8 Famous Books That Helped Economies Thrive With Tourism

Here are 8 famous books that had the power to revitalize—and in some cases saturate—entire economies with tourism.

Apr 20, 2024By Alex "Cosmo" Lutz, BA English Literature

famous books helped economies thrive tourism


There is no doubt that Hemingway’s smash hit of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises, continues to exert a major influence and remains an important reason why so many people from North America travel to Pamplona, Spain, even 70 years after its publication. Here is a list of 8 famous books that had the power to revitalize entire economies through tourism.


1. Ernest Hemingway’s Famous Book: The Sun Also Rises

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The original cover of Ernest Hemingway’s novel. Source: Amazon


Despite the many negative connotations that bullfighting has taken on over the decades, in 2022, a year with restricted travel thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Fermin Festival drew around 4.7 million tourists to Spain’s northern Atlantic coast. It’s no secret that Hemingway’s bestselling novel from 1926, which continues to stock shelves today, has something to do with the tourist traffic.


In the same way that the novel’s charismatic protagonist, Jakes Barnes, a recovering war veteran, brought his friend Robert Cohn into the controversial and exotic world of bullfighting as an engaged spectator himself, we the readers are drawn into Hemingway’s spectacle of the fiesta and the wanderlust allure of the Spanish countryside by his romanticized description. The author’s own life as an expatriate in Europe—on top of his deep interest in hobbies like bullfighting, hunting, boxing, and heavy drinking—appeal to a youthful need for escapism that are as exciting today as they were in the context of an America, and a world, that was in the early stages of recovery from the trauma of World War I.


the sun also rises ernest hemingway cover
The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway Library edition, 2016. Source: Simon & Schuster


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But it’s not just the allure of a foreign land that Hemingway used to make the contentious world of bullfighting somehow enticing. With the success of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s first major success also popularized a new writing style that became one of the most mimicked styles of writing in the world and changed how novels as a medium are both written and read. His iceberg style (short, terse prose that gives the audience 20% of the story while preserving the other 80% of subtext submerged like an iceberg) is the norm in both fiction and non-fiction writing today, which makes sense considering Hemingway adapted the style from his work for the Toronto Daily Star.


Today, however, if you were planning to visit Pamplona in the second week of July expecting to drink with the bullfighters and be treated like a local aficionado in any way that resembles the novel’s wounded hero, prepare to be disappointed. An influx of international tourists looking for late-night parties, Reggaeton, and cheap sangria is what you’ll probably find there.


2. Ulysses by James Joyce 

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Ulysses by James Joyce, 1986. Source: Penguin Random House


You don’t need to visit Ireland to understand the impact James Joyce’s magnum opus had on the literary world, just do a quick Google search with the words James Joyce and Irish pub to get an idea about the global impact of Ulysses. If you do get the chance to visit Dublin, the setting for most of Joyce’s fictional world, you can even sign up for a Joyce-inspired walking tour—or pub crawl—that follows the footsteps of Leopold Bloom to a long list of real places visited by him and other fictional characters in the novel. There are also places of biographical importance for Joyce, including his actual place of birth and a statue of the author on North Earl Street.


Ulysses was banned in the United Kingdom and then in the United States, where its publishers at The Little Review were even put on trial for sending obscenity in the mail. Many copies of the book were confiscated at customs, having been smuggled in from Paris, where it was sold at the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore and published by a few local presses. The book’s forbidden status might have boosted its popularity in underground markets since the trial was heavily publicized.


James Joyce statue in Trieste, Italy. Source: Unsplash


By 1986, Ulysses sold more than 880,000 copies worldwide.  Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness style was so complex it began a whole new industry of literary criticism where anyone from scholars to reviewers and journalists alike could now earn a living writing critically about fictional works. Joyce’s masterwork was so influential from a literary standpoint that a 1972 NY Times review of the book called it a tidal wave in terms of the effect it had on the literary world, leaving writers like William Faulkner, Samuel Beckett, and Jack Kerouac in its wake.


3. On The Road by Jack Kerouac

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On The Road by Jack Kerouac, 2008. Source: Penguin Random House


Jack Kerouac’s post-World War II novel On The Road defined an entire generation. Today, if you walk through the notoriously hilly cityscape of San Francisco, nestled right between Vesuvio’s Cafe and City Lights Bookstore, in the heart of Chinatown, you’ll find the Jack Kerouac Alley. Its sidewalk stones are engraved with quotes from Kerouac himself, Jack London, Henry Miller, and John Steinbeck.


