If you’d entered my dorm room senior year of undergrad, you might have wondered if I’d gotten distracted and started playing The Floor Is Lava! with my books. I definitely considered it. I think I could have made it from the bed to the desk chair without touching the floor. In actuality, dorm rooms never give you enough bookshelf space for the number of books one accumulates while writing a senior thesis. So I resorted, instead, to organized piles on the floor.
I bring this up now because I have approached this blog in much the same way as my undergraduate history thesis. The first step in any research project is to find out what has been written on the subject already and the approach each source has taken. (Thanks Haverford College, it turns out I did learn something after all!) Because the niche of Literary Travel is so small, my first reaction to finding any book on the subject was something along the lines of, “Well, guess I’ll hang up my hat. It’s already been done.” However, since then, book piles have begun to take up floor space (yes, I have more bookshelf space now, but why fix a system that works?) So while it seems counter-productive to share with you the sources I’ve gathered, I’m actually enjoying each book so much that I just have to share them with you! Just promise you’ll keep coming back here, okay?
World-Wide Literary Travel
Storybook Travels: From Eloise’s New York to Harry Potter’s London, Visits to 30 of the Best-Loved Landmarks in Children’s Literature by Colleen Dunn Bates & Susan La Tempa
This book is fabulous for parents traveling with young children! The authors suggest conversation starters to get children thinking about their experience as well as suggest ways that parents can make a game out of an experience to keep a youngster interested. And let’s be honest, what’s better than a game to prevent a boredom meltdown? I also love that this book promotes reading with your child. I think that step alone is SUPER important.
I also enjoyed the format of each chapter. The authors have divided each chapter into three sections: the book, the experience, and their itinerary. The first provides a summary of the book represented in the chapter. This was not only helpful for those books I haven’t read, but the authors’ plot analysis for books I have read often led me to look at the story in a whole new light! The experience sections are often funny anecdotes of the authors’ own experience traveling with a child. The women found clever solutions for all those difficulties presented when attempting to travel with youngsters with short attention spans, and sometimes minimal analysis capabilities. The itinerary section provided contact information for all the destinations visited during the experience.
Purchase Storybook Travels on Amazon here!
Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Earnest Hemingway’s Key West by Shannon McKenna Schmidt & Joni Rendon
The authors of this book break up the literary destinations into types: including author’s houses, festivals, places to eat, places to stay, places featured in literature, and even places featured in films made based on classic literature. I’ll definitely be taking a copy of the section on England’s Best Literary Pubs with me this summer!
This book is so full of literary places I never knew about that it has me planning a road trip around my own country. I never realized how many of literature’s classic writers were actually American instead of British! Not to mention the several other countries I’ve now added to my bucket list and books I’ve added to my to-read list.
This book is also a good armchair read even if you’re not able to travel to the suggested destinations. There are so many fascinating facts tucked in this book that I could hardly put it down! A newer second edition of this book was recently released and I’ve read it contains color photographs! I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
The many destinations in this book provide an interesting insight into the kinds of places our society creates and preserves to memorialize authors who have left us with stories that transcend generations. Just with any guide book, however, places come and go, close and open, and printed books can’t always keep up. While reading the first edition, I was excited to learn that there is a Dickens World Theme Park in Britain! Unfortunately, after looking it up online in the hopes of visiting, I discovered that it closed in October 2016! According to author McKenna Schmidt, this was also just after the second edition went out for printing. If the authors someday publish a 3rd edition, I’ll be first in line for that book too.
Purchase Novel Destinations from Amazon here!
Reading on Location by Luisa Moncada & Scala Quin
This book is a basic bibliography of titles with plot summaries organized first by location, then by genre. Books with official related museums contain a note below the summary with the website of the destination.
If you’ve ever wondered if Bath, England has been written about by anybody else besides Jane Austen, this book contains your answer. (Yes, I have wondered this, and the answer is yes, other authors have used Bath in their own fictional works.) This bibliography has something for each reader in the family. You could even have each of your travel pals choose a different book based on one location!
Purchase Reading on Location from Amazon here!
Britain Literary Travel
Once Upon a Time in Great Britain by Melanie Wentz
Wentz focuses more on the history of authors and the impact their life events have on the story they wrote. The destinations she writes about are often related to where an author lived or stayed, and sometimes these correspond to locations that appear in their book.
I will warn you that this book will change the way you see all of your favorite childhood books. It would seem that to have been a classic children’s book writer, an author was required to have a thoroughly depressing life with much hardship!
Purchase Once Upon a Time in Great Britain from Amazon here!
America Literary Travel
Traveling Literary America: A Complete Guide to Literary Landmarks by B. J. Welborn
Welborn’s thick guide contains more literary related houses in the United States than I ever knew existed! The book is divided into United States regions starting with the oldest, New England, and working West. I suppose if you were to do a literary road trip across the country in chronological order, you would in fact start on the Atlantic coast and work your way to the Pacific. This guide is by far the most comprehensive of all the literary travel books I have found so far. The author includes as much information as she can about each landmark: information about the location, the time period the author lived there, why the house is significant in the lifetime of the author, information about the house itself, the best things to see in the house, tips for visiting the house, biographical information of the author, further reading about the author, and finally, other things to see in the area.
While the guide covers almost all the states, Alaska is notably missing. I’ll just have to write that chapter myself.
Purchase Traveling Literary America on Amazon here!
The Ideals Guide to Literary Places in the U.S. by Michelle Prater Burke
Burke’s guide surprised me with glossy pages and color photos! This guide focuses on literary related houses, the history of their architecture, and the author’s life in relation to the house structure. If you’re looking for an armchair read and photo book, this is the guide I would recommend. The other guides’ descriptions of authors’ houses and items that can be seen inside pale in comparison to colored interior shots of houses. If you’re not able to travel to these destinations, the next best thing is photographs of the inside.
As with the previous Literary America guide, Alaska is noticeably missing.
Purchase The Ideals Guide to Literary Places in the U.S. on Amazon here!
After completing this bibliography of Literary Travel sources, it is apparent that that this niche is largely lacking in a few areas. The first is photographs of literary destinations. The second is sources regarding countries outside of North America and Europe (However, as my travels have focused in this area so far, it is possible that this may be a fault of my own bibliographic research thus far). The third is sources regarding the states Alaska and Hawaii. Challenge accepted. For the future of this blog, I will aim to fill these gaps. I guess you will have to come back here after all!
*This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a book, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you!
I love armchair travel as much as real travel, and reading about destinations I’m about to visit so this is a great list (at least as the UK/North America (minus Alaska 😉 ) is concerned). I’ve popped a few of these on my Goodreads bookshelf.
If you want a book covering books set in Africa, “A basket of leaves” (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3987780-a-basket-of-leaves) is a great resource. It covers African countries in alphabetical order, presents two books in depth and also has a list of further suggestions for each country at the back. I’ve found a fabulous resource if that part of the world interests you. 🙂
A Suitcase Full of Books says
Thanks! I’ll be adding that to my own Goodreads list! I’m glad you found some of my suggestions helpful!
I am and also millions of tourists are looking forward to read the book: “Elizabeth’s Guide to Literary Places in Alaska and Hawaii”.
A Suitcase Full of Books says
A whole book could take a while!
John Willis says
Your travel guide helped me to plan my next vacation. Hats off to your work!
A Suitcase Full of Books says
That’s so great to hear! Thank you! Where is it you’re headed?
Mike Honeycutt says
I agree with every factor that you have pointed out. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts on this.