Take Me There: Sounds Of Setting

These 13 books were chosen by Audible's editors to exemplify locale as a lead character — their rich writing and evocative narration make for totally transporting experiences.

In literature, the dialogue and character relationships often take center stage, but in some novels the setting becomes a character in its own right, demanding attention from the reader. In these 13 books, the locale plays an integral part in each story, such that you can't imagine them taking place anywhere else. The name Carl Hiaasen immediately conjures up images of Florida. Jennifer Weiner: Philadelphia. Kaui Hart Hemmings: Hawaii. Explore our list and be transported to these vivid settings.

Razor Girl

Carl Hiaasen is a master of satire, but more specifically he's a master of satire that transpires in Florida. All of his novels are set in his home state, and his latest, Razor Girl, evokes the same immediate sense of place that we've come to expect from him. Hiaasen's new cast of crazy characters -- the titular one being a scam artist who purposely crashes cars to collect insurance money -- are based in southern Florida, and you can feel the Florida heat as it beats down on the palm-tree-lined interstate that connects the Keys. Narrator John Rubinstein expertly weaves Hiaasen's wacky tale, taking the listener along for the joyride of this hilarious adventure. -Katie

Razor Girl

Carl Hiaasen is a master of satire, but more specifically he's a master of satire that transpires in Florida. All of his novels are set in his home state, and his latest, Razor Girl, evokes the same immediate sense of place that we've come to expect from him. Hiaasen's new cast of crazy characters -- the titular one being a scam artist who purposely crashes cars to collect insurance money -- are based in southern Florida, and you can feel the Florida heat as it beats down on the palm-tree-lined interstate that connects the Keys. Narrator John Rubinstein expertly weaves Hiaasen's wacky tale, taking the listener along for the joyride of this hilarious adventure. -Katie

Tales of the City

In 1976, Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City began as a daily serial in the San Francisco Chronicle relating the adventures of an eclectic group of residents at the fictional 28 Barbary Lane. When it was published as a book in 1978, Tales was an immediate cult favorite that quickly made its way into public consciousness. The books follow a uniquely "San Franciscan" group of friends and lovers, straight and gay, through six volumes serving as a keenly observant satire of the '70s and '80s. From its roots as a newspaper serial to its run on TV and beyond, there have been some brilliant reproductions of this beloved series. And Frances McDormand's performance is yet another example of how something iconic can be refreshed, renewed, and rediscovered through a new and brilliant rendition that captures the imagination all over again. -Tricia

Tales of the City

In 1976, Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City began as a daily serial in the San Francisco Chronicle relating the adventures of an eclectic group of residents at the fictional 28 Barbary Lane. When it was published as a book in 1978, Tales was an immediate cult favorite that quickly made its way into public consciousness. The books follow a uniquely "San Franciscan" group of friends and lovers, straight and gay, through six volumes serving as a keenly observant satire of the '70s and '80s. From its roots as a newspaper serial to its run on TV and beyond, there have been some brilliant reproductions of this beloved series. And Frances McDormand's performance is yet another example of how something iconic can be refreshed, renewed, and rediscovered through a new and brilliant rendition that captures the imagination all over again. -Tricia

Devil in a Blue Dress

Set in 1940s Los Angeles, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley takes us on an underground tour of a city that is now only alive in memories. Through jazz clubs, bars, and hardened streets, this noir-style series paints a gritty picture of a post-WWII L.A. that is very racially divided. Easy Rawlins, the novel's protagonist, is a black veteran looking for a way to cover his mortgage when a suspicious white man in a crisp suit offers him good money to locate a woman named Daphne Monet. Michael Boatman's smooth baritone transports you to the era as he effortlessly moves between characters, first with a lilting tone; then a deep, raspy voice; and back again to that easy, rhythmic cadence. -Katie

Devil in a Blue Dress

Set in 1940s Los Angeles, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley takes us on an underground tour of a city that is now only alive in memories. Through jazz clubs, bars, and hardened streets, this noir-style series paints a gritty picture of a post-WWII L.A. that is very racially divided. Easy Rawlins, the novel's protagonist, is a black veteran looking for a way to cover his mortgage when a suspicious white man in a crisp suit offers him good money to locate a woman named Daphne Monet. Michael Boatman's smooth baritone transports you to the era as he effortlessly moves between characters, first with a lilting tone; then a deep, raspy voice; and back again to that easy, rhythmic cadence. -Katie

Plainsong

Kent Haruf was one of literature’s great chroniclers of small town life, and Plainsong shows why. A small cluster of lonely characters in rural Colorado find themselves at turning points, and while their stories aren’t without an aching sadness, they’re alao not without hope. That’s the joy of Haruf, and the gentle poignancy with which he shows how small towns can isolate and bring together, and sometimes reward lives of quiet desperation with something just a little bit better.

Plainsong

Kent Haruf was one of literature’s great chroniclers of small town life, and Plainsong shows why. A small cluster of lonely characters in rural Colorado find themselves at turning points, and while their stories aren’t without an aching sadness, they’re alao not without hope. That’s the joy of Haruf, and the gentle poignancy with which he shows how small towns can isolate and bring together, and sometimes reward lives of quiet desperation with something just a little bit better.

