You might have heard some variation on sayings about books being transportive. Often it refers to the stories themselves, the level of intense engagement they encourage. But what about the actual places involved in the tales?
It seems that quite a few books--well, the ones that I read, anyway--have settings in a select group of cities; San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Seattle, Los Angeles. Even in non-US locations: London's a biggie for historicals and contemporaries alike. It makes sense, seeing as how those are all major population areas and all. Not to mention their considerable cultural currency or familiarity; you don't need to have been to Los Angeles or New York to have a sense of the flavor, the atmosphere.
As for me, I find that I'm inexplicably drawn to stories located in Louisiana--more specifically, in LA bayou country. There's a whole set of visuals and sensations that I get from such a setting, something inherently magical and old-world. Inevitably, stories set there have some sort of mystical or at least sacred element…be it "hoodoo" or strong family values. And I love it when the location is as much a character as any of the living, breathing (or undead) individuals in a cast.
I'm currently in the midst of completing a reading challenge based around that very notion. It's called the 50 States Challenge and as the name suggests, one must read books with a primary setting in each of the United States. Thus far, I have indeed found that each of the books carry a flavor that's very much influenced by the physical setting. It also makes me realize just how few books I've read outside of the SF/NYC/Chi/Bos/NOLA cluster. So far, it's been a wonderful exercise.
What about you? Is a book's setting an important element to you? Have you ever chosen to read a book (or NOT read it) based on its physical setting? If so, in which location(s)?