The Best Books I Read in October 2021

This month’s list is scary good, so brace your TBR

Photo by the author

I regret to inform you that “spooky season” this year has, alas, come to an end. 

Normally, I’m not a big October/Halloween vibes person, being generally resistant to any reminder that Winter is Coming. But this year, I decided to do some witchy theme reading to make the month feel like a celebration, and can I just say, that strategy was, um, alarming effective? 

I’m actually sad to see October go, and not just because we’re one step closer to the Cold Times. Obviously I can read fun witchy magical books any time, but this is the first year I’ve really gone in for themed reading and it has been an absolute blast. (Even if I didn’t 100% love this season’s prime Instagram darling, The Ex Hex).

Thankfully, the winter holiday amalgamation is on the horizon, and I’ll be theming my reads all winter long to survive. But, we’re not there quite yet, so let’s linger a moment on the best books I read in October 2021! 

(Full disclosure: Links to specific books are Bookshop affiliate links which earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you. Mentions of Book of the Month are referral codes.)

The Witch Haven 

The Witch Haven started off spooky season for me this year, and it was the perfect October read. A good balance of love story, female friendship, and magic, this one left me with shivers down my spine in the best of ways. 

I wrote a full review shortly after finishing, so I’ll let past Amanda get you up to speed on this one if you want to know more: ‘The Witch Haven’ Casts a Powerful Spell
Don’t expect it to feel like going back to Hogwarts

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism

Holy fascinating and well-performed audiobooks, Batman! Cultish was such an absolute delight of a read that when my friend told me she’d started it, I yelled at her with so much enthusiasm I scared the dog. 

Amanda Montell’s got a family connection to some cult history that spawned her interest in researching the subject. I love investigative nonfiction with some personal narrative thrown in, and this book delivers just the right touch of narrative personality while still hitting you hard with solid facts and interviews about her topic.

Montell is an expert in linguistics, and approaches cults and cult-like groups from this angle, looking at how the words we use influence our viewpoint and feeling of belongingness (or lack thereof). Here I go about to write a second, gushing full review, so I’m going to stop here and let you know you can find more of my thoughts in my original review

Well Matched

Photo by (and of) the author

Sleep? Who needs it when you can have this steamy delight of a fake-dating trope romance with a Ren Fest twist thrown in? 

Jen Deluca is a two-time member of the “broke my bedtime” club thanks to Well Matched, which I preordered so I could receive fun stickers and a signed copy. If, like me, the cupcakes on a stack of books seems like a weird reference, you should probably go ahead and read because that reference is gold once you get it. 

Full review, complete with photo of angry/confused pup wondering why I kept the lights on so late, here: “Well Matched” Kept Me Up All Night
Staying up late to read rom coms like the rebel that I am

Payback’s a Witch

Payback’s a Witch in my opinion, should’ve had more witchy October buzz than it got. 

The worldbuilding is fascinating, with a unique magical system that relies on proximity to the town and includes the ability to become a witch through marriage. In a nutshell, this is John Tucker Must Die made magical with slightly higher stakes and a Sapphic romance thrown in, making it a truly delightful book to round out spooky season. 

I’ve got a few chapters left in this one yet, which I plan to read while sitting on my porch during trick or treat this evening. 

The Mediator Series, Books 1–4, 6

Ah, nostalgia. I’ve written a lot about this series over the course of the month, so I’ll spare you too many details here. I’ve been listening to the audiobook versions of the story of teenage Mediator Suze Simon, who has the ability to see (kick, punch, and kiss) ghosts, and it’s been an absolute treat. 

I also “read” book 5 this month but the abridged, 2 hour audiobook is a travesty which I would not willingly unleash upon anyone, so it’s strongly and intentionally not included here. The book itself is great, but go with the print all the way if you’re going to do it because the abridgement does not, in my opinion, even make very much sense. 

Honorable Mentions (AKA Other Stuff I Read This Month)

These are the books that didn’t quite make the cut for best of the best this month, but I finished them, which means they’d earn at least 3 stars from me were I the star-giving sort

In all, this month’s decision to theme my reading around Halloween was a real treat! I’m excited to dive into holiday reads in the coming months, though I’m going to tackle some of my digital TBR as well. 

Did you read any stellar books in October, whether spooky or not? I’d love to hear about them! 

