Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Book Settings

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.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

This week, our top ten topic is favourite book settings – a subject that, like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, I intend to interpret in terms of both space and time. And we will look at some generic favourite settings and some books that really invest in their setting, making it a character in its own right.

Generic Favourite Book Settings

Fair warning, I am by nature drawn to both gothic, fairytale and mythic novels, as well as detective fiction, and the settings that draw me often tie into those settings

Victorian London

And let’s launch straight into the gaslight streets of Victorian London, where anyone – Jack the Ripper, Mr Hyde, pickpockets and thieves, Sherlock Holmes and miscreants – might be lurking in the peasouper to assail us.

Gothic Castles and Houses

Hidden corridors, buried secrets, cobwebs… rotting wedding breakfasts. From Satis House to Eel Marsh House, from High Place to 29 Barton Road, from Dracula’s castle to Wakenhyrst to Lockwood Manor, I love them all!

The Ocean

The immensity of the ocean is overwhelming, and tales of men in conflict with the ocean are wonderful: Moby-Dick and Jamrach’s Menagerie and The Scar and The Life of Pi are all extraordinary

Islands and Beaches

Obviously closely related to the previous item! Within the sea we find islands, and islands can be wonderfully evocative settings. At once an image of safety and of entrapment, close but also claustrophobic.


Oh look, another typically Gothic setting: like the ocean, a forest is where mankind’s presumptions of control over the world are revealed to be hollow and misguided. They are where pixies and hobgoblins can tempt you, where the will o’the wisp can draw you off the beaten track, where wolves can talk…. forests that can move themselves from Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill, or where men can flee persecution and elf their hair into knots and hide in the happy hollow of an oak tree…

Nor has the power of the forest diminished in modern times with novels like Pine or Ali Shaw’s The Trees. And these forests are only a step away from the rugged moors of Yorkshire in Wuthering Heights too.

Small Enclosed Communities

Those small towns where everyone knows everyone else’s business! Or isolated villages with generations’ worth of enmity between people! The sort of places where – however quaint and idyllic they appear, violence is often simmering under the surface.


For some reason, Nigeria, both traditional and post-colonial and contemporary has struck a huge chord with me with exceptional authors bringing the country to life from Chinua Achebe to Ben Okri to Wole Soyinka to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Oyinkan Braithwaite

Specifically wonderful settings

Troy, Pat Barker

Barker has two exception re-tellings of the fall of Troy and powerfully evokes the sense of place – to be fair, not of Troy so much as the Greek war camps encircling it – in both The Silence of the Girls and The Women of Troy.

Bas-Lag, China Mieville

As a fantasy novel, Mieville’s wonderful creation of the world of Bas-Lag in Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council – and specifically the corrupt and wonderful and complicated and troubled city of New Corbuzon – is a masterclass in imagination and in the craft of world building.

Ireland, Tana French

Faithful Place, Tana FrenchThere is something about Ireland generally which comes across beautifully in a lot of books! But Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series are exceptional in her use of setting from the intensity of the relationships and cliques of a girls’ boarding school to the terrors of a half finished housing estate to the secrets hiding behind the doors of a working class terrace. The same also applies to her standalone novels, especially The Searcher

The Scottish Highlands, Graeme Macrae Burnet

The raw physicality of the hardships of life for crofters in rural Scotland here in Burnet’s His Bloody Project was phenomenal! The class divides, gender divides and the land itself thrummed with life.

Australia and Tasmania, Jane Harper

Harper is exceptional at creating tense environments, whether they be small town simmering violence in both The Dry and The Survivors or the wilderness of the bush in Force of Nature.

Middle Earth, J. R. R. Tolkien

I couldn’t not include Tolkien – The Hobbit really did start me on my reading journey, and as Bilbo tells us, every journey begins with a single step

One Setting I Am Tired Of

Schools, specifically Magic Schools

I think this is mainly because, as a teacher, I just want to turn my back on the idea of a school when I open a book!

And, once again, I have gone significantly beyond the ten items that we are guided to! And I am sure I have missed so many great settings that I am looking forward to checking out your lists and reading your comments!

Have a great week!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • October 19: Online Resources for Book Lovers (what websites, podcasts, apps, etc. do you use that make your reading life better?)
  • October 26: Halloween Freebie
  • November 2: Books I Would Hand to Someone Who Claims to Not Like Reading
  • November 9: Memorable Things Characters Have Said (quotes from book characters that have stuck with you)
  • November 16: Books to Read If You Love/Loved X (X can be a genre, specific book, author, movie/TV show, etc.)
  • November 23: Characters I’d Love An Update On (Where are they now that the book is over?)
  • November 30: Bookish Memories (Share stories of your reading life as a child, events you’ve gone to, books that made an impression on you, noteworthy experiences with books, authors you’ve met, etc. Reminisce with me!)loween Freebie

11 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Book Settings”

  1. London is great, we visited there years ago and did a walking tour on Jack the Ripper…I couldn’t read books about it now, but I was able to handle stuff like that better back then. I also don’t love magic schools or school settings…I no longer teach in school, but home school…and I am just over all school stuff, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love stories set in Victorian London and in Gothic castles & houses too! I am also a fan of stories set in the Scottish Highlands, especially after reading OUTLANDER. I love stories set in old day Troy and Greece too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So many great choices here! And so many that are great for this time of year. I own the entire Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French but I’ve yet to read it. I need to pick it up soon. ❤


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