Ever since I read Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Tacy Go Over The Big Hill as a little girl I’ve traveled through my reading. I always wanted to know what was over that hill, around the corner or down the street.
When I’m picking a book for myself, I look for that strong sense of place. The book has to transport me to another city or place, one I might like to learn more about or visit. I love authors who can make you feel and smell and experience the essence of that “sense of place’ in their story. I’ve traveled a bit, but not anywhere near as much as I’ve been able to travel in my reading. One day I might be sitting in a coffee shop in Seattle and the next day I’m riding a train through Switzerland. It’s just like virtual travel. How cool is that?
Check out the strong sense of place in some of my favorite mystery series:
The Boston series of William Tapply, Jeremiah Healy or Cecelia Tishy
The down home North Carolina series of Margaret Maron
The Connecticut series of David Handler or Karen E. Olson
The Martha’s Vineyard series of the late wonderful Philip R Craig
The zany over the top Miami and Key West series of Paul J. Levine
The Cleveland series of Michael Koryta and the first three thrillers by local author Richard Montanari.
The upstate New York series of Julia Spencer-Fleming
The Lake Tahoe series of Perri O’Shaughnessy
The Seattle series of J.A. Jance
The Hilton Head and low country series of Kathryn R. Wall
But don’t stop there. Other fiction and many nonfiction books can also have a strong sense of place. Try these on for size.
Enjoy the beautiful country and people of Bhutan in Beyond the Sky And Earth by Jamie Zeppa.
Imagine the rolling hills, age old homes and mouthwatering olives, pastas and cheeses of Tuscany in Frances Mayes’ A Year in Tuscany.
Trek across the dangerous craggy mountains of Yemen and cross to a desert island in the Red Sea in Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea by Eric Hansen.
Travel across the United States and make your way through the Cook Islands, Europe, Russia and Africa in American Traveler: the Life and Adventures of James Ledyard by James Zug.
Experience the infamous mistral winds, the incomparable inhabitants and the cuisine of Provence in A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle.
Track down orchids in southern Florida and the Fakahatchee swamp in The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean.
Take in the sights, sounds and smells of frenetic Bombay in Shantaram, Gregory David Robert’s autobiographical novel scheduled to be released as a motion picture in January, 2009.
Break bread with the Bedouins in the Jordanian desert, visit a bakery in a walled Moroccan city, travel to a pub in Ireland and tour the Wonder bread factory in Susan Seligson’s Going with the Grain.
But now I must stop because there’s a whole world out there to explore-hurry up and join me- and start reading!
I never really thought so much about reading as a form of traveling but I have to fess up that nothing peaks my interest like a book set in Cleveland. Thank you for your suggestions.
If you like “sense of place” you might want to try “Late Nights On Air” by Elizabeth Hay. It’s set in Yellowknife, and I’ve seldom got such a strong feeling for the setting. The book reminded me a little of Annie Proulx’ “The Shipping News” — quirky characters (who you care about) and a setting that’s almost a character in itself.