I have always loved hotels. And it’s no surprise I want to read books set in hotels because one of the things I missed in this pandemic is staying in a hotel. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a big spender, but I make sure I stay in a nice hotel when I’m travelling (which is not very often, so it is a treat). I truly believe it may be my only luxury. And I hope reading books set in hotels will offer me some kind of comfort over these times.
I tried to include books set in hotels from many genres, but these are primarily historical fiction or literary fiction. I’m always on the lookout for translated fiction, so you’ll find authors from around the world and so books set in hotels around the world. I can never read horror stories, so cult a book like Stephen King’s The Shining is not on the list. I also didn’t include A Room With a View and Jamaica Inn because they are hugely popular choices among books set in hotels.
There is something strange and magical about hotels. It may be the previous guests’ lingering energies or the stories the rooms have kept for all those years. Whatever it is, whenever I stay in a hotel (luxury or shabby), I feel excited and happy. And reading books set in hotels are not that different. I hope you’ll find a book to your taste and enjoy it a lot. I know the theme books set in hotels may not be for everyone, but I realised that books set in hotels are actually wonderful stories, and you may enjoy them more than you think.
15 Beautiful Books Set In Hotels
Grand Hotel – Vicki Baum
A grand hotel in the center of 1920s Berlin serves as a microcosm of the modern world in Vicki Baum’s celebrated novel, a Weimar-era best seller that retains all its verve and luster today. Among the guests of the hotel is Doctor Otternschlag, a World War I veteran whose face has been sliced in half by a shell. Day after day he emerges to read the paper in the lobby, discreetly inquiring at the desk if the letter he’s been awaiting for years has arrived.
Then there is Grusinskaya, a great ballerina now fighting a losing battle not so much against age as against her fear of it, who may or may not be made for Gaigern, a sleek professional thief. Herr Preysing also checks in, the director of a family firm that isn’t as flourishing as it appears, who would never imagine that Kringelein, his underling, a timorous petty clerk he’s bullied for years, has also come to Berlin, determined to live at last now that he’s received a medical death sentence.
All these characters and more, with all their secrets and aspirations, come together and come alive in the pages of Baum’s delicious and disturbing masterpiece. An Austrian author from the books set in hotels list.
A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. A truly heartwarming story among books set in hotels.
With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with a splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, “Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.”
A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humour, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavour to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. A beautiful one among books set in hotels.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful story among books set in hotels. In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student.
Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.
Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. An example of historical fiction in books set in hotels list.
Motherland Hotel – Yusuf Atılgan
Zeberjet, the last surviving member of a once prosperous Ottoman family, is the owner of the Motherland Hotel, a run-down establishment a rundown establishment near the railroad station. A lonely, middle-aged introvert, his simple life is structured by daily administrative tasks and regular, routine sex with the hotel’s maid.
One day, a beautiful woman from the capital comes to spend the night, promising to return “next week,” and suddenly Zeberjet’s insular, mechanical existence is dramatically and irrevocably changed. The mysterious woman’s presence has tantalized him, and he begins to live his days in fevered anticipation of her return. But the week passes, and then another, and as his fantasies become more and more obsessive, Zeberjet gradually loses his grip on reality.
Motherland Hotel was hailed as the novel of the year when it was published in 1973, astonishing critics with its experimental style, its intense psychological depth and its audacious description of sexual obsession. Zeberjet was compared to such memorable characters as Quentin Compson in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Meursault in Albert Camus’ The Stranger. While author Yusuf Atilgan had already achieved considerable literary fame, Motherland Hotel cemented his reputation as one of Turkey’s premiere modernists. One of the most interesting books set in hotels.
The Hotel New Hampshire – John Irving
In Mr. Irving’s newest novel, The Hotel New Hampshire, the reader is again seduced by the unfolding of a singular world. As John Berry, the narrator and middle son in a family of five children (and one bear and a dog named Sorrow), explains:
We were a family whose favourite story was the story of my mother and father’s romance: how my Father bought the bear, how Mother and Father fell in love and had, in rapid succession, Frank, Franny, and me (‘Bang, Bang, Bang! as Franny would say); and, after a brief rest, how they then had Lilly and Egg (‘Pop and Fizzle,’ Franny says),”
That voice–at once nostalgic and direct–describes the Berry family growing up in three different hotels and on two separate continents. “The first of my father’s illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.” What happens to Father’s dreams (and to the children upon whom those dreams are visited) is the subject of John Irving’s fifth and finest novel. An interesting choice among books set in hotels.
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont – Elizabeth Taylor
On a rainy Sunday in January, the recently widowed Mrs Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Her fellow residents are magnificently eccentric and endlessly curious, living off crumbs of affection and snippets of gossip. Together, upper lips stiffened, they fight off their twin enemies: boredom and the Grim Reaper.
Then one day Mrs Palfrey strikes up an unlikely friendship with an impoverished young writer, Ludo, who sees her as inspiration for his novel. This one is a short and beautiful read among books set in hotels.
Hotel Iris – Yoko Ogawa
Want to travel to Japan with books set in hotels list? This one is for you.
In a crumbling, seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet, seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother fusses over the off-season customers. When, one night, they are forced to eject a prostitute and a middle-aged man from his room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man’s voice, in what will become the first gesture of a long seduction.
Mari begins to visit the mysterious man at his island home, and he initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure. As Mari’s mother and the police begin to close in on the illicit affair, events move to a dramatic climax. If you are a fan of Japanese literature you’ll enjoy this one among books set in hotels.
