“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” ― Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life
Great literature is a source of joy, education, inspiration, catharsis, adventure, pleasure and so much more. For those bibliophiles who see the true value in reading, here is a list of ten American cities with an exceptional appreciation for the written word. We left New York out because, while we have a great respect for its role in both contemporary and historical literature, we felt like it was obvious and wanted to share other destinations. We hope you enjoy them
1. Oxford, Mississippi
Former hometown of the American writer and Nobel Laureate William Faulkner, Oxford is a literature lover’s sanctuary. Fans of Faulkner can walk in his footsteps and identify what real people and places inspired his famous fictional literature. Watch his stories come to life in this small town at the Lafayette County courthouse in the middle of the Square and discover Rowan Oak, his home.
2. Portland, Oregon
Known for its edgy music scene and legendary coffee culture, Portland also hosts annual book festivals and is home to Powell’s, the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. Taking up a full city block with multiple floors, this treasure trove of words also has an intriguing rare book section. Maps are available, so no one has to worry about getting lost in wonderland!
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
Traditionally well-known for its ornate floats, wild parties and Mardi Gras, New Orleans also has a rich history that has inspired many writers, such as the gothic fiction author Anne Rice who wrote The Vampire Chronicles. Rice was predominantly inspired by the French Quarter and the Garden District where you can spot many mid-nineteenth-century mansions and houses including Rice’s former home.
4. Key West, Florida
A lovely island paradise known for its beaches and impeccable scuba diving, Key West was also the former home of great American writers Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Walk the streets that inspired these legendary wordsmiths. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in the heart of Key West’s Old Town, where Hemingway wrote for ten years of his life.
5. Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is known as ‘the Phoenix’ due to its ‘rise from the ashes’ after having been burnt to the ground during the Civil War. Today, Atlanta is a fascinating city with plenty of neighborhoods to explore as well as an exciting music scene. Explore the city that inspired the dystopian book series, The Hunger Games and the apocalyptic comic series The Walking Dead. Take a tour of the apartment in the Tudor Revival building where Margaret ‘Peggy’ Mitchell penned her iconic masterpiece Gone with the Wind.
6. Chicago, Illinois
Book lovers love Chicago, a city rich in literary traditions. The Windy City is, in fact, the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway as well as the current home of many wonderful bookstores. Surround yourself with floor-to-ceiling shelves of used books at Myopic Bookstore or treat yourself to a new book and pair it with a cappuccino at Volumes Bookcafe.
7. Seattle, Washington
One of only two cities in the United States to receive a UNESCO City of Literature distinction, Seattle continues to demonstrate its passion for the written word by hosting annual events like the autumn Lit Crawl Seattle. During the crawl, bookworms wander around the city and check out readings in a variety of interesting venues like bars, cafes, galleries, police stations, barber shops, cemeteries and more.
8. San Francisco, California
San Francisco has inspired many great writers such as Jack London, John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac. Explore Jack Kerouac Alley filled with vibrant murals dedicated to the writer, or The Beat Museum which honors writers that inspired a whole generation of nonconformists. Finally, if snuggling up with a glass of wine and a good book sounds like your kind of evening, be sure to check out one of the City by the Bay’s book friendly bars like The Social Study.
9. Washington, D.C.
Home to the Library of Congress with more than 158 million books, manuscripts, images, maps, recordings and more, Washington D.C. also offers access to the world’s largest museum, education and research center; the Smithsonian. With tons of great local bookstores, cafes and historic monuments, the capital is an American history buff’s sanctuary and lit-lovers paradise. Outside of the city, you can travel to Rockville, MD to visit the resting place of F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald or head to Richmond, VA the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.
"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." Happy birthday F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Denver, Colorado
Alongside sweeping Rocky Mountain views, an impressive arts scene and convivial coffee culture, Denver boasts plenty of independent bookstores as well as some alternative ways of celebrating literary accomplishments. Discover Book Bar which hosts weekly events and pair happy hour with a good book, or check out Tattered Cover Book Store and collect books for your next reading marathon. Finally, attend the Booklovers Ball in October 2018 to meet other like-minded literary savants.
26. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Published to great acclaim and fierce controversy in 1866, this novel left an indelible mark on literature and is still considered worldwide as the quintessential Russian novel. Raskolnikov wanders the slums of St. Petersburg imagining himself above society's laws. But when he commits a random murder, only suffering ensues. Will Russian book be America's favorite novel? See the link in our bio to cast your vote! #GreatReadPBS @rmpbs @greatamericanreadpbs