Some wish to sleep in the beds of rock stars. My passion, however, is writers. I love knowing where they created, thought, and slept. Many readers are similarly obsessed. Reading is an intimate connection with the mind of a writer. Sleeping where a favorite writer has laid their head promises a brush with imagination, a surge of creativity, and story-filled dreams.
In recognition of National Book Month, here are eight literary places to lay your well-read head.
1. Louis L’Amour
Strater Hotel, Durango, Colorado
There was a time when men would pace off for a gunfight to get their hands on a Louis L'Amour novel. His books (mostly Westerns) sold 320,000 million copies. Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, and Reagan were fans.
From 1966, L’Amour spent his summers at the Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado, hiking by day and writing by night. His favorite room was 222, the one above the honky-tonk piano in the Diamond Belle Saloon. The rhythm fueled his writing. It’s said that when L’Amour got into a story, he would type 90 words a minute using only two fingers!
Today, fans can stay in L’Amour’s old room and sit at the drop-leaf table where he typed into the night. But be warned -- that ragtime piano still gets a nightly thumping!
The Strater Hotel, built in 1888, offers the best of the Old West -- American Victorian walnut antiques, hand-stenciled wallpaper, and costumed saloon girls. Prefer actors to writers? Robert Redford also slept here.
Pro Tip: Contact the hotel directly to book room 222 for $260+ per night. More affordable rooms are available elsewhere in the hotel.
2. John Steinbeck
Writer’s Studio, Pacific Grove, California
John Steinbeck is considered one of America’s greatest writers. The author of Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, and The Grapes of Wrath was born in Salinas in 1902, and he called the Salinas Valley and the Monterey Peninsula home throughout his life.
Today, fans can stay in the cottage where Steinbeck wrote The Log from the Sea of Cortez in the 1940s. In My Life With John Steinbeck, Gywn Conger, the author’s second wife, alleges that Steinbeck sat her down with Carol Henning, his first wife, on the property and said, “Whichever of you ladies needs me the most and wants me the most, then that’s the woman I’m going to have.” Henning won. But it wasn’t a happily-ever-after story -- Steinbeck’s third wife was the actress Elaine Scott.
This is a sweet cottage studio with original 1920s architecture. Renovations pay homage to the period, and there are plenty of Steinbeck’s novels to read.
It costs about $70 per night to rent the studio, and there’s a 30-day minimum stay. Time to write the next great American novel? The Airbnb is within walking distance of Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and other Monterey-area attractions. And for Steinbeck fans, there are plenty of Steinbeck sites to explore.
Pro Tip: If you’re a fan of Big Little Lies, set in the Monterey area, you’ll want to explore the local Big Little Lies sites, too.
3. D. H. Lawrence And Aldous Huxley
The Mabel Dodge Luhan House And Taos Goji Eco Lodge, Taos, New Mexico
Long before the communes of the ’60s, Mable Dodge Luhan, a patron of the arts, set up a artists’ community in Taos, New Mexico. She attracted creatives such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Willa Cather, Ansel Adams, Edna Ferber, and Thomas Wolfe. After Luhan read D. H. Lawrence, she wanted him in her fold -- that’s how the British writer and his wife, Frieda, ended up living in the United States in 1922. As further inducement, Luhan gave the Lawrences a property in San Cristobal, New Mexico. After the writer’s death, Lawrence’s literary friends were still drawn to Taos. One was Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World.
The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is now a hotel. If the adobe walls could talk, you’d hear some incredible tales. Rooms cost between $116 and $220 per night. You could also stay at the Taos Goji Eco Lodge, home to the cabin where Huxley wrote Ends and Means in the 1930s. Other cabins are also available.
When you’re in town, take in the D. H. Lawrence Forbidden Art Collection, with nine paintings that were confiscated by the police in London in 1929. You can also visit the D. H. Lawrence Ranch. To stop Luhan from scattering Lawrence’s ashes over the desert, Frieda allegedly mixed them in wet cement, still embedded in this shrine.
Pro Tip: For more to do in Taos, check out this guide.
4. Zelda And F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Zelda And F. Scott Suites, Montgomery, Alabama
The Jazz Age was synonymous with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Zelda Fitzgerald, the writer's wife and flapper muse. In Therese Anne Fowler’s book Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (now a TV drama), Fowler suggests that F. Scott may have used his wife’s words without crediting her.
But Zelda gets top billing at this Airbnb in Montgomery, Alabama. The Zelda Suite is located above the The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, about a mile from the place where Zelda grew up. The Airbnb is located in a converted house where the couple lived from 1931 to 1932. While staying at the home, Zelda worked on Save Me the Waltz, and F. Scott worked on Tender Is the Night. The two-bedroom listing costs $120 to $130 per night. There’s also a smaller F. Scott Suite available for $112 per night. Stays include a tour of the museum, the only one dedicated to the lives of this legendary couple.
Pro Tip: This stop is on the Southern Literary Trail that also covers sites associated with Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Caroline Miller, and Margaret Mitchell.
