National Book Month

Take part in Bloomsday, Ireland  

Every year on 16 June, literary fans around the world celebrate Bloomsday, the day depicted in James Joyce’s seminal novel Ulysses. The day is named after the character of Leopold Bloom, with the story following his journey from 8am on 16 June 1904 to the following morning. The celebration sees festivals, readings and workshops happening globally, but as you can imagine, the central hub for authentic events is Dublin. Each and every year, fans of the work can be seen dressed in period costumes as they travel to different sites depicted in the novel. If you’re a Joyce fan planning to visit Ireland but you just can’t make the date work, fear not.

Many of the significant sites can be seen year-round, starting with Nassau Street, where Joyce first met Nora Barnacle, his future wife and lifelong muse, who was working at the nearby Finn’s Hotel at the time. Another significant location is the Martello Tower at Sandycove where the novel begins.

The James Joyce Tower and Museum is 30 minutes from the city centre by train, and is open every day with free admission. The museum was opened in 1962 by Sylvia Beach, the Paris-based publisher who first helped put Ulysses into print. It has photographs, letters, documents, various editions of Joyce’s work and two death masks of Joyce on display.

From there, it’s approximately 30 minutes by bus along the coast to Sandymount Strand, a beach where two episodes from the novel are set. Other must-sees include Glasnevin Cemetery, Ireland’s largest and most historically important burial site (visit the adjoining National Botanical Gardens while you’re there) and the James Joyce Centre where visitors can see the original door of 7 Eccles St, the home of Leopold and Molly Bloom in Ulysses, which was demolished in real life to make way for a private hospital.

Mark Twain's octagonal study, built on the grounds of Quarry Farm in Elmira
Mark Twain’s octagonal study, built on the grounds of Quarry Farm in Elmira © Diane Stoneback / Allentown Morning Call / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Visit Mark Twain’s Study, Elmira, NY

In 1874, Susan and Theodore Crane gifted their brother-in-law Samuel L. Clemens (better known by his pen name Mark Twain) with a study in Elmira. It was placed near the main house at Quarry Farm on the Chemung River Valley. It is there that Mark Twain wrote major portions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Life on the Mississippi, A Tramp AbroadThe Prince and the Pauper and many short pieces.

In 1952, the Mark Twain Study was moved to the nearby Elmira College campus. Every day the study is staffed by student guides in the summer, and people can visit it by appointment in the off-season. Seasonally, during the months of July and August, the study is included as part of a one-hour narrated trolley tour of historic Elmira that includes stops at Victorian-era homes in the Maple Avenue District, Dunn Field, home of the Elmira Pioneers baseball team, the Chemung Valley History Museum and the Civil War Prison Camp and Woodlawn National Cemetery.

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Harry Potter author J.K Rowling was famously inspired by Edinburgh when creating the book series © Rory McDonald

Enter a magical world with the Potter Trail, Edinburgh 

Grab your robes and join your guide on a special tour of the city designed for fans of Harry Potter. This hour-and-a-half donation-based tour takes guests to locations that inspired characters and scenes in the beloved series. If you don’t fancy joining a tour, you can track down some sites yourself, including The Elephant House and Spoon Café (formerly Nicholson’s Café) the first places Rowling wrote. 

Nearby Greyfriar’s Kirkyard cemetery holds a gravestone with the name Tom Riddell on it. Other locations include The Balmoral Hotel, which includes a luxury JK Rowling Suite with a marble bust of Hermes that J.K. Rowling signed when she finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the room, and Victoria Street and the Grassmarket Area, which is said to have served as inspiration for Diagon Alley in the books.

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The Oz Parlour at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center © Courtesy of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center

Step inside the Oz Parlour, Fayetteville, New York

Lyman Frank Baum’s mother-in-law Matilda Joslyn Gage, the famous suffragist and feminist, encouraged the writer to pursue his craft, urging him to document the stories he told his sons. In 1900, his children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz enjoyed great commercial and critical success. The author married Maud Gage Baum in the front parlour (now the Oz Parlour) of the Gage Home in 1882.

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