Have you ever read a book and gotten so involved in the story that you knew you needed to visit the place where it was set? I have. Multiple times! Books have the magical power of taking us to places we’ve never been before. But, if we’re lucky, we can make those places a reality by visiting the locations from the books we read. I partnered up with some fellow bloggers (thanks, Perlu!) to bring you a list of books that inspire you to travel. For the record, I would absolutely love to visit the fictional land from the Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore. Sigh. If only…
Books That Inspire You to Travel … in the United States
New Bern is the type of town where shops close early in the evening, or for a life event of a town member. It’s idyllic along the oceanside, and the perfect spot for a quiet escape on any given weekend. One of the highlights? New Bern is also home to Tryon Palace, the site of North Carolina’s first capitol. These days you can tour the palace and the gardens surrounding it and experience the stories of yesteryear through living history exhibits.
Savannah, Georgia, USA
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — John Berendt
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is the quintessential Savannah, Georgia book. This nonfiction book follows the events of a 1980’s murder of a local male prostitute by a respected antiques dealer and the resulting four murder trials. The eccentric characters and the Southern Gothic tone capture the distinctly ‘Old South’ charm of Savannah.
When I visited Savannah, this book was all anyone could talk about, from the tour guides to the tourists. I had yet to read the book then, and when I came home I immediately picked up a copy. Ever since, I’ve been dying to get back to Savannah and be surrounded by its Spanish moss and relive the suspense created by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
The next time you’re in Savannah, make sure to take a hearse-driven ghost tour! You’ll ride around in the back of an open-top hearse and be driven to Savannah’s most haunted sights, including the Mercer House where the events of the Midnight murder took place. It’s an experience to die for!
See more from Paige:
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Out of the Easy — Ruta Sepetys
This timeline is a little backwards – instead of visiting a place I fell in love with in a book, I read a book to bring me back to a place I’d fallen in love with when I visited. Last summer I visited New Orleans with a friend to celebrate my 30th (epic, right?!) and I loved it. I mean, really loved it. The food, the culture, the bayou, … did I mention the food?! NOLA is incredible and I can’t wait to go back. But seeing as that isn’t as feasible as I’d like, I came across a book set in the French Quarter.
I found Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys at a discount outlet near my house and knew I had to buy it. As I dove deeper and deeper into the pages and the story within, I felt like I was back in Louisiana, strolling the streets and smelling the beignets. The story itself was captivating. It’s a coming-of-age novel about a girl who was raised in a brothel, but was too smart and too good for that kind of life, so she dreamed of doing bigger and better things for herself. I highly recommend it!
Inspired by a sleepless night at the W Doha, Ann Benjamin posits the question, “Who else has slept in your hotel room?” Taking place entirely at the exclusive (and fictional) Winchester Hotel in Beverly Hills, Room 702 explores the lives of the many guests who visit the room during the year, and how their lives intertwine.
Although originally intended to be set in Dubai, Ms. Benjamin felt the upscale city within Los Angeles was a better fit for the narrative. A life long fan of high-end properties, Ann felt all of her travels led to the creation of a fictional hotel — from its restaurants to a signature cocktail, and some of the staff who appear throughout the book.
First published in 2013, Ann later updated the novel with friend and fellow author Elena Sandovici. Elena added a chapter in another language, something Ms. Benjamin felt was important for the story. Currently, Ann enjoys capturing the cover artwork of her novel on her e-reader in hotel rooms she stays in across the world. (Look for the hashtag #Room702 on Instagram!) She is always trying to grab a photo of any Room 702 in the properties.
More from Ann
Room 702 and The Winchester also have a cameo in Ann’s second novel, a unique road trip set in the United States, in Life After Joe. Readers will be able to identify the boutique hotel where the protagonist spends a night in the same suite as all of the guests.
For additional details, Ann invites you to visit her blog for book club questions and other insights about the novel. You can also check her Pinterest board for all the inspiration she used to create the ‘look’ of the suite.
See more from Courtney:
Books That Inspire You to Travel … to International Destinations
I was already immersed in Dan Brown’s thriller, Inferno, when I learned I’d be traveling to Istanbul, Turkey, for work. As I read about the dramatic car chase across the Galata Bridge, the search for answers in the massive Hagia Sophia, and the climactic scene in the unique underground Basilica Cistern, I counted the days until I could explore these amazing places in person. Although my trip to Istanbul was for work, I fortunately had one weekend day free to explore the real-world version of this exotic, ancient city brought to life in Dan Brown’s novel.
If you plan to explore the sights of Istanbul featured in Dan Brown’s thriller, Inferno, here’s what I recommend. Start your day by ascending the Galata Tower where you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the Turkish city that spans two continents. Then cross the Galata Bridge. You can certainly do this by car (like Robert Langdon) or bus (like Sienna Brooks), but I recommend strolling over the Golden Horn on foot via one of the wide pedestrian walkways flanking both sides of the bridge.
Galata Bridge to Hagia Sophia
From the south side of the Galata Bridge, it’s about a mile walk to the Hagia Sophia. This may be one of the most fascinating religious buildings I’ve ever visited. Not only does it have a fascinating past — it was a cathedral that was converted into a mosque that’s now a museum — but it’s also massive. And when I say massive, I do mean massive. Paris’s Notre Dame could fit inside, and the Statue of Liberty could do jumping jacks without bumping her crown on the dome.
Wrap up your Inferno tour of Istanbul with a visit to the Basilica Cistern. Without creating a spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t read this Dan Brown novel yet, let me say that one of the most intense scenes in the book takes place here, under the streets of Istanbul. Visiting the Galata Tower, Galata Bridge, Hagia Sophia, and Basilica Cistern will take about a day. And this foursome of sights is the perfect way to experience Inferno via travel.
I love using books as a way to extend or relive my travels. There is nothing better than being able to draw on your memory to say ‘I’ve been there!’ Having been there, it also helps to paint a better picture of the story. It can also provide an extra glimpse inside a particular venue. I was unable to visit the Louvre because it was closed the day I was in Paris. But, reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has helped me experience it. It’s been especially great to relive my memories from my trip to Europe. But it’s also nice to read about different towns in my own backyard.
See more from Kathleen:
Over the Moat — James Sullivan
I’ve got another last one for you, but I haven’t had a chance to visit yet. Ever since I read Over the Moat by James Sullivan several years ago, I’ve been dying to go to Vietnam. This has only been fueled by the Vietnamese friends I made in grad school and the students I’ve taught. Over the Moat follows the story of a 20-something American who travels to Vietnam and falls in love with a Vietnamese girl. Filled with love, culture, and a great plot, this is an unexpected book that has stuck with me for a long time.
Have you read any books that inspire you to travel?
I’d love to hear about them! Let me know in the comments. Then I can add them to my ever-growing shelf on Good Reads.