5. Charles Dickens
Omni Parker House, Boston, Massachusetts
Charles Dickens stayed at the Omni Parker House for five months between 1867 and 1868 when doing readings of A Christmas Carol. He’d trained as an actor and loved to ham it up using exaggerated voices, facial expressions, and dramatic gestures, and he practiced in front of his hotel mirror. His first performance was at this historic hotel. He also dined here with members of the Saturday Club, a social and literary group started by Ralph Waldo Emerson that included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and James Russell Lowell. Dickens was the Victorian equivalent of a superstar. He read to packed venues. Admirers stalked him and grabbed tufts from his fur coat, and the hotel staff guarded his door from overeager fans.
Today, the hotel is home to a mini-museum that features the door from Dickens’s room. The mirror in which Dickens practiced his dramatic readings is now in the conference room. Local ghost tour guides will tell you that the mirror is haunted -- perhaps by the Ghost of Christmas Past!
Rooms cost $170+ at this hotel, which is conveniently located on the Freedom Trail near the Boston Commons. Even if you don’t plan to stay the night, you should still step inside to see the plush foyer of the oldest continuously operated hotel in the U.S.
6. L. Frank Baum
Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado, California
L. Frank Baum, who wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, vacationed at the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego most winters between 1904 and 1910. During his lengthy vacations, Baum wrote parts of his Wizard of Oz series. He would write until 2:30 p.m. and then play golf until 4:30 p.m. He claimed that whacking a ball helped him sort out story ideas.
It is sometimes said that Baum based the Emerald City on the magical turreted hotel, but The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, four years prior to Baum’s first stay there. But it’s certainly likely that Baum’s love for the fantastical and whimsical attracted him to this fairy-tale resort. According to his biographer, Katharine M. Rogers, Baum became friends with the hotel manager, Morgan Ross, and the author designed the fantastical crown-shaped chandeliers in the ballroom.
Rooms range in price from $401 to $1,267 per night, plus a $35 resort fee. To simply see this famous hotel, check out the nearby beach, which is open to the public, and wander through the shops and restaurants of the grand foyer. You can see other Baum-related sites on a tour.
7. Tennessee Williams
Hotel Elysee, New York, New York
The Pulitzer-winning dramatist Tennessee Williams was known for his emotionally charged plays such as A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Williams didn’t just holiday in hotels -- he spent 15 years living at the Hotel Elysee, a French-inspired boutique hotel established in the 1920s close to Broadway. Williams would rise at dawn -- no matter his state from the night before -- and pound the keys of his typewriter, flanked by a cup of black coffee. He was writing the memoirs of his turbulent life. When other hotel guests complained about the clatter, they were moved. They were guests, after all, and it was Williams’s home.
The decor is sumptuous, with oil paintings, rococo wallpaper, and crystal chandeliers. Guests are served complimentary wine and cheese in the Club Room from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The 900-square-foot Tennessee Williams Suite showcases the writer’s photographs, letters, and a collection of his plays. You’ll pay $1,735+ for a two-night stay. Standard rooms cost $276+ per night.
Just visiting? Enjoy the hotel’s Monkey Bar, which has been featured in Sex and the City and Mad Men.
8. 4,000 Authors
Heathman Hotel, Portland, Oregon
You might recall the Heathman Hotel as the location of that steamy elevator scene from Fifty Shades of Grey. For those with loftier literary-mindedness, there’s a library with 4,000 autographed volumes (only half on display). For a book to be in the library, the author must have spent the night. Books by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Stephen King, John Updike, Annie Dillard, James Patterson, and Ian Rankin are all on the shelves. Guests can borrow books to read in their room, but they must leave a security deposit. According to the hotel’s librarian, five authors stay at the Heathman each week -- if you plan to meet one, try the bar. They also serve a 50 Shades of Gin cocktail.
The Heathman, constructed in 1927, has costumed doormen and is close to the Portland Symphony Orchestra, shops, and restaurants. Rooms cost $125+ per night plus a resort fee of $30. Happy hour oysters are served from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Headwaters is the on-site restaurant.
Bonus: Writer-Themed Rooms
Sylvia Beach Hotel, Newport, Oregon
The Sylvia Beach Hotel promises you can sleep with your favorite author -- or at least in one of the 21 themed rooms named for them. The rooms are dedicated to Gertrude Stein, J. R. R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, Dr. Seuss, J. K. Rowling, Alice Walker, and others. There’s no Wi-Fi or television -- it’s nirvana for those who come to read, write, and think.
Sylvia Beach, an expat American, opened her Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris in 1919. Each room in the hotel named for her is like a piece of a writer’s imagination. In the room dedicated to J. K. Rowling, you’ll find Harry Potter’s round spectacles next to your pillow. Like I said -- it’s as close as you’ll get to sleeping with your favorite author!
True to philosophy, there are no online bookings. Reservations are made by phone only. Rooms cost $130 to $270 per night. Nye Beach is a small community with restaurants, an Irish pub, and an arts center.