evil. In his memoir On Writing, King described the novel as “Vampires in Our Town.” A theme of the story is that horrors can be hidden anywhere, even in small towns where everyone thinks they know their neighbors.

The Grass Harp

Like his first novel Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman Capote’s The Grass Harp is about a young boy leaving home to live with relatives. He deals with the strangeness of his new surroundings and an intense, haunting feeling of loneliness. Like Harper Lee, Capote spent much of his childhood in Monroeville, Alabama, and used the town as a model for the small southern town in this and other novels.

The Casual Vacancy

J.K. Rowling’s first novel after her hugely popular Harry Potter series, and her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy is about a vacant council seat in the small town of Pagford in the West Country region of England. The vacancy causes much scandal in the small community. For those expecting Harry Potter, you’ll be sorely disappointed, as this book couldn’t be more different. But The Casual Vacancy stands on its own—in it, Rowling examines greed, politics, class, drug use and small town life.

Did we miss your favorite small town book? Did you grow up in a small town? Let us know!