Friday, July 5, 2013

Placing Literature - Mapping Your Favorite Books

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Andrew Bardin Williams, co-founder of PlacingLiterature, introducing me to this new bookish website that maps literary scenes.

Initially, I thought "Small demons has already claimed that corner of the bookish playground" but the more I messed around with the site, and the more I questioned Andrew about its purpose, the more I began to see its differences. For starters, the data is crowdsourced, meaning, if you can log in to Google, you can add scenes from YOUR favorite titles to the map. And although the information doesn't exactly allow you to see anything - it just sort of sits there, as a pinpoint on a map - it does allow you to click on each location and virtually "check-in" to the destination.

While I'm not really interested in virtually visiting a scene from the book I'm reading, I can certainly see the 'cool factor' when travelling the states... if your idea of vacationing includes hitting up any and all literary locations!

Now, I know word has gotten out there by now, so I'm probably not introducing you to anything new at this point, but I did want to give Andrew a chance to tell you a bit more about the site.. like, why it was born, and what he hopes to accomplish with it, and I'm curious to know what you guys think of it. Have you used the site yet? Have you added any of your favorite scenes or are you just perusing the ones that are already there? Do you think this is a site you will be returning to, time and time again?

Keeping that in mind, here's Andrew:

Placing Literature maps literary scenes in the real world

Like many authors and readers of fiction, I’ve always thought that the relationship between literature and real, physical places helps enhance the reading experience and develop a sense of community where these scenes take place. This relationship has always stuck in the back of my mind, so I recently teamed up with a geographer and a software engineer to found a new web application called that maps places from novels that take place in real locations. Our goal is to help connect readers to the places where their favorite novels take place.

Using the website, detective novel fans can see where Sam Spade of the Maltese Falcon lived and worked in San Francisco. Book lovers in Duluth, Minnesota, can track the literary scenes that take place around the shore of Lake Superior. Or Amy Tan fans can track the Woo, Hsu, Jong and St. Claire families through their journeys from China to the Bay Area.

The data is crowdsourced, so anyone with a Google login can add a scene to the database by clicking on the map. Since launching on June 19 at the Arts and Ideas Festival in New Haven, Conn., users have logged more than 500 places in the database from Castle Kronborg in Hamlet to Forks High School in the Twilight series.

We’ve also been getting a lot of attention, being mentioned in the New Yorker and the Paris Review as well as a slew of book blogs and technology websites. But ultimately, the success of this project falls to you, the crowd. I invite you to explore the website, find literary places that take place around your communities and map those scenes.

Andrew Bardin Williams is a co-founder of, a website that maps literary places that take place in real locations. He is also the author of Learning to Haight, a 2012 Indie Reader Discovery Award finalist in literary fiction. Like Placing Literature on Facebook at


  1. Interesting idea! DId I miss it, or is there a tactic for books that have fake locations (like a town) that also lists the state?

  2. I think it's only for actual, physical locations. I'm not sure a fake town would work because the map wouldn't recognize it. But why not give it a go, right?

  3. Very cool :) I've kept track of all of my book settings in 2013. It's been so cool to see all the places I've "traveled".

  4. That's pretty cool! Thanks for sharing Jen!