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Offbeat Places Where the Most Famous Books Were Written

Sometimes the "sacred" writing place you'd expect is actually a local pub.

Los Angeles, APR 4: Exterior view of the Powell Library on APR 4, 2019 at Los Angeles, CaliforniaKit Leong/Shutterstock

UCLA Lawrence Clark Powell Library

Ray Bradbury wrote his most famous novel Fahrenheit 451 at UCLA’s Lawrence Clark Powell Library in the early 1950s. He was in search of a tranquil place to write, but as a father of two young children, it was difficult. “I was wandering around UCLA and I heard typing down below in the basement of the library,” Bradbury wrote in a letter to a library in Arkansas. “I discovered there was a typing room where you could rent a typewriter for ten cents a half hour. I moved into the typing room along with a bunch of students and my bag of dimes.” Nine days and $9.80 in dimes later, he had finished his story—a novella titled The Fireman. Bradbury later returned to the library basement to elaborate on the fireman story, which evolved into the novel Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. Delighted by this little-known famous location at UCLA? Then you won’t want to miss the best-kept secrets in every state.  

OPENING OF THE ROALD DAHL MUSEUM, GREAT MISSENDEN, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE - 10 JUN 2005Shutterstock

The Writing Hut in Great Missenden, England

After visiting writer Dylan Thomas’ writing shed, overlooking an estuary in Laugharne, Wales, writer Roald Dahl had to have a writing hut of his own. He recruited friend and local handyman Wally Saunders to help build him a brick hut in his garden at Gipsy House in Great Missenden, England. Every morning Dahl would take a flask of coffee with him up to the hut, plop himself down in his mother’s old chair, sharpen six pencils, pour himself a cup of coffee, and there he would remain for at least two hours before taking a break. Some of Dahl’s most well-loved children’s books, including The BFG, Matilda, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, were written in his cozy writing shed. “When I am up in here I see only the paper I am writing on, and my mind is far away with Willy Wonka or James or Mr. Fox or any or whatever else I am trying to cook up,” he said. You can see the hut in person at the Roald Dahl Museum. If you’re looking for literary attractions closer to home, here are 9 U.S. literary landmarks every book lover must visit.

Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain - Nov 2010Ilpo Musto/Shutterstock

The Elephant House

A four-hour delay aboard a crowded train was the literary spark that lit up the imagination of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. But everyone’s favorite boy wizard truly came to life at The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland—a quaint red café located just off the city’s central walkway on George IV Bridge. Though many Edinburgh cafés claim J.K. Rowling sat at their tables while writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Elephant House features photos of her writing there, with quotes from the author. Rowling has also said that she “wrote huge parts of the book” at her brother-in-law’s former eaterie, Nicolson’s Cafe. Accounts like this make Edinburgh one of the 12 best cities in the world for book lovers.

VARIOUS Pera Palas Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey. Room 411 where Agatha Christie stayed. Property Released.Stock Connection/Shutterstock

Pera Palace Hotel

Many famous writers have stayed at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, but one of the most notable was Agatha Christie, who frequented Room 411. Legend has it she wrote her bestseller Murder on the Orient Express in this very room. Today, Room 411 is dubbed the Agatha Christie Room and it houses shelves of her books, published in multiple languages. The room is furnished in the style of the period when Christie wrote her book and includes a typewriter that’s a replica of the one the author used. Discover 25 more of the strangest and most unique hotels in the world.

The Mount - Edith Wharton's Home - Lenox, MassachusettsCarolyn M Carpenter/Shutterstock

The Mount

While many writers needed to get away from home to work, Edith Wharton penned her first book The House of Mirth in the comfort of her bedroom at The Mount, her family’s 42-room mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts. “She would have her writing board perilously furnished with an ink pot on her knee, the dog of the moment under her elbow, and the bed strewn with correspondence, newspapers, and books,” according to her friend Gaillard Lapsley. As she filled each page, Wharton would drop them to the floor for her secretary to pick up later and type. The commercial and critical success of The House of Mirth in 1905 gave Wharton the confidence she needed to establish herself as a serious writer. Her passion was deemed improper at a time when women of her background and social standing pursued families not careers, but perseverance paid off in the end when she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921. Despite her fame, Wharton’s is not the best-remembered book written in Masachusetts; these are the most iconic books in every state.