Both the café and City Lights Bookstore are old, regular Kerouac hangout spots from the 1950s and 1960s, the latter of which was opened by a friend and one-time-publisher of Kerouac’s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. But it’s no doubt, from the way the bartenders turn their noses up at anyone who walks through the doors of Vesuvio’s dangling tourist symbols like a camera, that Kerouac’s cool counter-culture influence has brought fans to the city, maybe even to the point of oversaturation.


jack kerouac football
Jack Kerouac playing football, 1942. Source: Columbia University Libraries


The legend behind how the manuscript was written is also steeped in a partially self-created myth of fact and fiction that’s equally famous. By one account from the author himself, Kerouac explains, or brags, that he wrote the whole novel while riding shotgun alongside Neal Cassidy on a type-writer while cruising across various American highways. The Original Scroll of the On The Road manuscript went on an 18-city tour after it was purchased at auction for $2.2 million and was briefly held on display at the San Francisco Public Library in an air-conditioned glass case, complete with mustard stains and old coffee spills from when it was rolled out on the dormitory hallways and partially edited at Columbia University. Today the novel remains a cult-classic and symbolic identifier for adventure seekers, road-trippers, and youths in revolt around the world.


4. Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie 

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The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, 1989. Source: Penguin Random House


Another banned book on the list is Salma Rushdie’s 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses. His controversial novel takes place in Bombay (now Mumbai, India). The book forced its author into exile in a hidden, unknown location for nearly 13 years.  The fatwa by the Islamic community against Rushdie made The Satanic Verses one of the most controversial novels of the 20th century, while undoubtedly boosting its sales.

It seems the attraction to banned books is like that of the allure of forbidden fruit. Still, there are many examples in the literary world where censorship of books has often had a similar reverse effect in favor of book sales, as in the case of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye or Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  But Rushdie’s novel paints a specific portrait of Bombay, drawing allure to the Eastern hemisphere. The protagonist of The Satanic Verses, Gibreel Farishta is a fictional famous Bollywood star who goes on a journey from Bombay to London. Through the story, Rushdie explored the sociological and cultural differences between the East and the West.


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Mumbai, India. Source: Unsplash


At a similar time to Rushdie, Edward Said also published a variety of works comparing differences between Eastern and Western cultures using the terms Orient and Occident. Both contemporaries acknowledge how ease of travel related to the technological advancements spawned further literary interest in the exploration of the Eastern cultures by people from the West. Rushdie’s work may have very well put Mumbai on the list of places to travel to for many tourists in the late 20th Century. Ironically, and sadly, sales of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses surged again in 2022 as a result of a continued religious controversy when he was stabbed in New York and the attack was made public in the news.


5. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein 

autobiography alice toklas gertrude stein cover
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, 1990. Source: Penguin Random House


It’s not that Gertrude Stein’s novel, itself, popularized Paris as a tourist destination, but her personality and her fixture as an expatriate in Europe’s artistic high society secured her a place on this list. Stein famously played host to a close circle of talented friends. Not only is Stein the most fitting representative of l’Age d’Or, but her influence on everyone from Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald to painters like Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso was instrumental in the whole group’s rise to fame and success.


Stein’s novel The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is narrated by her life partner. It paints a portrait of their shared residence in the Montparnasse area of Paris where she lived for most of her life, until she died in 1947. There, Stein and Alice famously hosted many recognizable artists, poets, and literary figures of the 1920s and 1930s. Her very residence provided a literary hub for many notable expatriates and French nationals alike.


In 2011, Woody Allen even made a film depicting a fictionalized envisionment of Stein’s colorful residence called Midnight In Paris, starring Owen Wilson as a tourist in love with the nostalgia of Stein’s vision of Paris. The film features Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein.


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Paris. Source: Unsplash


Though she initially wrote it for financial reasons, Stein never thought her novel would bring in too much. However, after the Atlantic Monthly published big portions of the book in four installments, she was able to fully support herself financially.  At the same time, however, Stein received a lot of public criticism from her peers and contemporaries, including from the people she mentored who didn’t necessarily like the way they were portrayed. Ernest Hemingway, who credited Stein in the opening lines of The Sun Also Rises, was one of those critics.


