Do you like to read books about far-away places? Travel guides, memoirs? Places you’ve been or places you’ve never been?
Do semi-fictional places count? I read mostly YA fiction and Catholic nonfiction, so most of my books are about this world or very similar ones in the near future. (Gotta love dystopias.) Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are both set in what I like to call parallel worlds: they would be in this world, but something is different, or something has gone terribly wrong. Wizarding Britain is pretty far from Austin, Texas geographically, but it’s not completely foreign in terms of experience.
The only kinds of memoir I read are spiritual memoirs, so they’re less about physical travel and more about interior journeys. Then again, I glanced at the reader’s guide in the back of UnSouled and realized that it takes place all over the U.S. I hadn’t noticed that, but those kids sure do get around.
The most memorable experience I have reading about a real-life place is from Pierced by a Sword. (I’m not a fan of that book’s portrayal of LDS/Mormons, and I’ve heard some disappointing things about Bud Macfarlane Jr. himself, but I did read it.) There are several scenes set at Notre Dame, particularly in the Grotto. I read the book in high school, but I never set foot on campus until right before I started grad school there. Based on the description, I expected the Grotto to be a lot bigger! It is a beautiful place, but once you’ve been to a couple of medieval cathedrals, “big” is a relative term.
For me, reading is less about traveling to new places through the pages and more about journeying through new minds. Literature teaches us what it means to be human; location doesn’t matter.
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