Books are transport.
Little in life is as immediate and magical as the way a good book can move you to somewhere else in space and time, living someone else’s life. Books can be an escape, an education, they build a sense of empathy for other people. You get to live inside other people when you’re reading. It’s an amazing kind of journey. There’s a natural extension here to the thinking behind TripLIT Literary Travel from Greenville’s M. Judson Booksellers. If books are transport, what happens if you let them actually transport you?
TripLIT carefully curates all-inclusive excursions to literary hot spots across the country. Each trip is centered on a shared reading list for the city in question, truly exploring the sights, sounds, tastes, and tendencies of a place through its literature. Hotels are intimate and beautiful, often in historic buildings with stories of their own. Meals are thoughtful and reflective, often with a guest author at the table and conversation about their work.
First dreamed up in 2017, the inaugural trip was to lit-rich New Orleans. Participants read Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer and walked down Esplanade Avenue through the French Quarter to the Garden District as an introduction to the city, just the way main character Binx Bolling does in the book. Inspired by Jewel Parker Rhodes’ novel Voodoo Dreams, based on the life of Marie Laveau, they had their fortunes told by present-day practitioner Bloody Mary. The weekend culminated in a lavish brunch hosted by Louisiana food historian Cynthia Nobles, featuring the 14 essential foods of Creole and Cajun cuisine, from scalloped oysters to red beans and rice, gumbo to bread pudding.
Of course there were Hurricanes and Sazeracs. There were bookstores and beignets. But what struck organizer Debi Horton most directly was the ease of it all. “When strangers have read the same books, there’s an immediate connection,” she says. “Whether they loved them or didn’t love them. It was the one thing we didn’t know about starting these trips. How would everybody get along?”
As it turns out, books make for the kind of common ground you can find everywhere you go.
TripLIT ventured to Nantucket in 2018 on the heels of In The Heart of the Sea, and to Chicago in 2019 inspired by Sandra Cisneros’s classic novel of the Latino immigrant experience, The House on Mango Street. There’s a 2020 trip in the works for Nashville, built around a wealth of music history, the venerable Andrew Jackson, and whatever famed Southern chef Sean Brock is up to in his home city.
Local day trips are also available through TripLIT, expanding book-fueled imaginations closer to home. Stay tuned at triplittravel.com.
Illustration by Karen Schipper.