I hope that you were one of 76% of American adults who read at least one book last year. As for me, I am not American but would have been one of 21% of those who read more than ten books in 2018. As you can imagine, I am a great fan of the written word, and literary landmarks are always important destinations on my numerous journeys.
There are over a hundred homes of famous American writers all over the US, museums dedicated to their lives and writing, and many more places connected with our favorite books. Discover all the details about your favorite literary icons’ lives, smell the air they breathed, and feel the atmosphere of their creative processes.
Come with me on this beautiful voyage and discover the places that will inspire you and give a new sense to books that you love so much.
The World of Best American Writers of All Times
#1 Ernest Hemingway
Have you ever read ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’? If the answer is YES, and you love this book (and others, of course), you shouldn’t miss some crucial places connected with Ernest Hemingway. Visit the 19th-century house at Key West, Florida, where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote his novels A Farewell to Arms and The Snows of Kilimanjaro‘ from 1931 to 1939. Take a peek into his studio and admire the original manuscripts which are still placed near his Royal typewriter.
However, the real literary gem worth visiting is definitely Oak Park in Illinois. His birthplace is nowadays a museum and a home for forty or so descendants of his beloved six-toed cat given him as a present by a captain of a ship. Come here on July 17th and spend a weekend celebrating the birthday of the best novelist the US probably ever had.
Tennessee Williams said that New Orleans, Louisiana is ‘the last frontier of Bohemia’ while was drinking his beverage here in Carousel Bar, in the excellent company, including Hemingway’s. Come here, order a martini and read a page from his book A Farewell to Arms where he described this club and left the memory of his nights spent here for eternity.
After that, go to the Hotel Monteleone. It became popular thanks to the story Night before Battle. Hemingway mentioned his favorite place in this city and helped it to become an official American literary landmark from 1999.
#2 Margaret Mitchell House
This famous house in Atlanta, Georgia was home for this exceptional Lady from 1925 to 1932. At that time she was writing my favorite novel Gone with the Wind. As soon as you enter this house, you will have the feeling that Scarlett and Rhett are still dancing around. Anyway, I wanted to dance there while heavy lace dress rustles around my hips and to remember that KISS.
Her home is a historic house museum now and an inevitable tourist destination, a place where creative writing classes take place and an attractive exhibit devoted to the memorable movie from the period of the American Civil War. If you have time, don’t miss the Georgian Terrace Hotel, where the main actors spent nights during the filming.
#3 William Faulkner
William Faulkner was both, a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner. Can you imagine walking through Rowan Oak where he wrote most of his best novels? Come to Oxford, Mississippi, visit his home, and feel that inspiring atmosphere.
Admire his handiwork you can find on the walls of the house, see an armchair he used, and pay attention to the Underwood typewriter which he wrote on. Also, you can see his handwritten outline novel ‘A Fable’ on the study’s wall. Yes, he won the Pulitzer Prize for a book written on the wall. Entirely outstanding if you ask me!
Do you know that more than 1,800 pages of poems and short stories, he wrote in his early years, were found in 1962, after he died? Unfortunately, these pages are not in the house. They are a valuable part of the writer’s collection at the University of Mississippi.
This extraordinary man spent a part of his life in New Orleans’ French Quarter, where he finished ‘Soldier’s Pay’, his first novel. Let this be one of the destinations on your way throughout this wonderful city.
#4 Mark Twain
In the National Register of Historic Places have been noted precisely six places in Hannibal, Missouri connected with Mark Twain’s childhood, including his early home and two museums. This top-rated American writer lived here at an early age. When he was seventeen years old, he moved from this lovely town.
During the 1870s and 1880s, he lived in Hartford, Connecticut. His house there is a witness of the process of creating stories about quick-witted Tom Sawyer and fearless Huckleberry Finn. Nowadays, there are rotating exhibitions here where you can learn a lot about the writer’s life and an auditorium for special events. Since 1962, his house is a National Historic Landmark.
