I’m not a fan of traveling. I’m a homebody who’d rather be in my favorite cozy chair than on an airplane or exotic vacation. Despite my lack of interest in globetrotting, I like visiting different places when I read.
Book settings are something I’ve only started thinking about somewhat recently. I never paid much attention to them a few years ago, but my reading life improved when I realized what books I’m drawn to and why. Knowing what settings you like in your books is a quick and easy way to help you find your next read, so I’m sharing my favorites today.
New York City
I’ve always been interested in New York City, even though I’ve never been to the East Coast. I have a feeling I’d be overwhelmed in NYC after only 10 minutes of being there, but my fascination persists. I’m intrigued by how people live there: apartments instead of houses, public transportation instead of having your own car, affording rent, and having so many options for what to eat and drink and do. I follow several Instagram and TikTok accounts of New Yorkers who share what it’s like in the city, and they’re a delight. Armchair travel is my favorite.
Here are some of my favorite books set in New York City:
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
- Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
- Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
One of the reasons I’m intrigued by London is its history. When I drive around my city, I see coffee stands and Old Navy. There are no old, gothic buildings, palaces, or famous museums, which is quite disappointing.
Here are some of my favorite books set in London:
- The Downstairs Neighbor by Helen Cooper
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
- The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
- One Day in December by Josie Silver
- About a Boy by Nick Hornby
I love when books are set in the world of academia. (I just wrote about this.) I don’t care whether it’s a university, boarding school, high school, elementary classroom; I want all of it. I’ve noticed a trend on social media of highlighting dark academia as a genre, and while I do enjoy that, I also appreciate less-dark takes, like satire.
Here are some of my favorite books set on campuses:
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- Stoner by John Williams
- My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
- Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden
One of my friends and I have a running joke that someday we’ll have a house in the Hamptons. While I definitely will not ever have a home in the Hamptons, I can read about people who do. The home could also be a cabin in the woods, a beach house, a deserted property once in the family; all I want is for a family to go there together and entertain me in the pages of my book.
Some of my favorite vacation home books are:
- Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel
- The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
- Maine by Courtney J. Sullivan
- Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
Bookstores & Libraries
There are few places I’d rather be than a bookstore or library. I went to both places just the other day, and I was in bookish nirvana. Since I love these spots so much in my real life, it’s fitting that I want to experience them in my reading life, too.
Here are some of my favorite books set in bookstores and libraries:
- 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
- The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading by Phyllis Rose
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
- How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
- Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
What about you? What are you favorite book settings?