6 Great Getaways for Book Lovers
Celebrate the works of iconic authors and visit your favorite character's local haunts.
Follow in your favorite character's footsteps or make the journey to your favorite writer's birthplace on a literary pilgrimage to remember.(Getty Images)
For bibliophiles, a journey beyond the page often means visiting a destination that brims with activities catering to lit lovers and storied settings associated with their favorite characters and authors. New York City and Boston quickly come to mind, but plenty of other cities are loaded with independent bookstores, writer-themed walking tours, author hangouts and festivals that celebrate the written word. Here are some of the best havens for book lovers across the U.S.
In this hip city where the tongue-in-cheek slogan "Keep Portland Weird" is a point of pride, there's no denying its behemoth bookstore, Powell's City of Books, is at its core. With more than 2 million books, it claims to be the largest used and new bookstore in the world, which is reason enough to make a pilgrimage here, no matter the age of the bookworm. In fact, fans of Portland native Beverly Cleary can pay homage to favorite characters Ribsy and Ramona in Grant's Park, where their sculptures reside.
Plus, autumn visitors to the Pacific Northwest can catch the annual Wordstock: Portland's Book Festival. During the annual celebration, you can attend author appearances, writing workshops and free-spirited poetry readings before venturing to Portland's cool coffeehouses and one-of-a-kind shops. If you're looking for literary-inspired accommodations, check into the historic Heathman Hotel; it has its own library on the second floor with some 2,700 autographed books, including some from writers who have stayed there.
Literary lovers have long been enamored with the shadowed alleyways, coffeehouses and fog-shrouded street corners in the City by the Bay. But undoubtedly, the most popular place for the book-minded set, especially those interested in the Beat Generation, remains City Lights Books, the legendary bookstore and publisher located in the town's North Beach area. Founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, this Beat mecca still offers plenty of politically progressive books and a place to discuss them. Nearby, book lovers can caffeinate like the writers in the '50s and '60s at Caffe Triest (one of the first coffee roasters in the city), or stop in next door to City Lights Books at the Vesuvio saloon, another Beat generation landmark, for a stronger brew. Don't miss the Beat Museum to see how Jack Kerouac and his crowd's bohemian style affected not only literature, but also influenced clothing designs and music.
For San Francisco's largest literary event, plan to attend Litquake, held annually in October. The annual event lasts for several days, and attracts 100,000-plus fans with readings, discussions and special events staged around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Bibliophiles who follow in the footsteps of authors Anne Rice or William Faulkner find it easy to understand how such writers fell under the spell of this spirited, mysterious and charming southern city. In the historic French Quarter, book enthusiasts can join the ghosts of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway and Eudora Welty in the classic Hotel Monteleone, a place once frequented by all of them. Stay in one of the hotel's signature literary suites, and don't skip a spin on the hotel's famous Carousel Bar, sipping a traditional Sazerac (or three). Those inclined to more literary pursuits can peruse the classics at Faulkner House Books. A national literary landmark, this small gem of a bookstore is located in the same space where Faulkner once rented rooms.
Several literary festivals take place in New Orleans throughout the year, but Tennessee Williams' fans won't want to miss his namesake affair held each spring. Events include its popular Stella Shouting Contest, staged in the French Quarter spot where Williams set the famous scene from "A Street Car Named Desire."
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Consistently lauded as two of the most literate cities in the country, Minneapolis and St. Paul share a rich literary history and offer a great escape for any book aficionado. The birthplace of literary luminaries F. Scott Fitzgerald and Anne Tyler, among other notable writers, the Twin Cities also boasts several independent bookstores including two locally owned author shops: Garrison Keillor's Common Good Books in St. Paul and writer Louise Erdrich's Birchbark Books in Minneapolis.
Various group and self-guided walking tours highlight the Twin Cities' literary sites, with the most popular being F. Scott Fitzgerald's New York-style brownstone apartment on beautiful Summit Avenue in St. Paul.
In Minneapolis, Open Book is a center solely dedicated to the literary arts. Comprising the Loft Literary Center (for classes and workshops), a publishing house, a café and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Open Book is a book lover's paradise, and a perfect place to buy locally handcrafted journals, jewelry and art book supplies.
Washington, District of Columbia
It probably comes as no surprise that the nation's capital often holds a top spot on the book lover's bucket list. With some 164 million items lining approximately 838 miles of bookshelves, the Library of Congress is the world's largest library. But a free tour in the Jefferson Building is not so much about its book collection as it is about the stunning architecture. From its marble floors and columns in the Main Reading Room to mosaics, striking stained-glass ceiling and symbolic art in the spectacular Great Hall, it's among the most beautiful libraries in the world. Every year, it also presents the National Book Festival, a one-day affair featuring dozens of authors, book signings, talks and events.
Indie bookstores in the nation's capital abound as well. Politics and Prose is known to have author visits and book signings almost daily, while Kramerbooks & and its Afterwords Cafe, located in the heart of Dupont Circle, is a local favorite, with wine tastings and literary events.
Austin is well-known for its vibrant music scene, but its literary landscape attracts book-loving devotees as well. BookPeople, one of the largest independent bookstores in Texas, has been around for more than 15 years, offering serious bibliophiles plenty of shelves for browsing and attracting authors as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The city also hosts the Texas Book Festival, a free event with readings, panels and more held annually on the State Capitol grounds.
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Fans of American lit writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), a master of the surprise ending who lived in Austin a good share of his life, can visit his house – now a small museum – where various artifacts from his life and his writing are showcased. Besides offering readings, the museum holds an annual pun-off event every May. Another must-visit is Austin's Harry Ransom Center, where you can admire rotating exhibits highlighting an immense literary and arts collection.
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Edited by Liz Weiss.
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