From William Faulkner to Anne Rice, literary culture in New Orleans runs deep. Our guide will help you to discover the important landmarks and bookstores, as well as the Louisiana city’s most famous resident authors.
From The Awakening (Kate Chopin, 1899) to Zeitoun (Dave Eggers, 2009), many great works of literature have been set in New Orleans. The boisterous city and its eclectic residents brighten up the novels they populate, and authors such as Truman Capote, Anne Rice, William Faulkner, Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams have mined its culture for inspiration. And in some cases, writers have imprinted their own mark on Louisiana’s culture. Below, we look at the noteworthy landmarks, bookstores, authors and books of the literary city of NOLA.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Hotel Monteleone and the Carousel Bar and Lounge
Hotel Monteleone, one of the three hotels in the United States recognized by the Friends of the Library Association as an official literary landmark (the other two are the Plaza and Algonquin in New York), and its Carousel Bar and Lounge have long served the writer community in New Orleans. Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner each took up residency here while visiting New Orleans, and appropriately each has a suite named after him. Truman Capote would tell the press that he was born inside the hotel – this is not exactly true: his mother was pregnant with him while staying there, but hotel staff got her safely to Touro Hospital, where baby Capote was delivered. Other notable visitors include Eudora Welty, Anne Rice, Stephen Ambrose and John Grisham.
Tennessee Williams House
At 1014 Dumaine Street in the French Quarter stands the only home Tennessee Williams ever owned in New Orleans. After growing tired of renting, Williams bought this property in 1962 and kept it until his death in 1983. Despite leaving behind a fortune of $10 million, America’s most famous playwright could still be spotted at the time washing his own socks at a laundromat on the corner of Burgundy and Dumaine. He didn’t get his wish, but Williams once said, “I hope to die in my sleep… in this beautiful big brass bed in my New Orleans apartment, the bed that is associated with so much love.”
Anne Rice House and Tour
Anne Rice grew up in New Orleans and set her most famous work, Interview with the Vampire (1976), the first part of her Vampire Chronicles series, in the city. The 1881 mansion she once inhabited would fit her Gothic-themed novels well. Rice no longer resides in the historic house at 3711 Saint Charles Avenue she purchased in the late 1980s, but it’s still a fixture on the Anne Rice tour. Sign up near Garden District Books.
The Upper Pontalba Building
Built in 1850, this four-story building on Jackson Square in the French Quarter was named a National Historic Landmark in 1974. Each year since 1986, the five-day Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival is capped by the Stella and Stanley Shouting Contest, during which men and women alike embody Stanley Kawalski, the brutish protagonist of Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, to bellow out their loudest “STELLLAAAA!”
Ignatius J Reilly Statue
John Kennedy Toole wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in 1963. He killed himself six years later and after the tireless efforts of his mother, his debut was published 11 years after his death. In 1981, Toole became the first author to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously. Dunces, which incorporates a bevy of characters including a local cop, a strip club owner and a Tulane professor, is said, through its use of local color, to be an accurate depiction of the Crescent City. The main character, Ignatius J Reilly, is a roguish, slovenly man-child filled with contempt and delusions of grandeur; he is immortalized as a bronze statue on the 800 block of Canal Street, the former site of DH Holmes Department Store, in a reference to the novel’s opening scene during which Reilly awaits his mother under the store’s clock.
Faulkner House Books
For a brief six months in 1925, future Nobel laureate William Faulkner lived in a second-floor apartment on this Pirate’s Alley property along with artist William Spratling. There, the two indulged in drink and shot BBs out the window. Today, Faulkner House pays homage to its namesake by keeping plenty of books by the Southern Modernist in stock, along with books on Faulkner and his works. Established in 1988 by Joseph J DeSalvo Jr and his wife Rosemary James, Faulkner House Books also carries books on the American South, rare first editions and fine literature.
Octavia Books is tucked away in a neighborhood just off of the bustling Magazine Street shopping area in uptown New Orleans. Opened in 2000 by Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte, this indie is dedicated to serving its community through frequent book signings and talks and by highlighting the breadth of local authors who call NOLA home. The staff is known to be friendly and knowledgeable, or, as the owners said, “We appreciate our customers, know our stock, and are able to match the two.”
Crescent City Books
In the heart of downtown New Orleans, across the street from the historic Roosevelt Hotel, lies Crescent City Books. Open since 1992, this neatly organized store specializes in antique, out-of-print and rare books from the past 400 years and maps, engravings and prints from the past 500 years. And, as every great bookstore should, Crescent City has a feline mascot, Wesley the cat.
