By Kelsey Fox
Just as baseball fans might follow their favorite team around the country for a season, or a devoted music fan might travel from place to place with their favorite band, so too do book lovers make pilgrimages to significant literature-related locations. We’ve compiled 51 amazing book-related sites — one for each state and Washington, D.C. — to create this ultimate road trip for book lovers. The 51 sites include authors’ former homes, literature locales, awesome libraries and bookstores, and significant burial sites.
Book lovers can enjoy three must-see literary sights between Hartford and West Hartford, Connecticut. In Hartford, fans of the poet Wallace Stevens can journey along “The Wallace Stevens Walk,” a 13-stop walking tour that retraces Stevens’ walk from his home to his workplace. Stevens often stopped along the route to write poetry, and each stop includes both information and a stanza of his poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Also in Hartford is Mark Twain’s stately mansion, where he lived while raising his family and writing his two most famous classics, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
In nearby West Hartford is the Noah Webster House (pictured). The creator of the first all-American dictionary was born and raised in Connecticut, and his home is now an interesting museum that frequently offers book-related lectures and events.
In Dover, Delaware book lovers will find The John Dickinson Mansion, the home in which Dickinson wrote his famous “Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania.” Published in 1767, long before the start of the American Revolutionary War, Dickinson’s book is a series of 12 essays in which he analyzes the economic difficulties of colonial America. The letters provide a fascinating view of life in the British Empire, though those who are especially history savvy will be delighted to discover just how much of Dickinson’s views seem to be ahead of his time (he argued that the colonies were sovereign and that taxes levied for the purpose of raising revenue is unconstitutional). Visitors to the Mansion can enjoy an exhibit of Dickinson’s life, as well as an interesting history of his plantation and writings.
Head to beautiful Portland, Maine to catch a glimpse into the life of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Best known for immortalizing American history, Longfellow wrote a number of seminal works including “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and “Hiawatha,” both of which remain well known today. At the Wadsworth Longfellow House, book lovers can learn about more about the poet’s life, read his poems written in his own hand, and even view the portable writing desk he used as he wrote.
Located just outside of Washington, D.C., Rockville, Maryland is the final resting place of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda. Fans of Fitzgerald and his novels, which include The Great Gatsby, can head to St. Mary’s Catholic Church to pay their respects to his grave (pictured). It’s also worth mentioning that nearby D.C. is home to such literary sites as the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Statue, the Walt Whitman excerpts at the Dupont Circle Metro Station, and the Georgia Douglas Johnson House, the former home of Langston Hughes.
If you’re around at the right time of year, head to the small town of Gaithersburg, located only 12 miles from Rockville, for the annual Gaithersburg Literary Festival. Each year, hundreds of award-winning and best-selling authors, poets, and songwriters flock to this festival, which is considered one of the top annual literary events in the country. Most of the action takes place in the downtown park area, and visitors can leisurely take in book signings, sales, special exhibitions, and readings by authors that in the past have included Gennifer Choldenko, Jeffery Deaver, David Lubar, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Marisa de los Santos, and Anne Enright, to name a few.
For fans of 19th century American literature, there is no better place for a literary pilgrimage than Concord, Massachusetts. Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau all called Concord home. The Ralph Waldo Emerson House, The Orchard House (where Alcott wrote Little Women), and The Old Manse (where Emerson and Hawthorne both lived at different points) are all open and available to literary pilgrims, as is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s “author’s ridge,” a peaceful corner where Alcott, Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne are resting for eternity. Finally, don’t leave Concord without visiting the small and charming The Concord Bookshop.
Newport, New Hampshire is the location of The Sarah Josepha Hale Memorial Park. Situated on the grounds of Richards Free Library, the memorial honors Newport native Hale, a prominent 19th century editor who promoted the education of women and their important role in society. She was the editor of “Godey’s Lady Book,” and personally supported the careers of people like Catherine Beecher, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Fun fact: Hale was also behind the successful campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday!
