Location… Location… Location…. Does It Matter?


Fellow readers… we can talk right?  We have that “love for books thing” in common, and if I may be so bold… we do enjoy hunkering down to a really good read.  Now while traditions and props may differ almost like a set up for a game of Clue…. 

In the recliner, favorite blanket, bowl of popcorn

on the deck, in the sun, large glass of iced tea

at the library, in a sunny window, feet propped at a 30 degree angle

in the living room, on the couch, surrounded by cheese,crackers,grapes and a glass of wine…

we can probably all agree that not much compares to digging into that book that fully takes you inside the story line… blood, sweat and tears… you are ALL IN.

Which brings me to my point….

If a book is not clear about where it is locally centered, is that a bump in the read for you?  If you do not know if you are reading about a smoldering California summer or a wintry bout in Alaska… does the book miss something?

I ask because I fall into the I want to know category.  I like to know where I am reading, it is a part of my level of involvement with the book, placing me into a deeper sense of knowing where I am and what that might feel like.  In some books, location is such a large part of the book, it almost becomes a character in itself…

Even dystopian reads can give you a feel for where you are, even if the world is no longer as know it… take Hunger Games for instance.

I love this visual of what the districts look like and what states they encompass.

And even though I do prefer knowing States or countries, I am even ok with an area being described as, “in the south” or “way up North”, at least that gives me something.  Although I do love the brave authors that put us right into a city and state 😉 )

For todays bookish topic of discussion I am curious if this love of knowing where I am at geographically is more of a “yeah that’s just you Sheila”, or is it a “I agree, I like to know where I am in a book”.

And since this is the topic at hand (or at keyboard)….

chalk board 3


35 thoughts on “Location… Location… Location…. Does It Matter?

  1. I am not a writer, so I am not sure – I think being vague is sort of an easy way out – you don’t have to do any research about the area to describe it. Being vague gives you more freedom – you can make it fit into your story line.

    For me reading a place I know gives me a feeling of “being home”. I really like it. I have moved a lot my whole life – it is fun to read places I have been or want to go. It also gives me that feeling of the story being real.

    Just my non-writer opinion!!

  2. It depends where the story is located. I sometimes like to go to youtube and pull up the place being talked about, it makes me feel like I am right there with them. And also I get to take a mini-vacation in my easy chair. Yes, I like to know the location while I’m reading.

    1. I love that! I have researched places before that I read about in books (I love it when I learn from fiction!) Especially for our book club reads as we try to have our reviews be a reflection of the book so often we will theme the food or atmosphere.

  3. James Hilton’s Lost Horizon, the 1933 book that introduced Shangri-La into the language, is a great example of vagueness adding-to the point of being essential-to the story. A great and timeless book. But it was clear that we weren’t supposed to know where we were.

    But usually I want to know where I am. I call myself a “Geographical Reader” and I often select books based on location. It adds to my experience whether I have or haven’t visited the locale in person. It’s a two way thing, the books add to the place and the place adds to the books. Having read Mary Renault’s books certainly made visiting ancient Greek sites more meaningful. And visiting those sites set me to reading Xenophon and Homer.

    I read loads of fiction in translation because it adds so much to the experience of place.

    1. That is great – I knew that books had to e out there that needed no location… I too like to know where I am reading not only because I have the meme Where AR You Reading this year – but because I love to read outside my own boundaries 🙂

  4. I’m not sure why an author would be vague about locations, to me they are an intrinsic part of the story and only add to the overall sense of involvement in the story. I definitely prefer to know where the story is set and have it described so I can picture it.

  5. I like mysteries that take place in certain cities with lots of details, because it sort of adds to making them sound more real (except for the fact that with a series, there are serial killings happening in the same city at least once a year – very suspicious!)

    1. Ah, but woe to the author who gets the details wrong! I just read a novel that put the Mark Hopkins Hotel on the wrong San Francisco hill. And a non-fiction that had New Haven on the Connecticut River. Grrrr

      1. I like to feel as if I am right there with the characters, so I definitely want to know where the story takes place, even down to what the characters’ surroundings look like.