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Rise & Run: Review So Far

Cover image courtesy of Goodreads

As both a runner and a morning person, I was stoked to see that Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky were coming out with a cookbook focused around morning routines and breakfast recipes. I’ve been madly in love with their Superhero Muffins ever since I first chanced upon the free version of the recipe online, and a few of my go-to recipes come from their Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow cookbook.

I love mornings, and I love breakfast, but I often resort to whipping up something quick and chocolately if I don’t have muffins or another meal prepped from the night before. Having a book chock full of breakfast recipes, with not one but two entire chapters of muffin recipes has put some pep in my breakfast step once again.

The past couple weeks haven’t been super heavy in the running department, since I am experiencing a particularly bad flare up of my chronic pain condition. While I’ve been medically cleared to run even during a flare, being in pain doesn’t exactly make a girl want to strap on her running shoes.

That, however, has not stopped me from immediately diving in to see what Rise & Run: Recipes, Rituals, and Runs to Fuel Your Day has to offer. Since it arrived on my doorstep on Tuesday, I’ve tried out two of the recipes and have a third one on dock for Sunday meal prep. Would I normally wait to try a few more recipes before reviewing a cookbook? Yes, probably.

But it’s Blogtober and I am a few hours shy of missing my first ever post day, so here I am, reflecting on the recipes I’ve tried so far. If I’d really thought ahead, I would’ve taken pictures as I made these meals, but really, I was just excited to start trying them, so here we are.

Sunrise Overnight Oats

The first recipe I tried from the book, these overnight oats are quite a bit different to something I’d normally make myself for breakfast. As in, they don’t feature chocolate, a general requirement when I eat oats in the morning. This recipe sneaks in some shredded carrot much like my favorite version of the superhero muffins, and incorporates apples as well. The primary flavor notes are cinnamon, apple, and honey, and while the recipe calls for homemade nut milk, I splashed in oatmilk instead because that’s what we generally have on hand.

After eating these oats for breakfast, I was surprised that I could noticeably tell a difference in my energy levels compared with my usual hastily assembled, sugary oats. They were delicious, as well, a sort of cold apple pie flavor with a bit of crunch from the apples and almonds. I think these will definitely be a go-to for me, because if there’s one thing I love, it’s shredded carrots sneaked into breakfast.

Homemade Pancake and Waffle Mix

No math before coffee is a lesson I’ve had to learn oh so many times. This morning, I learned it again when I tried to prep a smaller batch of the homemade pancake and waffle mix. As written, the recipe requires nine cups of oat flour, which begs the question, where are these women buying their oat flour? Where I shop, that’s two to three bags, at least. Needless to say, I intended to use only 3 and make a smaller batch so I could whip up the Belgian Waffles from the book.

Except that while I did divide the oat flour and all purpose by three, I forgot to do this when I splashed in the baking powder and cinnamon. Alas, I could either waste all that flour, or improvise my way to 9 cups of something or another, so I chose the latter, tossing in some almond flour and gluten free flour I had on hand.

Suffice it to say, I can’t judge the waffles that resulted from this mix too harshly given that I did not follow the recipe as written. That said, I can’t say I’m sad to have a bag of homemade waffle and pancake mix waiting in the wings, because even my weird improvised version tastes pretty darn good. There are several different recipes in the book that use this mix as a base, from the Belgian waffles I made this morning to pancakes to a savory waffle recipe. I suspect I’ll be baking my way through a few as I work to use this gallon bag of mix I wound up with.

Tomorrow, I dig into the sweet muffin chapter with a new-to-me superhero muffin variation–the dark chocolate banana, of course. At this point, I trust these women to write me a damn good muffin recipe, so I’m quite excited to give several of these a go.

The thing I like best about these books, though, is the tone. Elyse and Shalane don’t treat butter, flour, or whole milk yogurt as enemies, and it’s refreshing to see their recipe incorporating real ingredients that don’t try to “lighten up” baked goods. It’s more about the nutrient profile of the recipe and how those ingredients can nourish one’s body through the hard work of running (or, um, walking the dog).

This one comes with several non-food chapters about morning routines and running habits, as well, which I’m excited to read once I’m feeling a bit less down in the dumps about my own ability to lace up my shoes and go. The verdict: would buy again, 100%. I recommend to folks who enjoy a good muffin, to runners, and to people who enjoy eating secret carrots shredded into things as much as I do.