By October 30, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

A Place for Us

Setting is an important appeal factor to many readers, but wise book group leaders should give it special consideration.

A book with a strong sense of place lends itself well to discussion because it offers so many conversational entry points for readers. Even readers who are not good at discussing their reactions to a book often have interesting stories related to particular locales. If they haven’t been to the place in question, that’s fine too: discussion can compare the location of the book to other places they know better. A fresh setting also offers a chance for readers to speculate about what life is like elsewhere. Who knows? that wonderful feeling we call empathy might even result. 

For book group leaders looking to moonlight as travel guides, I heartily recommend the website BiblioTravel ( It’s the simple but inspired creation of two Canadian librarians, Fiona Scannell and James Schellenberg. Type in the name of a city, country, state, or region, and you’ll get back a list of books that are set there. As of this writing the archive contains 3165 books set in 1609 locales. New York City and London lead the list, with over 200 books each, but dozens of other places are well represented. Perhaps best of all, any registered user can submit additions to the collection. This is a fine example of the kind of massive undertakings that librarians and other readers can manage with ease if they harness the power of online collaboration.

You can search the site by author, title, or genre as well, and most of the titles also include the year the book was written, the point in history when it is set, and a brief review. This is a wonderful opportunity for readers to learn, enjoy, and most important, participate. The site is very much active and will only grow and improve with your input. Take your own tour of BiblioTravel some time soon!



About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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