Author Archives: andrewbwilliams

Share your favorite places from literature

Have you checked out the new share feature on Literary places already plotted on the map can automatically be shared on Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to show your friends and followers your favorite places in world literature. A unique URL can also be generated for inclusion on other social networks and websites and in research papers and other documents. The share button can be found on the Actions tab for each scene card.

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In addition, every new place is automatically tweeted out to our followers, making it easy for you to retweet the places you have mapped.

Check out to map your favorite novels, discover new books by geography and share your literary journeys with friends.


New Dickens Collection in Progress

ds-logoWe’ve recently partnered up with the Dickens Society–an international organization dedicated to conduct, further, and support research, publication, instruction, and general interest in the life, times, and literature of Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870)–to create a Charles Dickens Collection on An on-going and continually growing project, the collection is being mapped by volunteer members of the society who would like to (re)read works written by Dickens and dive deeper into the places the author wrote about in his novels and short stories.

I guess you’d call the group effort a kind of crowdsourced, crowd-sourced project. Although, some contributors are sharing responsibility for mapping specific novels–which would be crowdsourcing a crowdsourcing of a crowd-sourced project. Ok, my head hurts. Check out more information on the Dickens Blog and contact emily.bowles [at] to get involved with the project.

Top 10 Places in Western Literature

Definitive, relevant literature is able to capture the imagination of readers, take them to a place they’ve never been and enable them to empathize with characters they care about. Think about Charles Dickens’ London or Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco. Good authors use place as a character to provide physical and emotional context to their stories.

As a co-founder of I’m constantly wondering what makes a good literary place. In honor of our relaunch this month, I put together a list of the Top 10 Literary Places in Western Literature (in no particular order). It’s impossible and presumptuous to boil the entire Western Lit canon down to 10 places, but I gave it a try, knowing that there’d be universal disagreement. Make your own list. Map places that are missing on our site (it’s free and easy!). Join the Placing Literature community.
Twain1. Aunt Polly’s House – Hannibal, Missouri

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Mark Twain is the quintessential American writer, and nothing conjures up life on the Mississippi River more than the image of the scallywag Tom Sawyer tricking the neighborhood children into white washing his aunt’s fence for him. The straw hat, the overalls, the long piece of grass sticking out of his mouth, the white picket fence. You don’t get any more Twain than that.

NotreDame2. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris – Paris, France

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

The disfigured Quasimodo is left for dead on the steps of the famous Parisian cathedral and is raised by the archdeacon who gets him to do his evil bidding. Vilified for his looks despite having a kind heart, Quasimodo is synonymous with Notre Dame’s chiming bells, at one point swinging down the ropes to save his beloved Esmeralda from a murderous mob.

Ducklings3. Public Garden – Boston, Massachusetts

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Children around the world have a place in their hearts for Mr. and Mrs. Mallard who decide to make a new home among Boston’s residents on an island in Boston Public Garden. There they brave speedy bicyclists, snapping turtles, the strange swan boats and a cadre of policemen. Today, a statue stands in the park memorializing the Mallards and their eight ducklings: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack.

Dickens4. Fagin’s Den, London, England

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

No list of literary places could be complete without at least one Dickens’ reference, and here is his most vivid location. As the Artful Dodger leads Oliver to Fagin’s den in London’s Saffron Hill neighborhood, you can see, feel and smell the squalor and filth that line the street–a potent use of place in literature that eventually led to social change for the city’s poorest residents.

Kerouac5. Six Gallery – San Francisco, California

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

The reading that sparked the beginning of the Beat movement is memorialized in what many consider Kerouac’s best novel. Based on real events, Ray Smith (Kerouac) hypes the crowd by sharing a jug of wine and shouting “Go! Go!” as Alvah Goldbook (Allen Ginsberg) performs his poem Wail (Howl) for the first time at a small art gallery on Fillmore Street in San Francisco.


6. Central Park Carousel, New York, New York

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Tourists line up to sit on the exact bench where Holden Caulfield watches his sister ride the carousel while fruitlessly trying to grab the golden ring. Her dogged determination and childish innocence gives him joy but reminds him that his childhood is over and he will never have that feeling again.

Photo from Central Park Conservatory

Sherlock7. Reichenbach Falls, Shattenhalb, Switzerland

The Final Problem by Arthur Conan Doyle

Choosing 221B Baker Street would have been the obvious choice but our users are more clever than that. Reichenbach Falls lies on the Via Alpina, a backpacking trail that traverses the Alps, and is the scene of an epic battle between Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty. As you crest the hill and catch a glimpse of the falls you can just imagine the two Victorians in hand-to-hand combat in a driving rainstorm, their silhouettes illuminated by periodic flashes of lightning. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at his best.