  6. I do enjoy reading books about places I know and London is a big favourite because it offers itself to many genres, but… my geography is poor so I don’t know which state is next to which in the US so it doesn’t add much to my reading experience. Books about the countries customs are interesting though, particularly when they are very different from the ones we have.

  7. How funny. I’m reading The House on the Strand right now and it is set in Cornwall England. They just mentioned the family drove down from London and it took 7 hours. So what did I do? I looked it up on line and it says it should take under 5 hours to drive that distance! But, the book is sent in 50 years ago so maybe speed limits and cars were slower? This book has a map in it and it looks like the author is true to place and name so I do think it “very cool”.
    Plus I’m working on a Geography lesson plan…

    1. Nah, it really still takes 7 hours from London to Cornwall, especially in the summer. Most of it is a drive on B-roads (country roads) and the closer you get, the narrower and curvier the roads get with man-high hedges on either side. Very beautiful, but can be a pain to drive on and you can’t drive fast as you never know if there is a car on the other side of the curve and you spend a fair time on the side hoping the caravan can get passed you.

  8. Place can even be a character. The Hunger Games needs the place it is in, as does Tolkien, and how about Harry Potter? The best “place as character” story is the movie “Interiors” by Woody Allen. I just finished Barbara Delinsky’s “For My Daughters” and without the place, which is the best part of the book, it would NOT have been as good as it was

  9. Setting is a character, but it doesn’t worry me if it is real, imaginary or vague – as long as it fits the story. I think authors have reasons for which choice they make, and that it lies in the skill of the author (or is it just our taste) as to whether that is done well in all three scenarios. Like all characters, it can be a protagonist or a minor character that adds depth. I read some books for the people, some for the story and some for the place – I like variety. Good question Sheila. Thanks.

  10. For me Location is really important and some authors I read just for their brilliant descriptions. I love reading books from other countries, especially if I haven’t been there or it is really expensive to go there, because it tells you something about how other people live and what there circumstances are. So I really appreciate it if the writer takes good care explaining the environment, what’s special about it or what might make life and people difficult to deal with. I love Scandinavian crime writing not that much for the crime but because so many writers manage to describe the landscapes, cities, people and habits. Same goes for books from the US. I’ve only ever been to New York and that just briefly for business, so I really love hearing from different parts of the country. I always goggle each state and try and find out more, which is really interesting. I am German, but live in England and I read some German books to get a bit of home.

    If there isn’t a location, I tend to find this really disorientating and the book has to be really good in other ways to work. Don’t often stop reading books, but if an author leaves out location just because they are lazy, then its a stop. However, occasionally, when an author is not very good at describing a location or clearly goes through a list of “have to mentions” that is a spoiler too.

  11. I’ve been thinking this because of your ‘Where Are You Reading?’ Challenge! I struggled with one or two of the books I’ve read because I want to know where they are!
    I think being vague can be good if the author wants to make the book more universally appealing, but I still like ’em grounded!

    1. LOL, the reading challenge certainly makes me more aware of missing locations (On my post of where I am reading I have a group of “unknown”, but I do enjoy being able to get a feel for a culture or language due to where a book is located. I love the feeling of learning while I am reading 🙂

  12. I like to know where the story is set and I’ve learned a lot about the world, present day as well as during certain periods in the past, from the novels I read. It’s also always been fun for me to read books set in places I know well. For instance, in Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, I could envision the places in and around Boston he was in, and the same with Chicago in the V.I. Warshawski series from Sara Paretsky.

  13. I agree, I can’t get a feeling of the book until I know where it is based. I also like to know about the author as I know what angle they are coming from

  14. I don’t know if I can totally relate to the final questions you asked, but I can totally agree with the mental stimulation and Wanderlust through a book makes the mental vacation all the better. I can totally absolve this need to have a “location” mentioned in a book if I liked an opening line which drew me in completely and making location irrelevant 🙂

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