5 Book Worlds Worth Living In

Fantasy landscape

Once upon a time, there was a king. His name was Macaulay Culkin, and he ruled the land of the box office. Everything the light touched was his, until the new millennium arrived, bringing with it a veritable buffet of questionable choices. Historians to this day are recovering the relics of Macaulay’s reign, and in a recent dig through the bargain bin, I happened upon a treasure: The Pagemaster. The plot is as follows: Lonely, risk-averse child Richard Tyler (Culkin) is sent on an errand to the hardware store. A mighty storm rolls in, and, spooked, Richard ends up in the imposing, apparently unused town library. Behold, a kooky librarian (Christopher Lloyd)! While searching for a mythical payphone, Richard slips on water, falls, and ends up inside an animated mural featuring classic books in the library’s rotunda.

To get back to the real world, Richard has to find the exit. To do so, he will traverse the stories and navigate the worlds of some of fiction’s best, including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, and a few other nods to your 9th-grade English syllabus.

Richard may be living the dream, but there are a few other literary tableaus in which I’d rather end up. (Panem and Westeros need not apply.)

London Below

To be clear, I would prefer to emerge in the Croup-and-Vandemar-less alt-London created by Neil Gaiman in Neverwhere. Spooky villain factor aside, London Below is surreal, urban, and livable. When people discuss a desire to exist in fairy tales or go full-on Renaissance faire, they’re fooling themselves. They want the knights and princesses, not the scurvy and chamber pots. In London Below, you get the best of both worlds: the joy of attending the Earl’s court, the convenience of making good time on the tube. And the deals to be had at the floating market simply can’t be beat!


What I lament more than any other tragedy in fantasy lit is that J.R.R. Tolkien’s real hero never has his praises sung. Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, spends his time offering hospitality to whatever scraggly band of misfits happens to darken his door. In his spare hours—when he’s not fostering the second-most important character in The Lord of the Rings trilogy—he frowns and is eventually disappointed by everyone. You shouldn’t have to worry about hobbits eating you out of Homely House when you’re 6,000 years old and living in a 3-D Thomas Kinkade painting.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just sit for a while next to a waterfall and ask Elrond how he feels for once? It’s not like there’s anywhere in Middle Earth you’d rather be sucked into anyway. The Shire? Gandalf has a pesky habit of showing up with adventures. Rohan? Stinks of horse. Gondor? Oh yes, prime piece of real estate there—take a right at Your Imminent Death, and if you reach Impending Doom, you’ve gone too far.

Le Cirque Des Rêves

Are there more seductively described scenes than those within the enchanted tents in Erin Morgenstern’s Night CircusBy turns sumptuous and enigmatic, the circus appears without warning, but I’d don the red scarf of a circus celebrant (rêveur, in the book’s parlance) and follow it to the ends of the Earth. Whether it’s feathers fluttering from above the Labyrinth, the brief flicker of a bowler hat in the Hall of Mirrors, or the glow of the ever-lit bonfire, the circus is a full-scale sensory assault, and I volunteer to be the first on the front line.


Kurt Vonnegut created many a space landscape in his prolific career, but one has never appealed to me as much as the largely uninhabited moon of Saturn in The Sirens of Titan. The fate of protagonist Malachi Constant isn’t exactly desirable—shipped off here and there around the universe as a pawn in a rich man’s elaborate scheme. There are, however, advantages to being plopped on Titan, a somewhat gentrified moon that manages to retain that authentic beach bungalow feel.The most idyllic aspect of Titan is its freedom from noisy neighbors, nosy neighbors, and neighbors who might need sugar. It’s Christmas in Heaven.

La Mancha

Someday, when I am an eccentric elderperson, I hope people are as indulgent of me as Sancho Panza and various and sundry characters in Don QuixoteMiguel Cervantes’ mandatory tome. I think we’d all like to settle down with a group of good goatherds, affable fellows every one. Chivalry and literacy aren’t dead in La Mancha, and I can think of few greater pleasures than jumping off the deep end in this fashion: “Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely insane.”

Which book world would you like to fall into?

  • Dave Berndt

    I would love to live in Stephen R. Donaldson’s “The Land” from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

  • Jan

    I spent a lot of time as a child wanting to go to Narnia, and I have to admit that I still would love to go there! Second choice would be Rivendell, third would be Pern from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series.