Gables8. Prince Edward Island, Canada

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little girls beg their parents to take them on pilgrimages to the Canadian province so they can see where Anne’s imagination so often got the best of her. While the farm, Avonlea, the schoolhouse and the Lake of Shining Waters are fictional, Lucy based the book on places she knew well while growing up on PEI.

verona9. Verona, Italy

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Most playwrights leave stage setting to the director, but the greatest of them all was a master of creating place as a character. Who can forget the town of Verona in mid-July, hot and the mad blood stirring, the Montagues and Capulets out and about looking for trouble? Immediately, the reader is thrown into a dangerous place, great tragedy just a single misstep away.

10. Bonus: CAD-FACE/The Silo, Outside Atlanta, Georgia

Wool Part One (Silo series Book 1) by Hugh Howey

Given the state of publishing today–and the fact that this post is appearing on IndieReader–it’d be remiss not to mention at least one location from an independently-published novel.

Written by the high-profile and commercially successful indie author, Hugh Howey’s Silo series mainly takes place underground in a post-apocalypse world where humanity clings to survival in the Silo, a subterranean city extending 144 stories beneath the surface. The series jumps through time around the event that triggers man’s demise, but is centered at this secret location outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

So there you have it.’s Top 10 Literary Places in Western Literature. Discover more literary places from around the world at

Andrew Bardin Williams is a co-founder of Placing Literature, a crowdsourced website that maps novels that take place in real locations. Map a scene from your favorite novel or explore the literature of a place at Follow us at and

Unless otherwise stated, photos courtesy of

This article originally appeared on and The Huffington Post.

Welcome to the new Placing Literature

What a long strange trip it’s been. We’ve been busy over the past several months completely redesigning and rebuilding The site has been updated with a new look and advanced search and share features, making it easier for you to explore literary places. Take a gander, find a literary place near you and share it on Facebook and Twitter with #literaryroadtrip. Join the community.

-Andrew Bardin Williams, C0-Founder, Placing Literature

Placing Literature Launches New Website with Advanced Search, Share and Mobile Design Features

Crowdsourced website allows readers to explore nearly 3,000 locations in literature and continuously add additional places from the books they are reading


NEW HAVEN, CONN., Feb. 2, 2016—Placing Literature ( today launched a redesigned website that allows readers to browse, locate and visit sites of famous (and not so famous) scenes from global literature—from 221B Baker Street to Grand Forks High School. The opportunity to virtually explore literary places gives readers a greater understanding of the books they are reading while enhancing people’s appreciation of the places they live, work and play—plus, it’s just fun!

Placing Literature is the global clearinghouse for location-based literary information, collecting crowdsourced information about books and the locations where they take place—and displaying them all on an interactive world map. Since launching in June 2013, readers, educators, librarians and authors have mapped nearly 3,000 places from novels, short stories, poems and plays ranging from Shakespeare to Kerouac.

Uncovering Geographic Context Around Literature has been redesigned for easier use and optimized for mobile devices, providing a seamless online platform for readers around the world to search, share and learn about the locations of their favorite pieces of literature.

Each place card on Placing Literature provides rich content about the book, the scene and the place where each plot point occurs. For example, clicking on Jackson’s Island near Hannibal, Missouri reveals where Huck Finn discovers Jim, a runaway slave, in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It’s the same island first introduced in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper ran off for a few days. Just across the river is an icon marking Aunt Polly’s house where Tom Sawyer hoodwinks the other children into painting the fence for him. A few miles south stands the cave where Tom and Becky Thatcher get lost.


On each card, visitors can view a photo of the location, search Google and Wikipedia for more information on the place, purchase the book from a local bookstore, write a review on Goodreads, share the place on social media, report an error and even check in, indicating that they’ve been to that particular location.

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Search Your Favorite Literary Places: Exploring the literature of a place or browsing the location from a particular author or book has never been easier. You can now search by location (Verona, Central Park, Castle Elsinore); by author (Cormac McCarthy, Bernat Metge, Robert Ludlum); or by book (Canterbury Tales, Anne of Green Gables, Love in the Time of Cholera). You can also browse collections of literary locations that have been curated by museums, libraries, publishers and cultural organizations around the world, including by the State Library of Queensland (Australia), St. Thomas Moore Chapel at Yale University, the Amistad Center, the Catalan Literary Heritage Network and the Mayor of Doonesbury. Featured authors such as Hugh Howey, Assaf Gavron, Matthew Thomas and Brian Freeman have also created maps of their own novels.