The Son

If you want to dig deep into the real history and identity of the Lone Star State, Philipp Meyer's The Son offers an ambitious, brutal, and unfiltered look into this iconic place through the story of one distinctly Texan family. The McCullough clan includes Eli McCullough, the first man born into the Republic of Texas in 1836 (back when Texas was its own country). With obviously well-researched historical and cultural accuracy, the novel weaves together three generations of McCulloughs to give a complete, yet not too neatly put-together picture of their unique history -- a history that could have only happened in Texas. Will Patton, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Shepherd, and Clifton Collins Jr. offer stellar narration, honoring Meyer's bold, descriptive language and the characters they portray. -Tricia

The Son

If you want to dig deep into the real history and identity of the Lone Star State, Philipp Meyer's The Son offers an ambitious, brutal, and unfiltered look into this iconic place through the story of one distinctly Texan family. The McCullough clan includes Eli McCullough, the first man born into the Republic of Texas in 1836 (back when Texas was its own country). With obviously well-researched historical and cultural accuracy, the novel weaves together three generations of McCulloughs to give a complete, yet not too neatly put-together picture of their unique history -- a history that could have only happened in Texas. Will Patton, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Shepherd, and Clifton Collins Jr. offer stellar narration, honoring Meyer's bold, descriptive language and the characters they portray. -Tricia

The Tin Roof Blowdown

James Lee Burke's The Tin Roof Blowdown finds Dave Robicheaux in post-Katrina New Orleans, searching for two serial rapists. Burke's poignant writing captures the chaos and haunting beauty of a city that is awash in destruction from the storm while moving the plot forward with his iconic characters who inhabit it. Will Patton delivers an appropriately inspired, haunting narration. The combination of James Lee Burke and Will Patton is an essential experience that demands to be listened to. -Pam

The Tin Roof Blowdown

James Lee Burke's The Tin Roof Blowdown finds Dave Robicheaux in post-Katrina New Orleans, searching for two serial rapists. Burke's poignant writing captures the chaos and haunting beauty of a city that is awash in destruction from the storm while moving the plot forward with his iconic characters who inhabit it. Will Patton delivers an appropriately inspired, haunting narration. The combination of James Lee Burke and Will Patton is an essential experience that demands to be listened to. -Pam

Fair and Tender Ladies

I grew up spending my summers at an ancient girl's camp in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. It's a singularly unique and beautiful part of the country, with its winding roads, rambling rivers, and verdant green hills. But there's also this indescribable earthy steadfastness and surety about it, almost as if you can feel the past and present simultaneously. The Appalachian Mountains have inspired ballads, poems, and books aplenty, but not one has resonated for me with what I always knew as "West Virginia" as clearly and faithfully as Lee Smith's most well-loved work -- so much so that I was completely unsurprised to learn a few years ago that Smith is, in fact, a fellow alumna of my camp. -Emily

Fair and Tender Ladies

I grew up spending my summers at an ancient girl's camp in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. It's a singularly unique and beautiful part of the country, with its winding roads, rambling rivers, and verdant green hills. But there's also this indescribable earthy steadfastness and surety about it, almost as if you can feel the past and present simultaneously. The Appalachian Mountains have inspired ballads, poems, and books aplenty, but not one has resonated for me with what I always knew as "West Virginia" as clearly and faithfully as Lee Smith's most well-loved work -- so much so that I was completely unsurprised to learn a few years ago that Smith is, in fact, a fellow alumna of my camp. -Emily

In Her Shoes

Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love. Home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and, of course, the "Rocky Steps." Also home to Jennifer Weiner's lovable but polar-opposite Feller Sisters from the ever-popular book, In Her Shoes. Yes, In Her Shoes is about the relationship between sisters and family, but it's also an homage to everything that makes Philadelphia so iconic. Narrator Barbara McCulloh brings everything you would expect a veteran narrator to bring to this heartwarming and relatable story. -Laura

In Her Shoes

Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love. Home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and, of course, the "Rocky Steps." Also home to Jennifer Weiner's lovable but polar-opposite Feller Sisters from the ever-popular book, In Her Shoes. Yes, In Her Shoes is about the relationship between sisters and family, but it's also an homage to everything that makes Philadelphia so iconic. Narrator Barbara McCulloh brings everything you would expect a veteran narrator to bring to this heartwarming and relatable story. -Laura

Let the Great World Spin

Listening to Let the Great World Spin provides a fair approximation of the full-body experience of walking through the streets of New York. The interconnected storylines, voiced by a perfectly cast group of narrators, wrap chaotically around you, creating a vibrant panorama of city life. But to the same degree that this novel is absolutely steeped in New York, it also screams 1970s (this is not the land of either Patrick Bateman or the Real Housewives). It's gritty, noisy, musical, dirty, and hopeful. And it will leave you in an awe-struck heap wondering what magical place you've just been whirled through. -Emily