Fans of the American poet Walt Whitman can find his final resting place at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey. Located only about five miles from Philadelphia, Harleigh Cemetery is, for the most part, a normal cemetery. But tucked into a shady spot is Whitman’s tomb, which he himself designed. Fans devoted enough to visit the tomb can do so Monday through Saturday, and often leave flowers outside the door.
The area surrounding Elmira, New York is so steeped in Mark Twain history that it’s known and advertised as Mark Twain Country! Mark Twain, his wife, Libby, and their family spent summers at Quarry Farm, a beautiful place that fans can visit. Nearby, the campus of Elmira College is the location of the Mark Twain Study (pictured), which has been called the number one literary attraction in all of America. It was here that Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, and myriad articles and essays. Finally, fans can end their time in Mark Twain Country with a visit to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Twain and his family are buried.
While most people visiting Philadelphia head straight for the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, book lovers should also make a stop next door at the American Philosophical Society Library. Lewis and Clark stopped at the Library for an extended stay to learn as much as they could about the territory which they were about to explore, and there is a small yet fascinating exhibit dedicated to the things they learned. Most notably, however, the Library is home to the Colonel Richard Gimbel Collection of papers by Thomas Paine, a radical political writer and leading figure during the American Revolution. While in Philadelphia, book lovers may find it interesting to stop by other literary-themed sites including the Edgar Allen Poe House and the Marianne Moore room at the Rosenbach Museum & Library.
Horror fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft spent much of his life living in Providence, Rhode Island. Though Providence isn’t the place where Lovecraft wrote his most famous works, it is the place in which he was born and died. In fact, there are a few fascinating mysteries surrounding his final resting place, Swan Point Cemetery. Despite the existence of a headstone, Lovecraft’s body does not actually lie beneath it. In 1997, some unknown persons apparently didn’t know this when they tried to dig up Lovecraft’s body. When the hole was discovered the next morning, it was only about three feet deep, the bottom-most dirt was undisturbed, and the only evidence was a single footprint. While some Lovecraft fans visit Swan Point Cemetery to pay respect to their favorite author, others hope to gain insight into some of the spookiness that they say scared away the potential grave robbers that night.
For a short time, Rudyard Kipling and his family were residents of Brattleboro, Vermont, where they owned a home called Naulakha (pictured) and where Kipling wrote The Jungle Book. Today, the house has been kept mostly as-is, with nothing roped off. True Kipling fans can rent the house year-round, making it a unique check on any book lover’s bucket list.
Less than an hour from Brattleboro is Shaftsbury, another Vermont literary site worth visiting. Here, book lovers will find The Robert Frost House and Trail. The house in which he lived for more than 40 years is now an interesting museum of the poet’s life, while the trees surrounding the property were all planted by Frost himself and served as the inspiration for much of his poetry.
A must-see for every book lover is The Library of Congress, an unbelievable collection of books, rare papers, and manuscripts, started thanks to a generous donation by Thomas Jefferson. Today, visitors to The Library of Congress can take a tour of the impressive building which includes glimpses of a Gutenberg Press, a rare edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio (along with a number of other early editions of Shakespeare’s plays), and myriad other first editions and rare copies. If you’re a local book lover, you can even get a researcher’s library card, which allows you access to much of the Library’s collection.
Monroeville, Alabama is best known as the hometown of literary greats Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Every year, thousands of book lovers make their way to Monroeville in search of the small southern town that inspired Lee to create Atticus, Scout, Jem, and the other beloved characters of To Kill a Mockingbird. A To Kill a Mockingbird-themed mural greets visitors on their way in, while performances of the classic kick off the annual Alabama Writers’ Symposium hosted by the town. Finally, a Boo Radley-inspired Birdhouse Trail and tours of the Old Courthouse Museum offer inside looks into the childhood of Lee and Capote.
