Read a Book Today: Hot Girl Summer to reading girl Autumn

The two main characters of "Normal People" sit together quietly in a field.
“Normal People” explores a long-term romance between two people with different social statuses

The door on the fabled “Hot Girl Summer” is effectively closed, and it is no longer only because of the delta variant and the cable knit sweaters emerging from the back of the dresser drawer. The days are getting shorter; the heat waves are letting up and, on a recent drive through the city, I saw a hint of autumnal colors in the foliage. 

I also knew it was fall because the Emmys were at the Microsoft Theatre (maybe it’s because I’m a born-and-bred Angeleno, but I know when my awards shows air). Beyond Rita Wilson — and others — opening the show with the late Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” the show was fairly predictable. The cast and crew of “Ted Lasso” ran away with a number of statues as did Netflix’s “The Crown” with Olivia Colman accepting the award for outstanding lead actress with a tearful speech. Though I must admit, I bristled when “Wandavision” went home empty handed. I am still recovering from the “what is grief, if not love persevering” line. 

On the subject of television and the autumnal equinox, it means that many shows are back with a new season. So, I couldn’t help but think about my rule: I don’t allow myself to watch any adaptation of a book without reading the story first. Maybe it’s because I like to set myself up for disappointment with how poor the adaptation might be, or perhaps it is because I’m not a fan of rom-coms and much prefer the sappy, sweet stories in novel form. 

I don’t know about you, but I think I’m a bit of a mood reader. The atmosphere needs to be right, which is why I often reach for contemporary stories in the summer and the more dystopian, fantasy books for the winter. Of course, this means that my favorite adaptation needs to be on the list: “The Hunger Games.” Have you read it lately? Or watched the film? It holds up. In case you haven’t ventured onto the internet in the last 10 years, “The Hunger Games” follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen as she is selected to represent her “district” in a dystopian world where she must battle to the death in the (you guessed it!) Hunger Games. Personally, for me, this was the first big adaptation from book to film that led to my (perhaps ill-advised) Katniss Halloween costume. 

But, if we are willing to cycle forward to one of the many big, early quarantine shows, it shows that the book-to-visual media is not at all dead and thrives instead. It is, of course, “Normal People,” adapted originally by the BBC and also streaming on Hulu. The show was in part written by the author of the novel, Sally Rooney, who very quickly rocketed to stardom. What is perhaps most appealing about the novel and the television show is that it is very much “no plot, just vibes.” 

The story follows Marianne and Connell, two secondary school students on opposite sides of the popularity spectrum, as they continue onto college and beyond. The novel itself is a study in modern-day literature and a willingness to push the boundaries of writing norms. For example, the dialogue is not nestled between quotation marks and is only accompanied by a speaker tag such as “she said” and is presented like any other sentence in the rest of the book. Like any story, it is not all perfect, but it is a beautiful tale about the messiness of relationships and social class and growing up and learning about yourself. 

You really are going to need to forgive me, but I’m going to throw a book suggestion to you out of left field. Does the quote “I’m so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers” ring a bell? L.M Montgomery’s classic “Anne of Green Gables” is one I put off reading for a while (for no good reason outside of a passing fear of classics), but I am so delighted I finally burned through the  entire series over the summer. It is quotable, and the writing is so easy to read that it is easy to forget that the first novel came out more than 100 years ago. 

In case you’re unfamiliar, “Anne of Green Gables” follows orphan girl Anne Shirley as she is mistakenly sent to live with the middle-aged Cuthbert siblings and figures out life on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. The reason I’ve included this classic in a series of adaptations is due to it not only having two separate film adaptations (that I have not watched) but  also received the television treatment with Netflix’s “Anne with an E,” and while it is not entirely faithful, it is nevertheless delightful. 

Midterms have arrived and that means that the workload may feel a bit like an overwhelming wave crashing around you, so maybe, once you find a sliver of time, you might be inclined to switch on the 2012 “The Hunger Games” film or pick up a new book. You can find me at Doheny — attempting to study but instead getting wrapped up in a story. What can I say? Sometimes my latest novel is more interesting than the essay due tomorrow. 

Rachel Bernstein is a senior writing about books in relation to the arts and entertainment news of the week. Her column “Read a Book Today” runs every other Friday.