Ocean Sea – Alessandro Baricco
This haunting, suspenseful tale of love and vengeance by the author of the international bestseller Silk surges with the hypnotic power of the ocean sea. And it is a must-read on this books set in hotels list.
In Ocean Sea, Alessandro Baricco presents a hypnotizing postmodern fable of human malady–psychological, existential, erotic–and the sea as a means of deliverance. At the Almayer Inn, a remote shoreline hotel, an artist dips his brush in a cup of ocean water to paint a portrait of the sea. A scientist pens love letters to a woman he has yet to meet. An adulteress searches for relief from her proclivity to fall in love. And a sixteen-year-old girl seeks a cure from a mysterious condition which science has failed to remedy.
When these people meet, their fates begin to interact as if by design. Enter a mighty tempest and a ghostly mariner with a thirst for vengeance, and the Inn becomes a place where destiny and desire battle for the upper hand. Playful, provocative, and ultimately profound, Ocean Sea is a novel of striking originality and wisdom. If you want to read an Italian author, read this one among books set in hotels.
The Hotel – Elizabeth Bowen
Elizabeth Bowen’s first novel is a must among books set in hotels and it brilliantly captures the inflammatory mixture of passion and repression among well-heeled British tourists on the Italian Riviera. Their luxurious seaside hotel seems a closed and comfortable world, marked by dramas no more momentous than tennis games, picnics, and idle gossip. But for the young women of the 1920s, facing a dearth of young men after the first World War, it is a battleground for the clash of tradition and modernity.
As rebellious young Sydney Warren tests the boundaries of her incomplete freedom–and becomes obsessed with a clever and charming older woman–she increasingly bewilders her suitors, her handlers, and herself. With the psychological precision and command of atmosphere that marks Bowen’s most famous novels, The Hotel depicts a collection of privileged men and women in determined denial of a world that is falling apart around them. One of the most important books set in hotels.
This is one of my favourite books set in hotels and I’m sure everyone will enjoy it.
In the novel that won her the Booker Prize and established her international reputation, Anita Brookner finds a new vocabulary for framing the eternal question “Why love?” It tells the story of Edith Hope, who writes romance novels under a pseudonym. When her life begins to resemble the plots of her own novels, however, Edith flees to Switzerland, where the quiet luxury of the Hotel du Lac promises to restore her to her senses.
But instead of peace and rest, Edith finds herself sequestered at the hotel with an assortment of love’s casualties and exiles. She also attracts the attention of a worldly man determined to release her unused capacity for mischief and pleasure. Beautifully observed, witheringly funny, Hotel du Lac is Brookner at her most stylish and potently subversive. This is a must-read on books set in hotels list!
Hotel Silence – Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
JÓNAS FEELS LIKE HIS LIFE IS OVER.
His wife has left him, his mother is slipping deeper into dementia, and his daughter is no longer who he thought. So he comes up with a foolproof plan: to buy a one-way ticket to a chaotic, war-ravaged country and put an end to it all.
But on arriving at Hotel Silence, he finds his plans – and his anonymity – begin to dissolve under the foreign sun. Now there are other things that need his attention, like the crumbling hotel itself, the staff who run it, and his unusual fellow guests. And soon it becomes clear that Jónas must decide whether he really wants to leave it all behind; or give life a second chance, albeit down a must unexpected path…
Hotel Silence won the Icelandic Literary Prize 2016 and was chosen Best Icelandic Novel in 2016 by booksellers in Iceland. If you want to read an award-winning book, choose this among books set in hotels.
At Bertram’s Hotel – Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie is always a good choice and she must be on books set in hotels list with this Miss Marple book.
An old-fashioned London Hotel is not quite as reputable as it makes out!
When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s: traditional décor and impeccable service. But she senses an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer. Not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport one day late!
Troubles – J.G. Farrell
Major Brendan Archer travels to Ireland – to the Majestic Hotel and to the fiancée he acquired on a rash afternoon’s leave three years ago. Despite her many letters, the lady herself proves elusive, and the Major’s engagement is short-lived. But he is unable to detach himself from the alluring discomforts of the crumbling hotel. Ensconced in the dim and shabby splendour of the Palm Court, surrounded by gently decaying old ladies and proliferating cats, the Major passes the summer.
So hypnotic are the faded charms of the Majestic, the Major is almost unaware of the gathering storm. But this is Ireland in 1919 – and the struggle for independence is about to explode with brutal force. A fine work of historical fiction among books set in hotels.
Hotel – Arthur Hailey
During five sultry days, the lives of the guests, the management, and the workers at New Orleans’ largest and most elite hotel converge. The owner has four days to raise the money to save his financially ailing property. The general manager, once blacklisted from the hospitality business, struggles with one crisis after another. A rebellious heiress will do anything to attain her secret desires. The duke and the duchess in the lavish presidential suite are covering up a crime. And within one of the many guest rooms hides a professional thief.
Filled with memorable characters and authentic detail about the inner machinery and secrets of a five-star hotel, this gripping New York Times bestseller sold millions of copies and was adapted for both film and TV. Set in a time when travel was still glamorous and grand independent hotels set the standard for luxury, it’s a read like a vacation in itself, from the author of such behind-the-scenes blockbusters as The Moneychangers and Wheels. An entertaining one among books set in hotels.
At the Water’s Edge – Sara Gruen
After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind.
To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favour is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. (Love books set in hotels in Scotland? This one is for you.)
Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.
The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love. A romantic historical fiction among books set in hotels.
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Are there any books set in hotels that you’d like to add to this list? Please share in the comments section. Happy reading everyone!