  • Guest

    Yo, you had a great list of books, and imma let you finish, but Hogwarts had one of the best worlds of the year.

    • Elizabeth


  • Gwen Goble-Bartzen

    You left out the forest of Lorien, and who would NOT like to live at Bag End?

  • Bob Penna

    Can you imagine living in a world where Superman DID exist?

  • http://www.goodreads.com/joeleoj Joel Cunningham

    China Mieville’s Bas Lag would be nice to visit, but I don’t know if I’d want to live there. Too many bugs.

  • daphne

    the night circus was good. i’d live there.

  • Nancy Jones


  • ANony

    I really liked your list of world choices, but I prefer the world in Sweet Oblivion. It’s like Rivendell but even better! I took a chance on this author a few months ago, and have to say I was impressed! And now she made the book free on Nook. I’m surprised it’s not more popular on this site…

  • Michelle

    Jasper Fforde’s alternate England of Thursday Next, with the Shakespeare-o-matics and book jumping.

  • Linda Chambers

    The Pern of Anne McCaffrey. Oh to be a Gold Dragon Rider.

  • Doug_Jeffreys

    1. The Shire. Six meals a day. a leisurely walk and a good pipe and some ale at the Green Dragon Inn. What’s not to like?
    2. Blue Lake. I’ve always wanted to go there since the first time I read “Adventures With Hal”. Spend the days fishing for Crappies & Bluegills and hiking in the forest.
    3. Traveling the universe aboard the Heart of Gold in search of the meaning of life, the universe and everything.
    4. Barsoom. Being well trained in Fencing, Kendo and Tang Soo Do, I believe I could do well along side of John Carter.
    5. Jonathan Maberry’s world of “Rot & Ruin”. Zombies! Need I say more?

  • lindseymason

    D’Hara (under Richard Rahl, of course, and post-Imperial Order) – Sword of Truth

  • Olivia

    Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea would be interesting; also the worlds of “The Innkeeper’s Song” or “The Last Unicorn” by Peter S. Beagle. Narnia would def be my top choice though! I can’t tell you how often I tried to find it in my closet as a child.

  • Sarah Brashears

    Oh WOW!! I really love this one!! I would definitely have to say it would be a very VERY hard decision between Harry Potter’s world, Middle Earth, Narnia, Orchard House, Green Gables, or Mary’s Secret Garden!!! These are my very favorite places to visit!!

  • Margaret Harper

    If i had any book to live in, it would be the novel The Number of the Beast by Robert Heinlein. The scientist creates a dimensional ‘space craft’ that can literally go anywhere. Visit Oz? No problem. Want to see the person who wrote Oz, also not a problem. Want to wander Barsoom? Pick one. The idea of being able to go to any ‘reality’ at any time is the best idea.

  • Dee Evertsen

    The greatest book world to live in has to go to Narnia. Everything around you is alive and there is no shortage of adventure. Could one ask for a more fantastical world than one that you could get fighting lessons from Reepicheep, sail to the Lone Islands, or have lunch at Cair Paravel?

  • barjobo

    Pern. Archaelogy, Dragons, Technology, Music, Wine!

  • referencegirl

    – a utopian isolated society composed entirely of women, who reproduce
    via parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction). The result is an ideal
    social order: free of war, conflict, and domination.

  • Debi Biderman

    Pern..I want to be a Dragonrider and live in Pern

  • Debi Biderman

    I would love to live in Valdemar, Middle Earth, or Anywhere Sharon Shinn or Robin Hobbs has written about. I think however I could wander in The Night Circus forever. The nicest thing about reading…as opposed to movies or TV is that I truly do go to these worlds when I am reading. Most of these places get visited annually. It is funny but in another one of these “book I could have….fill in the blanks series there is a Books I’ve Never finished series and someone wrote down Tolkien’s Trilogy…and I thought My God I visit there every year.

  • jean shabkie Fessenden

    i would pick Golden Compass trilogy / how can you resist the magic of climbing through a sliver in the air that takes you into another universe while carrying a daemon in your pocket? or i wouldn’t mind traveling through the dream in “Phantom Tollbooth” .

  • Heidi C. Vlach

    Seconding The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. Even the butterflies are wondrous and charming.