Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Settings I’d Love to Visit

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.


So for this week’s freebie, I though I would riff off the geographical nature of last week’s TTT and – inspired by Jessica @ Chasing the Four Winds post – select my top ten settings: places I would love to visit which have inspired some beautiful writing. You know the way that the setting in a book becomes an additional character, sometimes staid and serene, perhaps whimsical and frivolous, perhaps brooding and sinister and Gothic…

I will try to remain in the real world here, but there are a few fantastical places that are just too tempting.

Vardo Island, Norway

The Mercies, Kiran Millwood Hargrave

“Harsh” does not really seem sufficient to describe this island at the heart of The Mercies: chilling, desolate, isolated, bleak…

But for all its hardships, the island was a vibrant community and vividly described by Kiran Millwood Hargrave – to the extent that you could smell the air as you read it!


Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe;

Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie;

The Famished Road, Ben Okri;

Death and the King’s Horseman, Wole Soyinka

My Sister the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi

Nigeria took a firm grip of me through Ben Okri and Wole Soyinka as an impressionable teenager and I recall suggesting at University that a trip to Nigeria would really help my Soyinka dissertation. Alas, that fell on deaf ears!

All these novels and plays depict different (and sometimes conflicting) aspects of a deeply divided country, and the sights and smells and voices are incredibly vivid.


Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Deepa Anappara;

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy;

A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth;

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

India presents a similar imaginative draw to Nigeria – and look at the wealth of gorgeous writers from India including Deepa Anappara whose Djinn Patrol I am curently reading and is in a far less photogenic setting than the one pictured!

There is something vibrant in these novels in the depictions of India – whether the picturesque or the picaresque or the slums and shanty towns – that glows through the pages and is deeply sensory.


Melmoth, Sarah Perry

I have been here!

It is a gorgeous and beautiful city in its own right – something out of a fairytale. Perry in Melmoth beautifully captured the darker and colder side to the city, and the city in that novel beautifully complemented the chilling Gothic tale.

Victoria, Australia:

The Dry, Jane Harper

Oh my, the town of Kiewarra is a powder keg in The Dry: personal secrets and histories and family divisions and deceptions abound in it, and Harper keeps the temperature rising throughout – very literally!

The Arctic:

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley;

Washington Black, Esi Edugyan

I hesitate a little about actually wanting to visit (I’m not great with the cold!) but the frozen wastes of the Arctic are vibrantly and chillingly depicted in these novels, even if only in part. The opening of Frankenstein is sublime and if the Swiss Alps cannot move you to a sense of awe, then the Arctic should!


The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne;

The Dublin Murder Squad series, Tana French;

Normal People, Sally Rooney;

Glorious Heresies, Lisa Mcinerney

Ulysses, James Joyce

This image is a tad misleading, in terms of the novels I have listed: picture more working class terraces, secretive night time meetings between men in darkened toilets and gangs and drugs and murder. I suppose what these novels all have in common is a unblinking honesty and lack of romanticism, coupled with a typically Irish humour.

The English Village:

Lanny by Max Porter

This seems much more reachable than most of the others – and not dissimilar to where I grew up, nor where I live now! But I don’t think we have Dead Papa Toothwort listening into our conversation…

Lanny does something extraordinary with the voices of the village and the monologues in this novel and captures the sense of community and division beautifully.


One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News, Kate Atkinson;

The Rebus novels, Ian Rankin;

Another location I have been to!

Despite the fact that my literary knowledge of Edinburgh seems to stem from bleak crime fiction, no bodies were discovered when I went there. It was gorgeous, and within these novels, particularly When Will There Be Good News, a real sense of place came through the prose.

The New York Public Library and The Harbour on the Starless Sea

The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern

I shall use this to segue seamlessly *ahem! cough! cough!* into moving from the real to the imagined locations. I mean, meeting an attractive man who has whispered stories into your ear at a party, for an assignation on the steps of the New York Public Library would be wonderful enough – but this man brings you into the wonderful and cavernous world of the starless sea.

My words are obviously insufficient, so here are Erin Morgenstern’s

Far beneath the surface of the earth, hidden from the sun and the moon, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. Stories written in books and sealed in jars and painted on walls. Odes inscribed onto skin and pressed into rose petals. Tales laid in tiles upon the floors, bits of plot worn away by passing feet. Legends carved in crystal and hung from chandeliers. Stories catalogued and cared for and revered. Old stories preserved while new stories spring up around them…

It is a sanctuary for storytellers and storykeepers and storylovers.

New Crobuzon,

Perdido Street Station in the Bas-Lag series, China Miéville

Few fantasy novels have created such a vivid and complex and multicultural city as New Crobuzon in Perdido Street Station – except perhaps Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork – which literally heaves itself out of Miéville’s prose.

The sights and smells and noise of the city wash over you as a reader – and Armada in the second novel The Scar is equally vivid – and it would be at the top of my list of fantasy cities to visit!

So there we have it: ten places that leap from the page and take on a life of their own in their writer’s descriptions and use of setting. These are settings which genuinely are characters in their own right and chime perfectly with my own imagination.

I am really looking forward to seeing all of your TTTs this week and the range of directions in which you have taken this freebie week!

Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.

Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!

So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!

Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!

Forthcoming Top ten Tuesday Topics

  • August 4: Books with Colours In the Titles
  • August 11: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed
  • August 18: Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies (submitted by Nushu @ Not A Prima Donna Girl)
  • August 25: Questions I Would Ask My Favorite Authors (Living or dead. You can post 10 questions for one author, one question each for 10 different authors, or anything else!)

33 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Settings I’d Love to Visit”

  1. Oh I love this so much! Loved The Dry and Normal People. For me the setting is just as important as the characters. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My TTT post is all about just one destination this week!

    Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit Nigeria but it didn’t work out. I have been to South Africa and do intend to go back to Africa at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a cool list! There’s so many great places to visit on here, and I’m lucky enough to live close enough to the New York Public Library to have visited there. But I still have plenty of traveling to do. And thanks to your list, I have more books to read as well.


  4. I’m so glad I explored your list – I LOVE books evocative of a place. I’m happy to see I’ve read a few of yours and agree with your opinions – that makes me more sure that I’ll love other ones you name. So thanks a lot – my TBR list just exploded AGAIN! 🙂 I recently published a list of books I’ve read set in India that I feel could supplement your reading list.I absolutely agree that Jane Harper’s stories are so evocative of central Australia. I swear I could breathe the hot, dry air in as I was reading. I’m a fan of Tana French and her Dublin series ….. but there’s lots of new here, so I’m off to add to my TBR. My list of ‘brain candy’ books can be found at

    Liked by 1 person

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