Literary Fiction

Literary Tourism: Books and Beaches in South Florida

Erika Harlitz-Kern

Staff Writer

Erika Harlitz-Kern holds a doctorate from a Swedish university and can't get enough of history, books, and music. Her earliest memories involve a comic book and a Dutch troubadour. She has travelled South Asia on a shoestring, although nowadays she spends most of her vacations in the Mississippi Delta. Lives with her husband in South Florida, because sooner or later they would've ended up there anyway. Blog: The Boomerang Twitter: EH_Kern

Is the winter cold getting to you? How about a trip to South Florida? Here, you’ll find book fairs, indie bookstores, and six-toed tabby cats maintaining the legacy of one of America’s literary giants. Wherever you go, the ocean will be within walking distance. In South Florida, books and beaches are accessible all year round.

Miami Book Fair International

Miami, Florida is home to the biggest literary event in the United States, Miami Book Fair International. Every year since 1984, Miami Book Fair International has taken place in downtown Miami. Over the course of one week in November, the fair attracts several hundred authors and more than one hundred thousand visitors. Because of South Florida’s strong connection to the Caribbean and Latin America, the fair in Miami is arguably the most diverse of its kind in the country. For example, leading up to the fair of 2014, the organizers held a writing competition where the contestants could submit their entries in English, Spanish or Creole. The schedule of Miami Book Fair International is jam-packed with activities. If you need to take a break, Biscayne Bay is only a ten-minute walk away.

Books & Books

Miami is also the home of several indie bookstores. One of them is Books & Books. Books & Books has a total of eight locations in the Miami metropolitan area, including one at Miami International Airport and one in Miami Beach. Books & Books works together with Miami Book Fair International, hosting events during the week of the fair. At Books & Books in Coral Gables you can attend readings and talks organized by the Center of the Humanities at nearby University of Miami. Another reason for visiting the location in Coral Gables is their cafe, which has a full bar. How about a goat cheese salad with walnuts and a guava vinaigrette? I can assure you, it’s as delicious as it sounds.

The Bookstore in the Grove

Another indie bookstore in Miami is The Bookstore in the Grove. Founded in 2007 with the intention of revitalizing the artistic community of Miami’s Coconut Grove, The Bookstore hosts author signings and local author nights. The store has a cafe that serves food from sustainable farming. Also, on Fridays, The Bookstore welcomes the children of Coconut Grove for a story hour. When you’re done at The Bookstore, you can go and read your books by the Atlantic Ocean, only a five-minute walk away.

Murder on the Beach

Murder on the Beach is an indie bookstore located in the town of Delray Beach. This bookstore specializes in crime and mystery, but it also carries books in the genres of romance, horror, and true crime, as well as children’s books. At Murder on the Beach, you can attend author signings or join one of the store’s book clubs.

Hemingway Home and Museum

No post on literary tourism in South Florida is complete without Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West. Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West between 1931 and 1939. His house on Whitehead Street is now a museum with a bookshop. Not only did Hemingway write A Farewell to Arms while living on the island, he also wrote To Have and Have Not, which takes place in Key West during the Great Depression. The only characters that inhabit the house today are the forty-odd six-toed tabby cats who are the descendants of Hemingway’s cat, Snow White.

Books that Take Place in Florida

Two recent titles that take place in South Florida are Jeff Vandermeer’s trilogy The Southern Reach (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) and Laura van den Berg’s The Isle of Youth. The Southern Reach takes place in an area somewhere in the southern part of the state simply referred to as Area X. The Isle of Youth is a collection of stories which take place in, for example, Opa-Locka, a town just north of Miami.

There you have it. Books and beaches in South Florida. Just add a cocktail and you’re all set.


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