Each April Little Rock, Arkansas is the site of The Arkansas Literary Festival, the state’s premiere gathering of readers and writers. The four-day festival is hosted by the Central Arkansas Library System (considered one of the best library systems in the country) and includes a wide variety of workshops, author panels, activities, book sales and signings, and special events. Authors who have participated in the festival in recent years have included Charlaine Harris, Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman), David Sedaris, Catherine Coulter, Richard Ford, John Waters, and hundreds more. The festival also includes a Banned Books event, during which banned books are read on a stage by both local and professional actors.
The sun and the beach may be reason enough to visit Key West, Florida, but book lovers will also enjoy the Keys for its perennial tribute to one-time Key West resident Ernest Hemingway. Visit the Hemingway Home & Museum, where he wrote many of his novels and short stories, to see his impressive collection of Spanish furniture, mounts from his African safaris, and his pool — the first in-ground pool in all of Key West. As an ode to Snowball, the six-toed cat Hemingway owned, 40-50 Snowball-descended six-toed felines roam the island, each of which bears a name like Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, and Hairy Truman. Also on Key West is Tennessee Williams’ house, Robert Frost’s cottage, the John Hersey House, the Elizabeth Bishop House, and others.
Those who enjoy classic Southern literature will love Covington, Georgia, located a mere 30 minutes from Atlanta. Covington is home to Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast, the stately mansion said to have been the inspiration for the Twelve Oaks plantation in Gone With the Wind. The mansion, which survived General Sherman’s famous march and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the perfect place to spend a night or two while making day trips to other nearby literary sites: the Margaret Mitchell House in nearby Atlanta, or Savannah for sites made famous in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home.
Louisville, Kentucky had quite the impact on F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of such classics as The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald spent quite a bit of time at the Seelbach Hotel (pictured) located downtown, and often enjoyed drinking with his friends in the hotel’s Rathskeller Lounge or attending parties held in the beautiful Grand Ballroom. In fact, Fitzgerald loved the Seelbach Hotel so much that he made it the location of Louisville native Daisy Buchanan’s wedding to Tom in The Great Gatsby.
Louisville is also the host of the annual Gonzo Fest, which honors Louisville native Hunter S. Thompson and his impact on art and the literary world. Thompson’s childhood home, located in the exclusive Cherokee Triangle, still stands today, while nearby Bardstown Road has a mural to honor the eccentric “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” author.
It’s no surprise that a city as vibrant and as artsy as New Orleans would have a strong literary scene. Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Walker Percy, and Lillian Hellman all called New Orleans home at one point or another, though it is Williams who most notably left his mark on the city. His former home, the St. Louis Cathedral (pictured), and his favorite restaurant, Galatoire’s, are all still standing and are frequently visited by Williams’ fans and other book lovers. A number of other literary sites exist within the French Quarter and the Garden District, while the state capitol in nearby Baton Rouge is the landmark location of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men.
An incredible 25,000 book lovers find their way to Oxford, Mississippi each year. Many of these are fans of William Faulkner, whose stately mansion, Rowan Oak, (pictured), was home to the Nobel Prize-winning author for more than 40 years. Other visitors just hope to spot one of their favorite authors the way one might visit Hollywood or Beverly Hills hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite movie star. John Grisham, Jesmyn Ward, Steve Yarbrough, Richard Ford, Donna Tartt, Willie Morris, and Larry Brown have all called Oxford home in recent years. Book lovers shouldn’t leave town without visiting Square Books, a well-known independent bookstore celebrated for its large selections of books on the American South and books by southern writers.
Artsy Asheville, North Carolina is the hometown of Thomas Wolfe, the state’s most celebrated author. Book lovers and Wolfe fans will find all kinds of Wolfe-related sites in and around Asheville, though the most famous is undoubtedly The Thomas Wolfe Memorial, located in Asheville’s easily accessible downtown. The Memorial serves to honor the author’s life and his autobiographical works, “Look Homeward Angel” and “You Can’t Go Home Again,” among others. Interestingly, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s name also makes the memorial, as The Great Gatsby author spent two years living at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn. The Biltmore Estate, though not book related, is the state’s most visited attraction and is also worth a visit while in Asheville.