Let the Great World Spin

Listening to Let the Great World Spin provides a fair approximation of the full-body experience of walking through the streets of New York. The interconnected storylines, voiced by a perfectly cast group of narrators, wrap chaotically around you, creating a vibrant panorama of city life. But to the same degree that this novel is absolutely steeped in New York, it also screams 1970s (this is not the land of either Patrick Bateman or the Real Housewives). It's gritty, noisy, musical, dirty, and hopeful. And it will leave you in an awe-struck heap wondering what magical place you've just been whirled through. -Emily

Mystic River

Mystic River casts into stark relief the very notion of misfortune: This working-class Boston neighborhood is divided between the haves and have-nots; the renters of the Points and the owners of the Flats; those who didn't get in the car and those who did. There's something Chekhovian about it in the sense that, while it's not funny, it is a joke ... and it's on us. Dennis Lehane once rhapsodized about his hometown's particularly dry sense of humor: "You hit the joke," he says, "and you keep walking." Narrator Scott Brick nails that wry tone while distinguishing the hard-edged voices from those with slight Irish lilts -- perfect for the telling of a tale that belongs not just in, but to Boston. -Erin

Mystic River

Mystic River casts into stark relief the very notion of misfortune: This working-class Boston neighborhood is divided between the haves and have-nots; the renters of the Points and the owners of the Flats; those who didn't get in the car and those who did. There's something Chekhovian about it in the sense that, while it's not funny, it is a joke ... and it's on us. Dennis Lehane once rhapsodized about his hometown's particularly dry sense of humor: "You hit the joke," he says, "and you keep walking." Narrator Scott Brick nails that wry tone while distinguishing the hard-edged voices from those with slight Irish lilts -- perfect for the telling of a tale that belongs not just in, but to Boston. -Erin

Iron Lake

The landscape of northern Minnesota's lake country is so finely interwoven into Kreuger's Cork O'Connor series that, upon listening, it becomes difficult to distinguish which is sending chills up your spine: the eerie investigation Cork finds himself absorbed in or the setting's dark and unforgiving blizzard that so perfectly mirrors Cork's inner state. From its opening moments set amidst the tracking of a bear, and conjuring native Ojibwe folklore in the form of the wendigo -- an evil cannibalistic spirit indigenous to the Great Lakes region -- Kreuger invokes the frozen landscape of the hunter and the hunted as the perfect setting for a cold-blooded mystery. -Doug

Iron Lake

The landscape of northern Minnesota's lake country is so finely interwoven into Kreuger's Cork O'Connor series that, upon listening, it becomes difficult to distinguish which is sending chills up your spine: the eerie investigation Cork finds himself absorbed in or the setting's dark and unforgiving blizzard that so perfectly mirrors Cork's inner state. From its opening moments set amidst the tracking of a bear, and conjuring native Ojibwe folklore in the form of the wendigo -- an evil cannibalistic spirit indigenous to the Great Lakes region -- Kreuger invokes the frozen landscape of the hunter and the hunted as the perfect setting for a cold-blooded mystery. -Doug

A Cold Day for Murder

Audible listener Tracey hit the nail on the head when she said, "The best character in [A Cold Day for Murder] is Alaska itself." From the streets of Anchorage to the icy tundra of the bush, Dana Stabenow accurately and painstakingly captures the Alaskan lifestyle and landscape. The warmth of narrator Marguerite Gavin's tone is the perfect juxtaposition to the bitter cold Alaskan setting while the sincerity of her delivery underscores the serious subject matter. A former investigator for the Anchorage DA, Kate Shugak is pulled from her retirement in the frozen wilderness to search for a missing park ranger and the man who was investigating his disappearance. She soon discovers that the gritty streets of Anchorage may be safer than the remote sanctuary she sought in retirement. -Katie

A Cold Day for Murder

Audible listener Tracey hit the nail on the head when she said, "The best character in [A Cold Day for Murder] is Alaska itself." From the streets of Anchorage to the icy tundra of the bush, Dana Stabenow accurately and painstakingly captures the Alaskan lifestyle and landscape. The warmth of narrator Marguerite Gavin's tone is the perfect juxtaposition to the bitter cold Alaskan setting while the sincerity of her delivery underscores the serious subject matter. A former investigator for the Anchorage DA, Kate Shugak is pulled from her retirement in the frozen wilderness to search for a missing park ranger and the man who was investigating his disappearance. She soon discovers that the gritty streets of Anchorage may be safer than the remote sanctuary she sought in retirement. -Katie

The Descendants

Kaui Hart Hemmings gained international recognition when The Descendants was made into an Oscar-nominated film; however, the novel was cinematic even prior to the film adaptation because of Hemmings' lush descriptions of the vibrant Hawaiian setting and vast, land-based wealth of the main character. Jonathan Davis' performance of this heartbreaking family drama captures the nuance of loss and the despair and liberation that comes when a seemingly perfect life crumbles to the ground. -Katie

The Descendants

Kaui Hart Hemmings gained international recognition when The Descendants was made into an Oscar-nominated film; however, the novel was cinematic even prior to the film adaptation because of Hemmings' lush descriptions of the vibrant Hawaiian setting and vast, land-based wealth of the main character. Jonathan Davis' performance of this heartbreaking family drama captures the nuance of loss and the despair and liberation that comes when a seemingly perfect life crumbles to the ground. -Katie

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