Top Ten Tuesday: Most Vivid Worlds/Settings in Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a cool meme created by the people over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is the Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings in Books.

This is a hard list for me to make, because I generally skip over scenery details in books. However, I skipped last week’s list, and I didn’t want to skip two in a row, so I’ve decided to do my best with this one. I’ve decided to go with the top books where I could most clearly visualize the characters’ surroundings, even if I didn’t necessarily get such descriptions from the books. I have a hard time remembering which details come from the books and which come from my imagination. All the books on this list either feature words different from ours, or are set in our world/time period but really got my imagination working.

1. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
I don’t think this one really needs an explanation. Hogwarts. Hogsmeade. The Ministry of Magic. The Burrow. Even Privet Drive. There are so many settings in this series that it would be impossible not to include it on this list.

2. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
This series, too, is full of terrific scenery. Each of the different districts of Panem. The Capitol. The arenas. Interesting how a country can start out as our world and become so different.

3. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
I haven’t read this series in a few years, but I remember that the setting was fantastic. I could definitely picture these settings while I read.

4. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
This novel has a contemporary setting, but I couldn’t help but add it to the list. All while I was reading, I couldn’t help but picture all of the settings mentioned, and I don’t always do that with novels. Even now, after I have finished the novel, I still have a clear picture in my head of what this town looks like. I couldn’t not add this book to the list.

5. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Cities covered in ash. A world where green trees are considered strange and where flowers are a thing of the past. It’s hard not to picture the world in this novel.

6. Past Perfect by Leila Sales
Another contemporary novel, but there’s enough of the past thrown in that it’s not completely our world. You can picture this little town where Revolutionary War and Civil War reenactors battle each other.

7. Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
Modern-day Chicago mixed with the Nevernever and all the demons and fairies associated with it. It’s hard not to picture all of the different settings in this series, particularly the worlds outside of Chicago.

8. Sarah Dessen’s collected works
These books aren’t exactly a series, but enough of the characters’ storylines are intertwined that I’ve decided to treat them as such anyway. There are two main high schools mentioned in this series, as well as Colby, the small beach town that so many of the characters have visited. With each new book, you learn more about these areas, and it’s just incredible.

9. The Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling
Another fantasy series that creates a vivid world for us to explore with the characters.

10. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
I’ve only read a few books in this series, but I can definitely picture the world that they live in.


Not really the best list that I’ve ever made for the Top Ten, but I suppose this has helped make me think about how to treat settings in my own novels. Most people think of world building as something that fantasy and sci-fi writers have to think about more than contemporary writers do, but I don’t think that’s the case. Several of the books on this list, the ones that made me picture the settings more clearly than anything else, were books set in present-day America. Just because a book is set in the present-day doesn’t mean that setting isn’t just as important.


Posted on July 24, 2012, in Reading, TopTen. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. First, your list makes me want to add the ones I haven’t read to my TBR list! Second, I love the way you ended this post. If you do a search for world building, a lot of the help guides that come up ARE for fantasy and science fiction novels. I think it’s a lot easier to write a contemporary novel’s setting versus one in a fantasy or scifi world that is completely made up, but that doesn’t lessen the effect setting can have on a story overall.

    I feel like I’m rambling! 🙂

    • Haha. I didn’t feel like you were rambling! I think you actually made my point more clearly than I did!

      I’m glad you agreed with what I was saying. I think they’re both difficult in their own ways. Fantasy you have to create a lot more, but contemporary (at least contemporary set in real cities), you have to research to make sure that you’re not talking about a giant lake where the Capitol building should be or something. 🙂

      • Ha! Nah, I don’t think so. 😛 I agree, they are both difficult. I have a fantasy novel I abandoned early this year at 6k because wow, making up every little detail is A LOT of work! One day I plan to go back to it, but it was so daunting to make it through the first few chapters when I thought I had already done a ton of world building and the actual writing process taught me that what I had built wasn’t enough to support that story’s complex setting.

        The contemporary novel I wrote last month was so much easier in comparison, and I’m glad for that. The only problem is I now want to make it into more of a fantasy novel (dramatic SIGH). I know what you mean about writing in a real city, and some authors do it really well while others, I dunno, it’s not for me. Sometimes author write about a city by giving street names or intersections and I just think to myself, ‘but I don’t live there’ .. and I think they’re really missing the point of introducing people to a city rather than throwing out street names that aren’t well known enough to give residents in other cities a good enough picture. Now does THAT make sense? Haha, maybe this time I’m rambling.

        In other news, are you doing Camp NaNo in August?

      • That actually makes a lot of sense! I’ll have to remember that when I’m writing, as I’m horrible at walking that line between setting the scene and providing WAY too much detail. 🙂

        And yes, I’m doing Camp. I wrote most of a completed outline a few weeks ago. I have a few more details to figure out, but I think I’m mostly ready to go. I’m actually pretty excited to start. What about you?

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