Book lovers visiting Charleston, South Carolina will love the city’s vast collection of significant historical and literary sites. To get the full experience, book lovers can follow a literary trail that will take them past sites associated with Charleston’s architectural history, its Civil War past (the first shots of the war were fired from Fort Sumter), and DuBose Heyward’s classic “Porgy,” which was later adapted into a musical collaboration with composer George Gershwin. Edgar Allan Poe also left his mark on Charleston. Poe lived here for only about a year, but used Charleston’s marshy Sullivan’s Island as the setting for at least three of his stories: “The Gold Bug,” “The Balloon Hoax,” and “The Oblong Box.” Book lovers can end their day of literary discoveries with dinner at Poe’s Tavern, which features several Poe-inspired dishes.
In Henning, Tennessee, book lovers can visit the childhood home of Alex Haley, author of the classic “Roots,” the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novel that follows the course of an African-American family. At the Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center, visitors can learn about the history of the home (for example, it was built in 1919 by Haley’s grandfather), hear about the inspiration for Haley’s writing, and even take part in a genealogy session.
Charlottesville, Virginia is most famous as the former home of President Thomas Jefferson and the current home of his legacies, Monticello and the University of Virginia. But it turns out Charlottesville attracts a number of book lovers, too. Edgar Allen Poe and William Faulkner both spent time at the University (Poe as a student, Faulkner as a teacher), and visitors can still peek in on Poe’s old dorm room. Charlottesville is also home to the Virginia Festival of the Book, an annual event featuring readings, writing events, and interviews with some big names (many of whom live in the area). While you’re strolling downtown, be sure to stop in at Blue Whale Books and New Dominion Bookshop, both of which are classical independent book stores featuring an exciting variety of book-related events.
In Hillsboro, West Virginia, book lovers will find the birthplace and childhood home of Pearl S. Buck. Born in 1892, Buck is the author of the classic The Good Earth, and is the only American woman to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. She wrote more than 100 books, plus hundreds more magazine articles and short stories. Visitors to Buck’s beautiful and stately country home will gain insight into her childhood, fascinating family life, and her writing career.
Located about 10 miles west of Chicago is Oak Park, home to the Hemingway Birthplace Home and Museum. The museum houses thousands of artifacts from Hemingway’s life, including family photos, early writings, and letters written in the author’s own hand. Nearby is The Book Table, a family-owned bookstore that describes itself as “fiercely independent.” It has a huge selection of art books (did we mention that the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is steps away?), and even offers a deep discount on new books. For kids, the Magic Tree Bookstore has a huge selection of children’s books, and even offers a variety of literary events throughout each month.
Book lovers will love the chance to type on the same model of typewriter used by Kurt Vonnegut, which they can do at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Library exists purely to celebrate Vonnegut’s wit, wisdom, and many contributions he made to the artistic and literary communities. Any book lover is likely to enjoy the glimpse into Vonnegut’s life that a trip to the Library provides, though Vonnegut’s biggest fans will be in literary heaven as they view such possessions as drawings and doodles, a seemingly forgotten pack of cigarettes, his typewriter and reading glasses, and even his Purple Heart. Fans can also sit at Vonnegut’s desk, browse first editions of every one of Vonnegut’s books, and even read over some of Vonnegut’s many rejection letters.
As is expected of the third city to have become a UNESCO City of Literature (the only one in the U.S.), Iowa City is a true book-loving, literary town. Grab your favorite Kurt Vonnegut title and stop in at Donnelly’s Bar on Dubuque Street, where Vonnegut, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, John Irving, and Dylan Thomas all spent a fair bit of time. Prairie Lights Books, Haunted Bookshop, and Murphy-Brookfield Books are all great places to pick up titles old and new. Fans of W.P. Kinsella’s 1986 novel The Iowa Baseball Confederacy will enjoy a walk to the Black Angel Statue, which in the book comes to life and plays right field in a biblical baseball game. If you’re a writer as well as a book lover, check out the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where you can gain peer support and unparalleled instruction for a weekend or a full week.