6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens 

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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1993. Source: Penguin Random House


Since its initial publication in 1859, A Tale of Two Cities has sold more than 200 million copies. It became one of the most famous works of literary fiction. The story is set in London and Paris and it juxtaposes the two cultures. Dickens felt his story was an exhaustive attempt to explain the complexities of the times, during the height of the French Revolution. Some even consider Dickens to be the first literary rock star.


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Camden in London. Source: Unsplash


In the same way that Hemingway influenced the modern prosaic style, Dickens redefined the novel as a medium of common entertainment for popularized consumption as opposed to something intended for a more highbrow readership. He is even credited as the first to publish novels in the form of serials, ending each published section with the first instance of cliffhangers, as was the case with A Tale of Two Cities.


Tourists that visit London’s Camden borough can stop by 48 Doughty Street, the only former home of Charles Dickens that is still standing, which is currently the site of the Charles Dickens Museum. It is one of over 100 different London locations that Dickens wrote about in his various works, many of which are on display there. This includes the first edition copy of A Christmas Carol, Dickens’ most re-published work.


7. Passage To India by E.M. Forster 

famous books passage to india em forster
A Passage To India by E.M. Forster, 2021. Source: Penguin Random House


E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India compares the 20th-century lure of the East with complexities related to British colonialism. Forster was a prolific literary figure of his day and part of the Bloomsbury Group that published Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Ford Maddox Ford. While his contemporaries were writing largely about their native European upbringings, Forster wrote about his experience visiting India.


Forster took the trip between the years of 1912 and 1913 to visit his friend, Syed Ross Mosood for whom he felt unrequited love. It took Forster, already an accomplished literary figure, nearly eleven years to complete the writing of A Passage To India. When he finally did it, he dedicated the book to Masood.


The novel begins as an exploration of the exotic. Two British ladies are led on an exploration of the fictional version of the Barabar Caves in India by the charismatic Dr. Aziz, a native of the region. Adela, one of the ladies, gets lost in a dark cave and is assaulted. She assumes Dr. Aziz is responsible, but due to the darkness, nothing can be proven.


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E.M. Forster. Source: Wikipedia


The first half of the novel captivates the audience with a romanticized portrayal of exotic landscapes and India’s culture, appealing to the wanderlust sensibilities of escapist readers. The rest of the story, however, navigates the complex waters of the ensuing trial. This part allowed Forster to showcase some of the racial and socio-economic tensions that were prominent issues in the colonial era in India and the UK.


Where Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses depicts the journey of an Indian protagonist to Europe, Forster’s journey goes the opposite direction, moving from the West to the East. Today, A Passage To India continues to be widely read. It was selected by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th century.


8. Thomas Mann’s Famous Book Death in Venice 

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Death In Venice by Thomas Mann, 1989. Source: Penguin Random House


Venice, the small island off the northeastern coast of Italy, sets the scene for Thomas Mann’s popular literary work titled Death In Venice. The novel centers around Gustav Aschenbach, an upper-class writer who visits Venice as a tourist at the beginning of the cholera outbreak. He falls in love with a boy on the streets from afar and as he prolongs his stay to extend his romantic fantasy, his health declines in a way that parallels the fall of the bourgeoisie class in Venice.


Venice continues to be a hotspot for tourists and backpackers. In 2012, the small city with a population of only 245,000, attracted more than 60,000 tourists each day. Those numbers continued to grow until 2019, so much so that the local economy began to question whether their UNESCO World Heritage city was being ruined by it.

Even post-Covid-19 pandemic, every multi-European trek practically requires a photo on the infamous Venetian canals or in St. Mark’s Square, some of the frequently visited locations portrayed in Mann’s novella. There have also been many film, drama, and even opera adaptations of Mann’s Death In Venice, many of which have, no doubt, had perpetuating promotional effects on the thriving economy there.

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By Alex "Cosmo" LutzBA English LiteratureCosmo is a writer and filmmaker from Ontario, Canada. After completing his BA in English Literature from Western University Canada, he spent nearly 8 years traveling the world, living out of a backpack, before deciding to return to Canada to complete his certificate in advanced Filmmaking from Fanshawe College. He currently works on-set as a Camera Assistant, and continues to travel, living out of a van and produces short films.