literary tourism

Unless you’ve been there, you might not know that Alcatraz, aka The Rock, has its very own bookstore, run by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Inside you can find a selection of Alcatraz histories and memoirs. When I visited earlier this week, not only did I get the chance to pick up a copy of Alcatraz #1259, a first-hand account of life on the inside, by William G. Baker, I also got to meet Baker, one of the last living former inmates of the notorious prison. He signed my book, too!

After Seattle, road-tripping bibliophiles will undoubtedly make their way to Portland, Oregon, to visit Powell’s, one of the ten best indie shops in the world, according to readers polled by the Guardian. I agree — it’s sprawling but well signposted, and fun surprises await around every corner. I could have spent all day there, but, on this occasion, two hours had to suffice.

Literary tourism is big business. While new book festivals continue to spring up, recent research from the VisitEngland tourist board indicated that more than half of British holidaymakers would visit a literary attraction on vacation. Another increasingly popular way of combining books with holidays is to visit one of the dozens of small villages and towns around the world devoted to bookselling.

Should you find yourself in or near Hartford, Connecticut, make time for the Mark Twain House & Museum. I visited last week and was awed by its beauty. Twain (or Clemens) and his wife, Livy, relocated to Hartford in 1871 and engaged architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design the 25-room abode. They moved in three years later. Even if you--or members of your travel party--have only read one Twain novel, back in high school, the house alone will delight. One sign I noticed called it 'America's Downton Abbey.' Not quite, but you get the point.

Nantucket Book Festival Gearing Up for 7th Annual Event, June 15-17

Nantucket, MA—Now in its seventh year, the Nantucket Book Festival has established itself as a major summer destination for booklovers with impressive and eclectic line-ups of award-winning authors.  The three-day Festival, June 15-17, will offer author readings, panel discussions and social events in an informal atmosphere that encourages conversations between writers and readers.  Most of the Festival events are free and held within walking distance of the ferries.

For those wanting to channel Colin Firth's portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, here's your chance to do it and raise much-needed funds for Chawton House, the manor house inherited by Austen's brother. In what amounts to a wet T-shirt contest, (male) participants can don a frilly white shirt, get soaked, and ... smolder. Don't forget to upload the image to social media and tag it #TheDarcyLook.

What better day than June 14--the birthday of author Harriet Beecher Stowe--to share this exciting literary tourism news: The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut, launched a new interactive tour of the writer's house this past weekend. According to a press release, "Throughout the National Historic Landmark home, velvet ropes and stanchions have been removed." You can literally immerse yourself in Stowe's salon.