Blue Cypress Books
Blue Cypress Books, opened in 2007, offers the largest selection of children’s books in the area, but even if you’ve outgrown Goodnight Moon, there’s something here for you. The store is known for its wide array of selections from classics to contemporary fiction, poetry, art, photography, science fiction, mystery and antiquarian works, as well as collectibles. Located on Oak Street in uptown New Orleans, Blue Cypress Books is open every day of the week except for Sunday and hosts a book club every third Wednesday of the month.
Garden District Bookshop
The historic property, the Rink, on which Garden District Bookshop lies was, at one time, a livery stable, mortuary, grocery store and gas station. But what made it famous was the skating rink, built in 1884, which its name retains. Originally a roller skating rink called the Crescent City Skating Rink, it was opened to entice visitors in town for the World’s Cotton Centennial Exposition. As a bookstore, GDB is known for its large selection of new and used regional titles, along with titles in fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and hundreds of signed first editions.
Books set in New Orleans
The Fry Pans Aren’t Sufficing
Peyton Burgess’s debut collection of stories, set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, homes in on the lives of those who had to return to the ruin and militarization of New Orleans. The characters here get boozed up, attend lost mail auctions and navigate the bureaucracy of FEMA. Its tales are tinged with sadness and loss, but are told with humor. Written in vibrant prose, The Fry Pans Aren’t Sufficing offers a vivacious view of post-Katrina NOLA.
The House on First Street
When Katrina hit, not everyone was as lucky as writer Julia Reed. Reed’s home in the historic Garden District suffered a lone broken window, while four blocks away, a corpse lay in the street, a message on the sheet it was wrapped in reading, “Here Lies Vera… God Help Us.” Reed, who purchased her Greek Revival mansion after being drawn to New Orleans on an assignment, recognizes her privilege and orders more than 700 barbecue meals for the National Guard. Her memoir tells the story of buying a new home, fixing it up and getting married, only for a storm to come one month after she’s finished. Through her journalistic lens, Reed offers a unique view of NOLA class and compassion as the city comes together after Katrina.
One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life – A Story of Race and Family Secrets
Born in New Orleans, Anatole Broyard, famed literary critic for The New York Times, confessed to his two adult children, on his deathbed, that he had secret Creole ancestry. This revelation, for which Broyard has been criticized, led daughter Bliss to explore her Louisiana Creole multiracial ancestry. Bliss Broyard tracks down previously unknown relatives in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans to get a full picture of her background after growing up as a passable WASP all her life.
Coming Through Slaughter
Author of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, began his literary career with this novel. The story is historical fiction that centers on the real-life figure Buddy Bolden, a cornetist whose improvisational New Orleans ragtime and blues made him a pivotal architect of the jazz genre. Bolden’s mind was troubled by mental illness and drink, and he spent most of his life in the Louisiana State Insane Asylum. With so little known today about Bolden’s life, Ondaatje weaves history and myth that reads at times like a hypnotic poem, and culminates in a tale that is both grand and tragic. Written in a prose that resembles the freewheeling nature of jazz itself, the novel uses a schizophrenic form to attempt to better understand its subject.
New Orleans, Mon Amour
The Romanian-born novelist and National Public Radio correspondent Andrei Codrescu offers a selection of essays spanning from 1985 to 2005. They chart his love affair with his adopted home of New Orleans and end with an afterward about Katrina. In deft prose, Codrescu recalls learning to become a NOLAian, becoming acquainted with some of the city’s eccentric residents and taking a stint leading a Mardi Gras parade route.
Codrescu’s essays also warn of the city’s faulty infrastructure. It was built in 1718 by Jean de Bienville, who ignored his engineer’s concerns regarding building a city in a marsh, flanked by three bodies of water; the disaster, Codrescu felt, was nigh.
“The saving grace of New Orleans was its music, its food, its festivals and the poor,” Codrescu told NPR days after the storm hit. “We’ve been a generator of human and cultural energy for centuries. But all this bounty brought the city no careful engineering, no thought for its future, no worldwide cry for help for its inevitable demise.” He compares the city to Venice and mourns a New Orleans lost in the destruction, but nearly 15 years later, it has survived, just like the Italian city with which it shares a love of music and art.
The New Orleans Review: A New Orleans-based and international minded arts and literature journal.
New Orleans Poetry Festival and Small Press Fair: This takes place every April.
The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival: This massive festival takes place every March.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Michael Barron. It also draws on existing listicles curated by Rebecca Trejo and Ann Marshall Thomas for Culture Trip.
Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.