Kansas is just one of many states with historic sites linked to beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Just outside Independence, Kansas is a small reproduction cabin similar to the one in which the Ingalls family lived while on the Osage Diminished Reserve on the Kansas prairie. Little House fans are sure to love the glimpse into Wilder’s life that the tiny cabin provides, as does the nearby one-room schoolhouse, post office, and well that was hand-dug by Charles Ingalls.
Idlewild, Michigan is a former resort town that was once known as the “Black Eden of 20th Century African-American history.” Such prominent writers as Charles Chestnutt, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. DuBois all vacationed frequently at Idlewild, and the resort was quickly established as one of the few locations, not only in which African-Americans were welcome to vacation and relax, but also in which they could create and entertain. While Idlewild has lost the glamor and significance it once had, the Idlewild Public Library still has a number of documents, historic photos, and memorabilia dating from the resort’s busiest times.
In Sauk Centre, Minnesota, book lovers will find the boyhood home of Sinclair Lewis, a National Historic Landmark. The prominent novelist, short story writer, and playwright spent many of his most formative years here, and the house-turned-museum is a major tourist draw and center for Lewis scholarship. Each year, Sauk Centre hosts “Sinclair Lewis Days,” a week-long festival to celebrate the community and its most famous resident. About one mile from Lewis’ home is the cemetery in which he is buried under a modest headstone.
Those who loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are sure to love a visit to Mansfield, Missouri, which does a wonderful job celebrating its most famous resident. The Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane Historic Home and Museum exhibits hundreds of artifacts spanning over a century of the lives of the Ingalls and Wilder pioneer families. Pa’s fiddle, the handwritten manuscripts for the Little House books, various keepsakes, tools made by Almanzo, Laura’s needlework, and so much more is all there. The town also hosts Wilder Days, an annual festival complete with costumes, presentations, and a fiddling contest. Be sure to take a quiet moment to visit Laura’s grave as well.
While in the prairie states, it makes sense to focus on the books set in this beautiful region. Thanks to authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Willa Cather, the prairie stories of the 19th century practically became their own genre. For those who want to step back in time and experience the prairie as closely as possible these days, Red Cloud, Nebraska is the place to be. The town and the surrounding landscapes are all prototypes for novels like O Pioneers, My Antonia, and The Song of the Lark, while even the people of Red Cloud seem to have stepped right from their pages. The Willa Cather Foundation owns 11 buildings in town, the most popular of which is Willa Cather’s childhood home, where Cather’s high chair, alarm clock, furniture, coffee pot, and other household items are on display. Finally, grab your favorite Cather book and spend some time in the Cloverton Cemetery, where Anna/Antonia is buried, and enjoy as the spirit of the prairie surrounds you.
North Dakota isn’t exactly known for its literary history or book-themed landmarks, which means this is a great opportunity to focus on one of the state’s many wonderful independent bookstores. Minot is one of North Dakota’s fastest-growing towns, and Main Street Books has been growing alongside it since the very beginning. Located in the heart of downtown, the bookstore has an impressive collection of books by North Dakota-based authors and books about the Midwest. Even better, the store is very much a community gathering place. Story times and book club meetings draw quite the crowd, while fun events like Scrabble competitions regularly show up on the calendar.
Columbus, Ohio is the place to be when it comes to literary landmarks. The Thurber House, the historic home of author and humorist James Thurber, offers interesting tours, frequent events, and an Evening With Authors series that has hosted such names as Isabel Allende, Karen Russell, Christopher Moore, and Lisa See, among others. Nearby, the Columbus Metropolitan Library (pictured) is a gorgeous library that is definitely worthy of a stop. End your book-filled day in Columbus with a visit to The Book Loft in Columbus’ German Village. Housed in pre-Civil War buildings, and consisting of more than 30 rooms, The Book Loft is so big and filled with so many books that it actually offers patrons a map to help them navigate. After you choose a book, this charming independent bookstore also has a garden area perfect for some quiet reading.
