Now is probably when I should back up this whole “expert” title I’ve just unceremoniously given myself.
For one thing, I consider myself an expert on everything. It’s called self
obsession respect. TRY IT OUT SOMETIME.
But more significantly: I just really, really, really, reallyreallyreally super actually LOVE a good setting.
I spew a lot of the same introspection-produced uninteresting factoids I’ve decided upon dramatically on this blog. And a lot of them have to do with the same thing: I JUST LOVE A GOOD SETTING.
This is why I say well-done magical realism is my fave genre (because what could be a better setting), and that the first Harry Potter book is one of the best, and that books don’t have to be nonstop action-packed for me to enjoy them.
It’s all because it’s all about the setting, baby!!!
I have a shelf on Goodreads (creatively, coolly, hip-young-teen-ly entitled “that setting tho”) with 35 great settings on it. (Well, 35 books. A bunch of them are from the same series. Serieses. Serieseseseseses. Whatever.)
Let’s narrow them down and rank those bad boys.
holy shit I was just casually opening books in tabs to start the narrowing-down process and I coincidentally had exactly ten. I AM MAGIC.
The two versions of Union
The Love That Split the World, Emily Henry
TIME TRAVEL. MAGICAL REALISM. LOVELY WRITING. FOLKLORE. EMILY HENRY’S CHARACTERS.
If this weren’t enough to get you to pick up this book, then, like. There’s also the fact that the setting is totally rad. It’s two versions of the same town (like in two dimensions – I don’t want to spoil it because you’ll get the answers IF YOU READ IT, YOU LAZY BUFFOON). It’s cool.
Don’t listen to the Goodreads average. Listen to me only exclusively always, okay? Or at least this time.
Five Fingers, Michigan
A Million Junes, Emily Henry
It’s almost like I’m obsessed with Emily Henry or something.
A Million Junes is more magical realism + lovely writing + Emily Henry’s amazing characters but also an even better setting???? A magicky Michigan following two feuding families???? What more could you ask for.
Maybe you could ask for more but that would only be if you haven’t read this book yet, and if you haven’t read this book yet you either a) just discovered this blog through one of my primitive marketing tactics, including but not limited to writing my blog name on a piece of paper, putting it into a bottle, and throwing it in the sea; using a ham radio and morse code to spread my Instagram @; and sending telegrams that function doubly as World War I death notices and attention-granters to my Goodreads account, or b) do not care about my opinion at all.
Either way, not reading this book is a Mistake.
The Raven Cycle, Maggie Stiefvater
This is a great series. But.
If I’m being totally honest. It’s not a great series solely on the merit of its setting. Or even mostly on that. Mostly it is a great series because a certain character named Gansey lives in it. (Insert swooning sigh here, or whatever.) But the cool setting doesn’t exactly hurt.
I don’t remember where this book takes place, but I think it’s a Southern-ish state. North Carolina. West Virginia. Oh sh*t it’s totally West Virginia! Nailed it.
This is the third setting in this list and also the third magical realism one, because magical realism is the best. In this case…it’s hard to put the setting into words. And I hate doing things that are hard so I’m not going to do it. Just read it and find out for yourself. Bye!!!
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
This is truly such a LET’S-GIVE-EVEN-MORE-ATTENTION-TO-THE-BOOKS-I-TALK-ABOUT-ALL-THE-TIME post.
And I, honestly, am full-on loving it. Also this shouldn’t be a surprise because I am, as previously mentioned upwards of one THOUSAND times, am completely setting-fixated.
The OASIS is a virtual reality world filled with puzzles, codes, and the ultimate scavenger hunt for easter eggs with a prize of some ridiculous amount of money I can’t remember. I feel like it’s, like, $11 billion. But also it might be more than that.
In other words, it’s Warcross if Warcross wasn’t boring or done. If Warcross had a compelling plot and fun characters with a brain cell to split between them and wasn’t just copying pre-existing plot-lines. That’s what we’re working with.
Fun, right?! Right.
The Wizarding World
Harry Potter, JK Rowling
I am the coolest person alive.
If I somehow hadn’t already received the formal world’s-coolest-person crown, I am about to.
Because, yes, you read that heading correctly. The Wizarding World is clocking in at a mere #6 on this countdown.
TAKE THAT, JOANNE. IF I WORKED AT THE PUBLISHER CLAMORING FOR YOUR EVERY GROCERY LIST, I’D NEVER STOOP SO LOW AS TO PAY YOU MONEY TO PUBLISH A SCRIPT YOU ALREADY WROTE AND PRETEND IT INTO A BOOK.
But the Wizarding World is cool.
The Lands Beyond
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
IT IS A PLEASURE FOR ME TO SAY: I CAN FINALLY GRANT YOU A MAP.
Is there anything better in this whole world than a book that starts with a map??? Especially when the world is actually interesting. Maps are almost always pretty, but sometimes there are ones like this one that are also COOL.
The Phantom Tollbooth is one of the best children’s books EVER, and if you haven’t read it then it is one of the biggest “duh” statements of my entire human life to say YOU COMPLETELY SHOULD.
A little boy named Milo who is totally bored with the world (#same) gets a mysterious tollbooth one day after school, and when he drives his toy car through it, he ends up in a land of so many puns you could just die.
Look at that MAAAAAAAP.
The Schools for Good and Evil
The School for Good and Evil, Soman Chainani
I like fairytales. I like princesses. I like villains even more.
A couple crazy well-described schools where all of these groups coexist and also it’s (kind of, maybe, controversially) middle grade adventure, a GENRE WHICH I LOVE…
I’m a happy camper.
If you close one eye and ignore the plot holes and the drama and the traces of girl hate and the sexualization of twelve-year-old characters and the ridiculous degree to which the romantic subplot(s) strains against the definition of the term subplot.
But still. That setting!
The Unbearable Universe
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket
It pains me to even dare put this so low as #3.
This is an AMAZING setting. The setting to end all semi-realistic settings, all creepy settings, all children’s-book settings. The setting is so unbelievably complex you will die. Actually. It’s a guarantee, I think.
This is a setting developed over one thirteen-book series, three to six spin offs, plus another four-book series, and another spin-off to that series. There are secret agents and easter eggs and allusions and motifs. The voice is creepy and meta and dark.
THESE BOOKS ARE SO GOOD I CAN’T EVEN DESCRIBE IT.
So here. Just look at another beautiful map.
Le Cirque des Rêves
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
This was one of my favorite books for two years. Then I reread it and was delivered the crushing realization that it is Bad.
The setting, however, is not bad. The setting, in fact, is REALLY F*CKING GOOD.
I love circuses, for some reason? I love circuses, I love snacks, I love beautiful and visceral descriptions, I love magic, I love stunts, I love creativity, I love nighttime, I love black, I love white.
So this was kind of made for me. If you can ignore the instalove and terrible characters and lack of plot and comma splices. Which you should, if at all possible.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Not a single person in the world could possibly be surprised by this answer.
Not even if you’re a casual follower. Not even if you just found this blog through another one of my accounts. NOT EVEN IF you actually discovered this blog by opening up a bottle you found washed up on the shore and seeing “emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.com” written on the ancient-looking piece of paper within.
(You rub the paper with a damp teabag and burn the edges. That’s how I got it to be ancient-looking.)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is not only the book I talk about the most annoyingly often (quite a feat, since I only ever talk about 10 books and they’re coincidentally all on this list), but it has one of the greatest settings of all time. And my favorite one ever. Every time I reread it I feel just as curious and fascinated and surprised and pleased as if I’m picking it up for the first time.
How gag-worthily cheesy is that?!