One of my favorite things about reading is the ability to experience something outside my own little world. That’s why I love books with a strong sense of place. Sometimes that place is somewhere else in the world. But other times, that can be a different time in my own country, a time and place so different from the world we live in now. Here’s some of my favorites! What are some of yours?
1. Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang
The book takes place during the Gilded Age, in 1899 in New York City. It’s a time when society is begininng to change, when science is rapidly changing. Tilly is the lead character, and she pushes the boundaries of what’s proper for her age and place in society. The setting is so vivid that I felt as if I were experiencing it with her! Vampires, mystery, intrigue, and so much more!
2. The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
This one takes place before and during the Vietnam War, told from the perspectives of Trần Diệu Lan, a grandmother, and her granddaughter Hương. It is such a beautiful yet heartwrenching story, an important read. The author brings Vietnam to life, the good parts and the bad.
3. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The book takes place in Lagos, Nigeria, and the author does an amazing job of putting readers in the setting. It’s an odd book, but I really loved it, loved experiencing another culture through it.
4. Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Beartown is a tiny, fictional town in Sweden, slowly being reclaimed by the forest around it as more and more people are moving away, At its center is junior hockey, and the entire town has pinned its hopes on the team winning the national semi-finals. Hockey is everything here, and it could mean saving the area. The setting is so rich and vivid, and the book is so much more than hockey. The story is raw, even dark, but fully engrossing.
5. Moloka’i by Alan Brennart
This is set in Hawai’i, in the late 1800s during the leprosy outbreak. It’s a very different Hawai’i that most imagine. It’s a beautiful book, bringing the islands alive in a different way. There are moments that are heartbreakingly sad, others beautifully hopeful. An important read!
6. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
I loved this book! It takes place in a small village in Scotland, a place I’ve never been. But reading this book made me feel as if I were there. Bonus points for being about books!
7. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein
There are few books with as complex a setting created as the books of The Lord of the Rings. The imagery is just gorgeous, and at times horrifying. A classic read!
8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This one is set in the US, but in a dystopian version of it. At times, it is almost unrecognizable, the destruction of the world all-encompassing. This is one of those books in which the settings are just as important as the characters themselves.
9. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I adore this series for so many reasons, including the settings. There are a few throughout this book, different places and different times. They are used in ways to evoke mood, drawing readers in and refusing to let them go. So good!
10. A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin
This is a beautiful read, and the setting is a big part of that. It’s rich with description and culture, and a story that’s utterly intriguing!