Jack London's Rendezvous, Oakland, California, UsaHistoria/Shutterstock

Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon

It may not look like much, but this dive bar built in 1883 earned itself a spot on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2000, as it was the writing place of novelist Jack London. Heinold’s proprietors say London spent many hours there drinking and writing notes for Call of the Wild. Heinold’s was so near and dear to the author’s heart that he managed to casually name drop the bar numerous times in his novels John Barleycorn and Tales of the Fish Patrol.

SAN FRANCISCO DE PAULA, CUBA - JUNE 10th, 2016: Ernest Hemingway's house, Finca Vigia, near Havana, Cuba. It is now a museum. Most of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was written here.Cabeca de Marmore/Shutterstock

Finca Vigía

Ernest Hemingway’s Havana house, Finca Vigía, has become a main tourist attraction in Cuba. It is the place where the writer dreamed up and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and five other novels. He spent most of his time in the home’s library click-clacking away on his Underwood typewriter. A writer for the New Yorker described the library as a “long, pleasant, high-ceilinged room, lined with tall bookcases. In front of the windows is ‘The Desk,’ huge and magisterial…” Discover why Hemingway’s Key West estate is now home to over 50 six-toed cats.

NEW YORK CITY - Oct 18: Grand Army Plaza in New York on October 18; 2016. Grand Army Plaza lies at the intersection of Central Park South and Fifth Avenue in front of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.MISHELLA/Shutterstock

The Plaza Hotel

Before she became an author, Kay Thompson was a singer and dancer starring in a 1950s cabaret act at the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room in New York City. During her performances she took on the voice of a six-year-old girl named Eloise as an inside joke when talking with her band, the New York Times reported. “Kay actually had a childhood imaginary friend named Eloise, and she spoke in this voice of Eloise all through her life,” Sam Irvin, author of the Kay Thompson biography From Funny Face to Eloise, told NPR. One night after a performance Thompson was introduced to artist Hilary Knight. Knight adored Thompson’s Eloise impersonation and decided to draw an illustration of the child-sized troublemaker. Thompson’s first book in the Eloise series, which was published in 1955, was written to accompany the illustration. All of the books featured Eloise, a rowdy, mischievous little rich girl who lived in the penthouse of the Plaza Hotel. Knight’s drawing hangs in the halls of the Plaza Hotel to this day. Learn more curious facts about the most historic hotels in every state.

Travel Trip Twains Haven, Elmira, USADavid Duprey/AP/Shutterstock

A wooden study in Elmira, New York

A small, wooden, octagonal hut sits in the middle of Elmira College’s campus in New York. The shelter was the birthplace of some of Mark Twain’s (nee Samuel Clemens) greatest works, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Clemens and his wife Olivia summered in Elmira for many years at the home of his in-laws, the Langdon’s. The writing hut was commissioned by his sister-in-law, who wanted to give him a quiet place to write away from the hustle and bustle of family life. Now, over a hundred years later, the hut has been relocated to its current location on the campus, but it still retains the same brick fireplace and the writing desk where the famous author and satirist once worked. Discover more fascinating facts about famous authors.

SAINT PETER PORT, UNITED KINGDOM JULY 5: Hauteville House in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands, UK on July 5, 2013. Famous french poet Victor Hugo used to live here in the 19th Century.Allard One/Shutterstock

Hauteville House

Many of the characters in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables were poverty-stricken, but the place where the author did his writing was far from indigent. Hugo had been banished from France following the coup d’état by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and expelled from both Belgium and Jersey in the early 1850s. He moved into Hauteville House, a five-story mansion in Guernsey, one of the English Channel Islands. While residing in the elegant mansion, inspiration struck and he wrote many of his masterpieces there including Les Misérables and The Man Who Laughs. If you are lucky enough to own one of these rare books that are worth a fortune, you’re sitting on a gold mine.

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Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.