Literary Travel

A Book Lover’s Reykjavik — Bookstores, Libraries, and Book Culture

Prior to my first visit to Iceland in the summer of 2018, when I spent the entire month of August at a writer/artist residency, I knew very little about the country generally and even less about Reykjavik specifically. And prior to my trip, I’d been so busy that I had no time to do much research. I relied on word of mouth from friends who had visited and faith that it would be a good experience.

Of course, I had seen photos of the otherworldly landscapes, but I would have only the shortest time in which to explore them; my stay was mainly within the confines of Reykjavik. And that turned out to be absolutely beyond fine. In fact, for a nerd and bookworm like myself, it was blissful. Any time I had a chance, I would explore the myriad bookstores and libraries in Reykjavik, in addition to other aspects of its very rich book culture. Read More→

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A Pilgrimage to Harper Lee’s Monroeville, Alabama, “Maycomb” of To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee continues to be one of the most frequently taught novels in American high schools and is beloved by readers of all persuasions. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book has sold more than forty million copies and has been translated into some forty languages.

After a gap of fifty-six years, the 2016 publication of Go Set a Watchman set off a fervor of renewed interest in the famously private (though not, as myth would have it, reclusive) author.

No wonder, then, that Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, draws thousands of visitors each year who arrive to pay homage to her literary legacy. This small Southern town (population around 6,000) was the inspiration for Maycomb, where both books are set. The photo above right was snapped by Lee’s friend Michael Brown in 1957, the year she sold her manuscript, which had yet to be much edited. Read More→

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4 Book Towns in North America

Whether you call it a Boekenstad, Village du Livres, Bokby or Bókabæirnir, from Canada to Korea and from Iceland to Australia a movement is growing. In hamlets, villages and towns around the world, like-minded booksellers, calligraphers, bookbinders, curators, publishers, and architects are coming together to ensure a future for the printed book, defying the e-book onslaught, and providing a new future for fading communities.

This post is excerpted and adapted from Book Towns: Forty-Five Paradises of the Printed Word  by Alex Johnson (© 2018, Quarto Publishing, plc, by permission). It’s the first book to bring all of these towns together, offering a unique history of each one, and encouraging readers to seek them out.

By visiting these towns you’re not only helping to save the printed book; you’re helping to keep communities alive. Above right, Mysteries and More in Hobart, NY, guarded by shop cat Big Red. Read More→

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Visit 5 Classic Women Authors’ Homes in England

For aficionados of classic women authors, there’s nothing like visiting the homes in which they lived and wrote. Fortunately, there are many such homes that are open to the public, keeping the spirit of these authors alive for present and future generations. Many hold public events, and most feature libraries and archives.

Here are 5 classic women authors’ homes to visit in England — see where Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, and Vita Sackville-West lived and worked. At right, Beatrix Potter in the doorway of Hill Top House.

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Poets House in New York City

Poets House is a must-visit destination for poetry lovers visiting (or living in) New York City. While not at all hard to find, this literary haven far enough off the beaten to make it unlikely that you’d stumble upon it. When you arrive, you’ll be delighted not only by this treasure of a space, but also by its location.

The organization describes itself as  “a place for poetry — Poets House is a national poetry library and literary center that invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry.”

Their mission is  to be “a comfortable, accessible place for poetry — a library and meeting place which invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry. Poets House seeks to document the wealth and diversity of modern poetry, to stimulate dialogue on issues of poetry in culture, and to cultivate a wider audience for poetry.” Read More→

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