There aren’t a lot of books that help writers create a sense of place in their work. Apart from what is included in this five-part series of articles about creating a sense of place in travel literature, below are a few resources that I can recommend.
Some of the books below are reference books to be used during the writing phase. Some are workbooks designed to help you think about and develop a practice of writing about place. And some are inspirational books that may give you food for thought or insight into how other writers approach their work.
Books to Help Writers Create a Sense of Place
- Away & Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel by Sara Clemence
- Seasoned travelers won’t find this book to be especially full of insight. And it isn’t specifically about a sense of place. But new travelers, travel writers, and meditators may find its advice helpful. This, of course, may help you observe and ultimately write better.
- A Field Guide for Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
- If you have never read any of Solnit’s works, stop what you’re doing right now and purchase a copy of her book. While I haven’t read all of her books, the ones I’ve read are insightful and poignant. In this book, Solnit offers us a series of meditations on themes related to exploring and experiencing life – a masterclass of writing personal essays in the palm of your hands.
- A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel by Robin Hemley
- Hemley’s book makes the case for incorporating yourself—your memories, your culture, your opinions, your experiences—into your non-fiction writing. A must-read book for anyone hesitant about bringing the “I” into your work.
- The Rural Setting Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
- Made more for the fiction writer than the narrative non-fiction writer, the books is as it sounds. It contains lists of sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for various rural settings. If you’re having trouble describing a place, this book may help give you the words to do so.
- A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration by Michael Shapiro
- Author Michael Shapiro travels to visit his favorite authors — Bill Bryson, Frances Mayes, Paul Theroux, etc. — on their home turf and ask questions about their lives, their work, and the reasons why they live where they live. This is certainly inside baseball, but illuminating nonetheless.
- The Soul of Place: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci by Linda Lappin
- Lappin’s little gem of a book helps us understand why place is so important and provides exercises that will help writers improve their craft. It is a small, inspirational workbook aimed at helping people think and write about place.
- The Urban Setting Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
- Like their book on rural settings noted above, this book is more for the fiction writer than the narrative non-fiction writer. This book contains lists of sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for various urban settings. If you’re having trouble describing an urban environment, this reference book may help give you the words to do so.
- Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler by Lavinia Spalding
- This little book helps you think about place by developing a practice of writing, sensing, and feeling. Lavinia, who is a practicing Buddhist, employs contemplative practice in this excellent book.
This is the fifth article in a five-part series of articles about creating a sense of place in travel literature. If you have any book recommendations to add to this list, please leave a comment below.
Download a copy of our free “Summoning the Spirit of Place” PDF, along with other travel writing freebies, eBooks, and checklists in our resource library, by joining our monthly newsletter:
Last Updated on 19 January 2024 by Travel Writing World