#5 John Steinbeck
If you ever visit Salinas, California, don’t forget about the ‘must-see’ place for every literature lover here – the John Steinbeck House. This town is the birthplace of the best-known novelist in the US and Nobel Prize winner, who left us impressive 27 books, including his cult book ‘Grapes of Wrath’, he got the Pulitzer Prize for.
His house has been in the National Register of Historic Places since 1989, but it is a restaurant now. If you are a devotee of his work, find the National Steinbeck Center two blocks away. Also, don’t miss visiting Cannery Row, a waterfront street in Monterey which was named after the most popular writer’s novel.
#6 Jack London
Every lover of Jack London’s books will want to go to California at least once in their life and visit Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen. Come to feel the vibe this fantastic, self-educated novelist enjoyed while writing his stories for eternity.
Also, discover 46 acres of Jack London State Historic Park in the Sonoma Valley where he retreated and created his own world. You can choose to explore the museum, the novelist’s legacy, a cottage where he was writing, and other historic buildings.
Enjoy walking, hiking, riding a bike or a horse, or just spend time in nature while relaxing, admiring a 2,000-year-old Redwood Tree, and organizing a picnic. I highly recommend you to visit a 19th Century Winery ruins there. Simply amazing!
Special Places of American Literature
When you think about Amherst in Massachusetts, you think about a magnificent poetess Emily Dickinson. Come here to visit the Dickinson Homestead (her birthplace) and the Evergreens (her brother’s house). Feel the intimacy of Emily’s poems undiscovered before her death and take a look at the way this wonderful woman lived.
Can you imagine one million books in one place? WOW! It is everything I have ever wanted to see in my life! Come to Portland, Oregon and visit the most significant world’s bookstore. This place with nine different rooms occupies an entire city block in Pearl District. Take a seat at the Basil Hallward Gallery and listen to writers who come here to read their books.
Find this lovely lighthouse below the George Washington Bridge when you come to the Big Apple. It was on the list for auction, but it was saved thanks to a children’s book, Swift’s ‘The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge’. Since 1979, the old lighthouse has become a historic place and a part of the Historic House Trust of NYC. After reconstruction, it is red again and an exciting tourist attraction as well.
Christopher Johnson McCandless was a student and a hiker. He travelled across the US and decided to go to Alaska in 1992, but died of starvation along the way. His body was found in the Fairbanks City Transit System Bus 142.
The next year, Jon Krakauer wrote the story about that unusual man and his travelling, and a few years later, he published a book ‘Into the Wild’. After Sean Penn directed a movie about McCandless’s life and death, everybody heard about this student adventurer.
For over twenty years, young ‘pilgrims’ have been hiking the difficult Stampede Trail just to visit this old bus and to reach the ‘survivalist nirvana’.
Who would ever hear about Madison County that Robert James Waller didn’t write this romantic book? Who would care for these bridges if Clint Eastwood didn’t direct the movie of the same name? Fortunately, all of us have heard about this lovely place, and we know everything about this ‘love in black and white’ bestselling book of the previous century. Just come and enjoy that romantic feeling here.
Useful Tips for International Travelers
If you have a desire to visit the US and you are a citizen of one of 38 Visa Waiver Countries, it is a straightforward process. Yes, you don’t need a visa at all. Just pick up your passport (check if it is valid), check ESTA status, and count on some possible security procedures. That’s it. There are no troubles with bureaucracy or other complications travelers arriving in the United States usually have.
Thanks to ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), the US government introduced on January 12, 2009, every passenger from those privileged countries can come to the US for 90 days regardless of whether it is a tourist or business trip. Be sure that the ESTA validation date is not expired (it is valid throughout two years) to avoid inconvenience. If everything is fine, come to visit this beautiful country. It is worth visiting!
Have you visited any literary landmarks in the USA that you feel others should know about? If so, we would love to hear your suggestions below.
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