Anyone who has read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Little House series has fantasized about living on the wild prairie, or surviving off the land in Minnesota or the Dakotas. At the historic Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, such a fantasy can come about as close as possible to coming true. While one can’t live in one’s own prairie house in De Smet, one can camp on the grounds and listen to the same night time sounds enjoyed by Laura Ingalls Wilder when she lived here.
Playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder was born in 1897 at 140 Langdon Street in Madison, Wisconsin (which was then a small town of 18,000 people). Though Wilder eventually grew up and moved to the East Coast, the effect that Wisconsin had on Wilder doesn’t seem to have left him. It is said that much of his most famous work, “Our Town,” was inspired by his time spent in Madison. The actual building on Langdon Street is no longer standing, though book lovers and Wilder fans can grab a glimpse and photo of the small plaque that stands there to commemorate his birth site.
There is likely no other independent bookstore in the world quite like Singing Wind Bookshop. Located on a ranch in Benson, Arizona, visitors to Singing Wind can buy both a book and a cut of beef!
Book lovers who don’t mind a bit of hiking can head to nearby Tonto Rim. The beautiful scenery surrounding the area makes for a pretty drive, while plenty of trails and pathways offer good hiking opportunities. One such trail, though a bit off the beaten path, leads hikers to the secluded cabin of Zane Grey, one of the most popular authors of the Western genre.
The Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico is both a hotel and a significant literary historical site. Luhan hosted literary and artistic salons to which she invited such great names as Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence. Today, Luhan’s home is a surprisingly reasonable hotel, and book lovers can choose to stay in rooms where people like Willa Cather, Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Spud Johnson, and even Dennis Hopper have slept.
Lovers of both books and language will surely appreciate a visit to Oklahoma to visit Sequoyah’s Cabin. Sequoyah, a Cherokee, was a genius who developed the syllabary and written language that brought literacy to the Cherokee Nation. The cabin is located in Akins, and was built by Sequoyah with his own two hands. Now a National Historic Landmark, the house is furnished just as it might have been when Sequoyah lived there, and includes a collection of books, various relics, documents A bronze statue of the great Cherokee stands outside.
Book lovers and architecture fans alike will love the Armstrong-Browning Library at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Funded by two men who sought to create the “most beautiful building in Texas,” the library is a three-story, Italian Renaissance-style masterpiece complete with 62 stained glass windows, massive marble columns, ornate ceiling designs, and scores of other amazing details. And that’s not even mentioning the books! While some might wonder about the need for such an expensive, ornate library, those who built it have a simple explanation: If the “compelling beauty” of the building could inspire someone and “give the world another Dante, another Shakespeare, another Browning, we shall count the cost a bargain.”
Probably the most difficult-to-reach literary landmark on our list, the McCandless Bus is located off of the dangerous Stampede Trail near Healy, Alaska. Immortalized in John Krakauer’s bestseller “Into the Wild,” about daredevil and hitchhiker Christopher McCandless, the bus remains in the exact spot in which it was found by McCandless. Keep in mind, McCandless died after getting stuck out in this region, so if you prefer to skip the perilous hike, the 49th State Brewing Company in Healy has a replica of the bus that was built for the film version of Krakauer’s book.
If your breath quickens at the first sign of incunabula — books printed before 1501 — then a trip to San Marino, California should be in store. Situated on the appropriately named Oxford Road is The Huntington’s Rare Books Collection and the second-largest stockpile of old books in the United States. There, you’ll find such treasures as a copy of Johannes Gutenberg’s Bible (one of 11 surviving copies printed on vellum) and a 1623 “first folio” edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays, published seven years after his death.
As you’re driving through Colorado, be sure to stop at My Brother’s Bar, a sleepy (and signless) restaurant bar near Denver that was once a favorite go-to for Beat writers like Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac. The food is good (especially the burgers), but the vibe and historical significance is even better. While there, don’t forget to ask a staff member for a photocopied letter written by Cassady and sent to the bar while he was holed up in the Colorado Reformatory.
