4 Literature-Inspired Trips

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about reading, writing, and traveling and how these three passions of mine are linked.

Sometime last year, I decided I wanted to spend a significant amount of time for the rest of my life writing.  This awareness coincided with the understanding that most (if not all) of the destinations I choose to visit while traveling are influenced by something I’ve read.

The fact is, certain books (whether fiction or non) influence me and my cognitive process to a great magnitude.  So great in fact that what I read inadvertently predicts where I travel.  This was not a terrible realization by any means; I’ve visited a great many cities because of my curiosity to see and experience either a) where the author wrote a book and how their surroundings inspired them or  b) a landmark or location where much of the story takes place.

Here are 4 literature-inspired trips I’ve taken so far:

Oxford

Eagle & Child

eagle and child

tolkien

This is the old pub where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis among other literary geniuses called ‘The Inklings’ met and discussed their writing.  A special room called ‘The Rabbit Room’ has a shrine dedicated to Tolkien and Lewis who were among the most famous writers to spend their after-teaching hours drinking a pint in this historical pub.  Heck, if I lived in Oxford I would write here in the hopes of feeding off the creative energy. Inspiration: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings.

Oxford Botanical Gardens

oxford tree

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You’ve probably noticed I am a huge Tolkien nerd.  If not, take a look at this photograph of me sitting underneath Tolkien’s favorite tree in Oxford. He used to grade his student’s papers here, and it’s in this very spot that he thought of the first line of The Hobbit: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

Oxford University

ocford campus 2

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I’m sure an array of books and films have been inspired by Oxford’s ancient and mystifying campus.  The dining halls were certainly used in filming some of the Potter films.

London

Ebenezer Scrooge House
 door knocker

I spent this past Christmas in London; it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.  On Christmas Day along with a staggering amount of European tourists, my mother, sister and I went on the Charles Dickens Christmas Carol walking tour.  I was fascinated as the overly informative tour guide pointed out all of the locations where Dickens grew up and some of his inspirations.  One of these spots was the door knocker which supposedly inspired the scene in A Christmas Carol where Jacob Marley’s head comes to life and frightens the living daylights out of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Peter Pan Statue

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J.M. Barrie’s famous children’s book was one of my favorites growing up.  The same weekend I visited Oxford back in college, I made a point to stop in Hyde Park first to catch a glimpse.  Inspiration: Peter Pan.

Tower of London
exeution

During my Oxford weekend excursion I took the Tube to the Tower of London, only to realize I didn’t have enough time to go inside before my bus departed.  I endured the crowds this past Christmas if only to visit the execution site of Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn, among many others.  Inspiration:  Innocent Traitor by Alison Weird and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.

Edinburgh

The Elephant House

elephant house

rowlings view 2

Name look familiar?

Name look familiar?

This is the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling wrote much of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  There’s plenty of Harry Poter memorabilia inside, as well as a view of Edinburgh Castle (an inspiration for Hogwarts) and a graveyard.  In Scotland, graveyards are way cooler than in the states.  Rowling must have strolled through this particular graveyard more than once; she borrowed many of the character’s names in Harry Potter from these very gravestones.

Rome

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Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving in Rome.  It was an enchanting city, and I was only sorry I hadn’t visited back when I was studying abroad in Amsterdam.  I’ve always had an interest in the history of the Roman Empire when Rome was at its most powerful.  After reading Rome by Robert Hughes, I knew I had to go and see the ruins for myself.

A few book-inspired trips I’d like to make in the future:

  • Alexandria, Egypt.  I’m a bit obsessed with Cleopatra and have read several of her biographies.
  • Savannah Georgia.  Ever since I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I’ve wanted to visit the Mercer House.
  • Chatsworth.  This is one of the many stately English castles I want to tour.  It’s also where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive by Bess of Hardwick and the Earl of Shrewsbury.  Fun fact:  Chatsworth is Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley estate in the A&E version of Pride & Prejudice.
  • Brontë Parsonage Museum.  Former of the Brontë sisters in West Yorkshire and where most of their literary masterpieces were written.
  • Jane Austen’s House Museum.  Also known as Chawton Cottage, this is where Jane Austen spent the last 8 years of her life writing Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion.
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My 5 Favorite Fiction Novels…So Far

This past week I got sidetracked from my book reviewing schedule.  For several weeks now, I had been simultaneously reading Wuthering Heights along with whatever book I was supposed to be reading for a review.  While I enjoy reading new authors’ books, I always like to be reading one of the classics.  TIME Magazine has a great list of the 100  Best Novels of All Time; there’s also a site called thegreatestbooks.org I reference when perusing for the next ‘essential’ book.

There’s no way I will get through all of TIME’s 100 novels in my lifetime, and I don’t mean to.  Wuthering Heights had always been on my British lit list of must-reads, and this past week the story pulled me in.  After finishing it last night, I became inspired to make a list of my 10 favorite books of all time.  Well, so far.  Keep in mind I’m 25 now, and if I’ve left out one of your favorites, it’s very possible I haven’t gotten to it yet!

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë6185

I can only say I can’t believe I hadn’t read this sooner.  I always believed Pride & Prejudice was the quintessential love story, and yes, I am very fond of Jane Austen.  Wuthering Heights however is about a love so maddening, so powerful, it’s stronger than death.  I do not comprehend the distasteful reviews of this book on Goodreads.  Yes, the character Heathcliff is at times unlikable but I’m assuming these readers didn’t really ‘get’ this story.

2.  A Secret History by Donna Tartt29044

This is a fascinating tale about a group of rich students at an New England college.  This elite group is not only unapproachable because of their over-priveleged snob status, but also because they are knowledgable worldly Greek scholars.  When a new student is invited into the group, he uncovers the real reason these five students tend to keep to themselves.  Ancient rituals, murder, and scandal ensues.

3.  The Razor’s Edge by William Somerset Maugham31196

The fact that The Razor’s Edge is number three here is irrelevant; this is still my all-time favorite story ever since I read it freshman year of high school.  I don’t know if it’s Maugham’s prose, or the enchanting characters, or the fact that setting himself in the story as the narrator, or if all three of these aspects of the novel together make it so endearing and uniquely diverting.  The Razor’s edge is an illustrious work of writing without needing to be action-packed; I think that’s why I love it so much.

4.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald4671

This is NOT on my list because the move is soon to be released (and I love the idea of Leo as Gatsby).  Typically, I am drawn to any book set in the 1920’s Jazz Age, because I think I would have loved to live in New York during that time.  And gone to one of Gatsby’s Long Island parties.  Fitgzerald is also one my favorites; This Side of Paradise, Franny & Zooey, etc.

5.  The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien34

I am a Tolkien-ite, and though I love everything he has written related to Lord of The Rings (even the Silmarillion, the Appendices) the first book in the trilogy is my favorite.  I’m not sure why — perhaps because it’s the beginning of Frodo’s journey, and the only book in which the Fellowship is unbroken.  Maybe I just want to live in the Shire.  (That’s probably true, but unrelated to my preference for this book over the other two).

If I had to make a top 10 list, these would be the other 5:

6.  Candide by Voltaire

7.  The Odyssey by Homer

8.  A Room with A View by E. M. Forster

9.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

10.  The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Are any of these your favorites?  What other books should I include on my must-read list?