Summertime is a great time to get a bunch of reading done, but sometimes you want to travel too. What's the best way to combine these two loves? Why, take a vacation to a literary destination, of course!
Now, everyone wants something different out of a literary trip. Some people want to go visit author houses, others want to be where their favorite books are set, and some just want to be able to read in a place that's beautiful. Here are five suggestions that will at least get you started in your quest to find the perfect destination for book lovers. Do you know of a fantastic literary destination that I missed? Let me know in the comment section!
It feels like wherever you look in western Massachusetts, there's a famous author's house in the background. There’s Edith Wharton’s beautiful estate, a replica of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cottage, Herman Melville’s house, and W.E.B. Dubois’ home-site. A few popular authors call the area home—Simon Winchester, Mary Pope Osborne, and Ruth Reichl among them. And if you get bored in the Berkshires (not likely!), you can head to the eastern side of the state and see Walden or Amherst, or alternatively, wander around Boston. In addition to the area's historical elements, there are the options to hike one of many beautiful trails, listen to music at Tanglewood, and pick up all the new books you could want at a number of awesome bookstores.
Clichéd but true. You’ve probably read several books set in the city, and chances are several of the authors you read live in the city. That means you can wander the city, tracing the footsteps of your favorite characters (Holden Caulfield, Oskar Schell, and even Harriet the Spy) and try to bump into well-known authors like Nicole Krauss, Lev Grossman, or even Samuel Delany. You can also play “Author Bingo” and work your way through this whole list if you’re feeling ambitious. There are bookstores, publishing houses, and lots and lots of literary tchotkes. There’s also the New York City Public Library and several important museums. And if you start feeling overwhelmed, you can always go to Central Park and read or admire the literary statues.
Another obvious choice, but San Francisco’s literary scene is just as important as New York City’s. Once you get to San Francisco, you can go to one of several famous bookstores, try to find any number of popular young authors, or just go to a few of the famous sites associated with various literary movements. Maybe one day you take a Beat generation tour, or the next day you go on a Dashiell Hammet walking tour. You could also find the McSweeney’s office and try to get yourself hired. If you get tired of the bustle of the city, head up north — both for the great backdrops (because books are better when they are read in beautiful places) and for the literary sites.
Two words: Parnassus Books. Ann Patchett’s bookstore is pretty famous, thanks to her many articles in support of local bookstores. Once you’ve stocked up on books, you can wander around the rest of Tennessee, which was once home to Tennessee Williams, Alex Haley, and Robert Penn Warren. This is another region with great music, so you can listen to something amazing while you’re reading; the scenery is beautiful, too, if you want to have something to look at every once in awhile besides the page you’re reading. Finally, every October there's the Southern Festival of Books, if you prefer to take your vacation in the fall rather than the summer.
There are many, many books that take place on the road. Choose one and use it as your tour guide. Maybe you want to see the American Gods' version of the United States, or perhaps Travels with Charley is more your speed. Maybe you'd prefer to be a little more historical and the Oregon Trail sounds best. However you organize your trip, keep three things in mind: pack enough books to keep you going, find some bookstores to visit along the way, and don't take the book you're using seriously (i.e., please look at a map before you leave).