Throughout the month of October, the United States is celebrating National Book Month. The changing autumnal weather creates the perfect atmosphere to curl up in a cosy corner with a good novel. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up a host of literary-inspired experiences and adventures that can be enjoyed in different locations around the world.
Take part in Bloomsday, Ireland
Every year on 16 June, literary fans around the world celebrate Bloomsday, the day depicted in James Joyce’s seminal novel Ulysses. The day is named after the character of Leopold Bloom, with the story following his journey from 8am on 16 June 1904 to the following morning. The celebration sees festivals, readings and workshops happening globally, but as you can imagine, the central hub for authentic events is Dublin. Each and every year, fans of the work can be seen dressed in period costumes as they travel to different sites depicted in the novel. If you’re a Joyce fan planning to visit Ireland but you just can’t make the date work, fear not.
Many of the significant sites can be seen year-round, starting with Nassau Street, where Joyce first met Nora Barnacle, his future wife and lifelong muse, who was working at the nearby Finn’s Hotel at the time. Another significant location is the Martello Tower at Sandycove where the novel begins.
The James Joyce Tower and Museum is 30 minutes from the city centre by train, and is open every day with free admission. The museum was opened in 1962 by Sylvia Beach, the Paris-based publisher who first helped put Ulysses into print. It has photographs, letters, documents, various editions of Joyce's work and two death masks of Joyce on display.
From there, it’s approximately 30 minutes by bus along the coast to Sandymount Strand, a beach where two episodes from the novel are set. Other must-sees include Glasnevin Cemetery, Ireland's largest and most historically important burial site (visit the adjoining National Botanical Gardens while you’re there) and the James Joyce Centre where visitors can see the original door of 7 Eccles St, the home of Leopold and Molly Bloom in Ulysses, which was demolished in real life to make way for a private hospital.
Visit Mark Twain's Study, Elmira, NY
In 1874, Susan and Theodore Crane gifted their brother-in-law Samuel L. Clemens (better known by his pen name Mark Twain) with a study in Elmira. It was placed near the main house at Quarry Farm on the Chemung River Valley. It is there that Mark Twain wrote major portions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Life on the Mississippi, A Tramp Abroad, The Prince and the Pauper and many short pieces.
In 1952, the Mark Twain Study was moved to the nearby Elmira College campus. Every day the study is staffed by student guides in the summer, and people can visit it by appointment in the off-season. Seasonally, during the months of July and August, the study is included as part of a one-hour narrated trolley tour of historic Elmira that includes stops at Victorian-era homes in the Maple Avenue District, Dunn Field, home of the Elmira Pioneers baseball team, the Chemung Valley History Museum and the Civil War Prison Camp and Woodlawn National Cemetery.
Enter a magical world with the Potter Trail, Edinburgh
Grab your robes and join your guide on a special tour of the city designed for fans of Harry Potter. This hour-and-a-half donation-based tour takes guests to locations that inspired characters and scenes in the beloved series. If you don’t fancy joining a tour, you can track down some sites yourself, including The Elephant House and Spoon Café (formerly Nicholson’s Café) the first places Rowling wrote.
Nearby Greyfriar’s Kirkyard cemetery holds a gravestone with the name Tom Riddell on it. Other locations include The Balmoral Hotel, which includes a luxury JK Rowling Suite with a marble bust of Hermes that J.K. Rowling signed when she finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the room, and Victoria Street and the Grassmarket Area, which is said to have served as inspiration for Diagon Alley in the books.
Step inside the Oz Parlour, Fayetteville, New York
Lyman Frank Baum’s mother-in-law Matilda Joslyn Gage, the famous suffragist and feminist, encouraged the writer to pursue his craft, urging him to document the stories he told his sons. In 1900, his children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz enjoyed great commercial and critical success. The author married Maud Gage Baum in the front parlour (now the Oz Parlour) of the Gage Home in 1882.
L. Frank Baum's photographs of the Gage Home helped pave the way for the building's 2009 rehabilitation. The house is now run by the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation. A large version of Frank's photograph depicting the front parlor with Matilda painting can also be seen here. The house also includes a local history room, a women’s rights room and the Ruth Potter Welcome Center where visitors can write on the walls.
Kick the hornet’s nest with the Millennium Walking Tour, Stockholm
More than 80 million people have read Stieg Larsson’s three Millennium books – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. The stories have proven so popular that the Stockholm City Museum has created a dedicated walking tour that follows in the footsteps of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. The main characters work and live in the island of Södermalm in Stockholm and guests can experience the location first hand, with the tour starting at Bellmansgatan, where Mikael Blomkvist lives.
From there, it passes by the the Millennium editorial office to Lisbeth Salander’s apartment. It also showcases more additional locations mentioned throughout the books and films. Locations from author David Lagercrantz's, The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye are also visited. Guests also learn more about the history of Stockholm. The two-hour guided tours are available in English every Saturday at 11.30am from July to September, as well as Thursdays at 6pm.
Additional literary adventures:
Novel adventures: how to recreate six great literary journeys
Literary London: a tale of one city
Literary Oxford - a book lover's guide to the city of dreaming spires
From Homer to the Durrells: a literary guide to Greece
Literary Edinburgh: a bibliophile's guide to Scotland's capital