January is National Book Month, and to celebrate, we’re rounding up some of our favorite destinations for book lovers. Whether you’re the type to swoon while standing in the spot of your favorite climactic scene, or thrill in retracing the steps of your most-beloved author, you’ll find a spot that you won’t want to miss on your next trip.
San Francisco, California
The city by the bay has long been a draw for poets and artists, especially the Beats during the 1950s. Visit City Lights, the legendary book store that published Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and made North Beach synonymous with Beat culture. Throw back a few beers at nearby Vesuvio, where Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac were known to tipple. If you can tear yourself away, take a walking tour of the area, organized by the Beat Museum.
Steig Larson’s Millennium trilogy
Few modern Swedish authors have quite captured our imaginations in the same way that Steig Larson has with his series about Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. You can do your best with your own dog-eared copies of the series to find all of the spots that Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist frequent, or you can consult the Millennium Tour, a comprehensive map of key locations from both the books and the films. Stockholm’s City Museum also offers guided walking tours, which begin at Blomkvist’s house at Bellmansgatan 1.
Key West, Florida
To experience the scene of Hemingway’s many novels, you can travel to Paris, Spain, or Italy, but to understand Hemingway the man and writer, there is no better place to visit than his former home in Key West. It was in this Spanish Colonial that “Papa” lived with his wife Pauline and wrote some of his most notable works. The home is now a museum, and visitors can take a tour to learn about the history of the estate, along with the significance of the furnishings from the Hemingways’ travels in both Europe and Africa. Intrepid visitors can make the climb up to Ernest’s writing studio over the carriage house; be on the lookout for the famous six-toed cats that are known to roam the estate.
Twihards and fans of the Pacific northwest will be pleased to find that Forks lives up to Stephanie Meyer’s description in her blockbuster Twilight series. Located in one of the Westernmost corners of Washington, the small town does in fact get a lot of rain, and it has the lush surroundings to show for it. Team Forks Twilight Tours depart from Leppell’s Flowers, taking guests to a number of sights from the novels and providing the requisite life-size cutouts of the characters for photo ops. The company also offers the “Bella Sunset Tour,” available by reservation.
Dublin is home to many literary giants, but James Joyce stands apart as the author who takes his readers on a journey through the city. The James Joyce Centre offers several walking tours, including a self-guided audio tour of Leopold Bloom’s route during the “Lestrygonians” episode of Ulysses. Fans of Dubliners might prefer the audio tours narrated by Wonderland Productions’ actors, led by Joycean actor Barry Mc Govern. After you’ve worked up an appetite (and a thirst), stop by The Duke, where Joyce was said to take refreshment.
Although Mark Train ultimately settled in Connecticut, it was here, in his childhood home of Hannibal, that he got the inspiration for his Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn characters. At the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, visitors can see eight historic buildings that shed light on both the author’s early years and the real-life settings for some of his most memorable stories. If your visit leaves you feeling hungry for adventure, take a journey along the Mississippi aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat, or an upper Mississippi cruise with the American Queen Steamboat Company.
Cold, unforgiving nineteenth century London plays a key role to so many of Charles Dickens’ stories, and fans of his work will thrill to walk the same streets from which he drew so much inspiration. The Dickens Museum is located on the site where the author wrote key works like Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nikleby. It is also the starting point for Dickensian London walks, led by a guide who helps participants reimagine modern streets and sights as Dickens saw them over 150 years ago. If your walk leaves you feeling sentimental, you can pay your respects at Westminster Abbey, where Dickens himself is buried in the poets’ corner.
We know that the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films are to be credited with making New Zealand synonymous with Tolkien tourism, but, really: this is as close as any of us mortals are going to get to Middle Earth. Plus, the destinations are so enchanting that they really have to be seen to be believed. Itineraries abound, from river journeys to cave exploration to hobbit hikes. Tourism New Zealand has done an excellent job of rounding up all of the tour vendors and settings; the trick is for you to choose which you deem the most “precious.”