Honolulu, Hawaii doesn’t exactly have any authors’ former homes, but it does have a grass hut. When Robert Louis Stevenson visited the islands, the Hawaiian monarchy provided him with his own grass hut on Waikiki. Though the original was eventually sold to the Salvation Army of Hawaii, and then accidentally damaged, a replica of Stevenson’s hut is on display at the Salvation Army’s headquarters in nearby Manoa Valley. While in Honolulu, check out some of the city’s renowned independent book stores. At the aptly named Native Books, you can pick up books by local authors and books about Hawaii, while Revolution Books specializes in books on science, politics, religion and atheism, and poetry.
Sites associated with Ernest Hemingway can be found all over the map, and include Ketchum, Idaho where the literary great spent his final years and is buried. While in Ketchum, fans can visit the restaurant where he ate what is thought to be his last meal, though most book lovers make the trek to Ketchum to visit Hemingway’s grave. Appropriately, the author’s headstone is quite humble: a simple rectangle shape set into the grass with only his name and the dates of his life. When the gravestone is visited, loyal fans often take the time to leave coins, flowers, notes, and even half-drunk bottles of alcohol as tribute.
Missoula, Montana is the setting of the annual Festival of the Book. Each year, 80-100 authors (and hundreds of book lovers) descend upon the town to celebrate everything having to do with storytelling. Readings, exhibits, demonstrations, workshops, book signings, and more fill up the days and evenings, and make for a great time. While in Missoula, make a stop at Shakespeare & Co., a gem of an independent bookstore where book lovers can pick up any number of best sellers, children’s titles, journals and diaries, post cards, and more.
Virginia City, Nevada is a favorite spot for tourists in the Silver State, one of the last places that embraces its history as a town on the forefront of the Wild West. Wrapped up in this history is none other than Mark Twain, who, interestingly, actually took on his famous pen name while living in Nevada. Twain became a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise in 1862, and his vast writings about both Virginia City and Nevada are said to have attracted people from all walks of life to the small western town. While Twain-related sites are sporadic around Virginia City (which is really just a main drag with a few side streets), it is still worth a visit for the old-timey ambiance and fun activities that can be found there on any given day.
Anyone who loves books and reading has yearned for that opportunity to disappear from the world with a good book in hand. Thanks to the owners of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, book fiends can do just that. The hotel — which doesn’t allow any television, telephone, radio, or Wi-Fi distractions — is all about embracing a good book and the simple pleasure of reading. You can find a cozy spot in one of the themed rooms (with such apt names as “Classics,” “Best Sellers,” and “Dr. Seuss”), or head down to the beach and read to the background noise of surf and a gentle breeze.
Located in downtown Salt Lake City is one of the most visited tourist sites in all of Utah. No, it’s not the Mormon Temple, but Ken Sanders’ Rare Books, a mecca of a bookshop that any book lover is sure to love. Upon walking into the store, book lovers will be greeted with that wonderful old-book smell and a view of tons (and we mean tons) of books. Sanders specializes in rare editions, especially those having to do with Utah history or the Church of Latter-Day Saints. First editions of books by popular authors practically spill off the shelf here, while a wide range of other books by local authors abound. Ken Sanders’ bookshop is a must-stop for any book lover who can appreciate the beauty of rare books and first editions.
Literature meets theater at Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre. Founded a quarter-century ago, this one-of-a-kind theater company works under the mission statement of “[transforming] great literature into great theatre through simple and sensitive production and to inspire its audiences to read.” Sounds good to us. The theater presents performances of both classics and modern-day titles. Past productions have included works by Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Don Quixote, Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, and so many more.
Continue in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway in Buffalo, Wyoming. Hemingway spent quite a bit of time at The Historic Occidental Hotel (the bar of which is pictured), where other famous guests included Owen Wister, Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevelt, Calamity Jane, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to name but a few. Also taking place in Buffalo is Longmire Days, an annual festival that celebrates the Craig Johnson’s Longmire mystery series. Craig Johnson, plus various actors from the television series, show up, as do a number of other special guests.