Share Places with the Community: Each literary place on the map has a unique URL that can be shared on Facebook and Twitter or dropped into an email or document. In addition, each new place is automatically tweeted from the @PlacingLit Twitter account with #literaryroadtrip for easy retweet, making it more likely that places you map go viral.

Explore Literature in the Real World: Readers and literary explorers are constantly on the go and need access to literary place information on mobile devices. The new is built with responsive design principles and is available on any device, including ereaders such as the Amazon Kindle and Samsung Nook. Readers can map a place from a novel they are currently reading or explore the literature of place they are visiting without leaving their screen.

“The redesign marks a major milestone in our mission to consolidate geo-tagged literary information in a single platform where readers, authors, librarians and researchers can search, view and share the places from their favorite pieces of literature,” said Andrew Williams, co-founder and CEO of Placing Literature. “Users from around the world have mapped fiction in dozens of languages on seven continents. We’re truly a global community of literary cartographers and explorers.”

About Placing Literature

Placing Literature ( is a crowdsourcing website that maps literary scenes that take place in real locations. Map a scene from your favorite novel or explore the literature of a place at Follow us at and Placing Literature plans to launch additional collections of literary places and is putting out a request for data. Libraries, universities, cultural organizations and researchers should contact if they have existing data or would like to work with Placing Literature to create content for local programming.


Andrew Bardin Williams


Mapping Connecticut Landmarks Through Literature

CTHumanitiesI had the opportunity to speak with seven high school students yesterday who are participating in the History Youth Employment Program with CT Landmarks, an organization that manages several historical properties around Connecticut. The students are spending their summer learning about and sharing local history while exploring a variety of careers in the humanities.

Program leader Laura McCarthy asked if I would demo Placing Literature for the students and show them how they can use geo-based literary information to complete future school work. After a rough start–we initially didn’t have passwords for the public computers we were using at the Hartford Public Library–we were able to map a novel published by the Connecticut Humanities Council called The Great Connecticut Caper. Taking place in historic sites around the state, each of the novel’s 12 chapters are written by different local authors. You can find the novel here.

The students mapped the story as it evolved through various Connecticut landmarks including Gillette Castle, Harkness State Park and Sleeping Giant State Park among others. We then discussed the locations and how they related to the plot and characters’ development.

It was a great opportunity to promote local literature in Connecticut and show how Placing Literature can be used as a learning tool.

Placing Literature in the Independent

Placing Literature co-founder Andrew Bardin Williams leads Get Lit in New Haven.

Placing Literature co-founder Andrew Bardin Williams leads Get Lit in New Haven.

We had a wonderful start to our relationship with the New Haven Free Public Library last night with the first installment of the Get Lit in New Haven discussion series. A curious group gathered in the Ives Think Tank Center to discuss the role New Haven plays in Alice Mattison’s The Wedding of the Two-Headed Woman, identifying several local sites that play prominently in the novel.

The New Haven Independent was there as well to document the discussion and ran a great article this morning:

Much of Tuesday’s discussion turned on how a sense of place can deepen the literature or vice versa. For example, one of the mapped locations is the bench in College Woods Park where Daisy, Mattison’s heroine, sits contemplating a major life decision. Williams said the novel is rich in symbolism and that bench sits at a bend in the Mill River, a riverine crossroads reflecting Daisy’s moment of having to choose between two directions.

The next discussion will be held July 29 at the library and will focus on Mattison’s novel and the cold case murder of Marie Valenti that is based on the real-life killing of Penny Serra in 1970s New Haven. Email the library’s Community Engagement Manager Ashley Sklar at asklar [at] for more information.

Hope to see you there!

Get Lit in New Haven


New Haven locations in The Wedding of the Two-Headed Woman.

We’re proud to be sponsoring a local literature book club called Get Lit in New Haven with the New Haven Free Public Library. Our first book will be The Wedding of the Two-Headed Woman by Alice Mattison. The book club kicks off July 15 at the library where we’ll discuss the locations around town that are featured in Alice’s book. Two weeks later we’ll lead a discussion about murder in New Haven–a prominent theme in the novel. And Alice herself will come read and discuss her book with us on August 12.

There are limited spots left, so make sure you sign up for Get Lit in New Haven today.

Not in the area? Feel free to contact me at info[at] to discuss how to organize a local literature book club in your city.