There are readers, and there are readers. People who could probably list the top ten books on The New York Times’ bestsellers list at any given time, for example, are the latter. Reading transports you from the subway to the court of King Henry VIII or from your living room to the booze-soaked streets of Puerto Rico — it entrances you with the tribulations of a character’s life. And these novels' incredible lasting power has inspired worldwide literary pilgrimages — be it a tour of an author’s home, their favorite haunts, or a look at where a character was dreamed up.
Whether you’re on a Kindle or prefer the old-school feel of actual pages, diving into someone else’s world is a mental vacation, however brief or far from reality. The Western canon is full of iconic novels that have been transporting readers and educating scholars for hundreds of years — Dante’s Divine Comedy, for example, is often thought of as the preeminent work of Italian literature, depicting paradise, purgatory, and the inferno in three parts. Cervantes’ Don Quixote, too, is so iconic that it has permeated much of Spanish, and Western, literature and culture. And that influence remains in Italy and Spain, respectively, just as it does in Dublin with Ulysses or in Marcel Proust’s Paris.
Day trips, walking tours, and weeklong itineraries are offered the world over that let readers sit in the room where their favorite novel was penned or walk the streets that inspired a most fascinating character. Parts of England are so known as Jane Austen’s preferred backdrops, for example, that even locals know a great deal of history and insight into her whereabouts. Restaurants, bars, and hotels still stand where authors stayed and wrote some of their greatest works, letting you order what their characters did, look through the same windows, and walk the same roads.