Novels set in Philadelphia
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Books Set in Philadelphia That Will Inspire Your Next Novel Adventure

These eight novels will inspire your visit to some lesser known areas and locations within and near Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has a long history of literary importance. It’s one of the reasons I love living here. I mean, what can be more literarily incredible (that’s a word, I’m sure!) than residing in the city that lays claim to the first public lending library? If Philadelphia’s expansive library system weren’t enough, the city is also home to great authors and die-hard brick and mortar indie book shops as well as a collection of some of the world’s most historic literature. But, I bet you knew that already. That’s why I’m here to tell you about books set in Philadelphia that showcase Philly’s lesser known literary connections.

8 books set in Philadelphia overlaying image of city hall looking north from broad street
8 Novels to Inspire Your Visit to Philadelphia.

Literary travelers have long been reading Poe and then visiting the Poe House. Or dashing off to the Rosenbach to indulge their Dracula obsession. Or visiting Ben Franklin’s grave. Of course! These are important places. But, they are not the only ways to explore literary Philadelphia. Plenty of novelists have chosen more off the beaten path locations in Philadelphia as the setting and inspiration for their stories.

Read, Tour, and Explore: Books set in Philadelphia

Here are eight literary adventures mashups featuring novels set in or near Philadelphia that will expose you to the city as seen from the eyes of some great, but perhaps lesser known, authors. These Philly-centric novels will have you chomping at the bit to explore the hidden gems in the “Athens of America” (once you’re able to get your nose out of the books!).

2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helen Bertino and brunch at Warm Daddy’s Jazz Club

Oohh, I loved this book! The novel is set in South Philadelphia as well as Fishtown and takes place over a mere 24 hours. In that time, the lives of a 9 year old aspiring jazz singer, her English teacher and the owner of a jazz club cross. The Cat’s Pajamas is a fictional jazz club inspired by the author’s visit to Warm Daddy’s.

Warm Daddy’s Sunday brunch was incredible. Sadly, the original Warm Daddy’s has closed, but I hear a new one is opening!

A Firefighter’s Journal by Robert John Marchisello and a visit to The Fireman’s Hall museum.

Screams haunt Firefighter Robert Marchisello to this day. A Firefighter’s Journal shares the revealing stories of what a firefighter goes through when battling blazes and numerous other dangers in Philadelphia —home of the nation’s first fire company, the Union Fire Co.

The Fireman’s Hall museum is located just steps from Elfreth’s Alley in Old City. The museum is housed in a renovated 1902 firehouse. Free admission.

The Mummer’s Curse by Gillian Roberts and a tour of the Mummer’s Museum

This lighthearted murder-mystery follows a Philadelphia school teacher in her quest to uncover the person who murdered the mummer. At the Mummer’s parade, of course!

The Mummers Museum is dedicated to celebrating the tradition of Mummery in Philadelphia. Inside are costumes, oral histories, and even an exhibit to teach you how to do the Mummer’s “strut.” Mummer fans might also like these books (fiction and non) about the Mummers.

The Blue Period and a trip to the Barnes Foundation

Kummer’s well researched, fictional portrait of Picasso intertwines the love, death, lust, and friendships that inspired the body of work known as Picasso’s “Blue Period.” Although not a book set in Philadelphia, I have no doubt it will inspire your visit to the Barnes.

The Barnes Foundation contains over 40 Picassos. At least 15 of them are from Picasso’s Blue and subsequent Rose Periods. It’s fun to search them out, but you can alos check out this may that I put together of their locations here.

Valley Forge and well…Valley Forge!

No battle was fought at Valley Forge, yet, the 6-months General George Washington and his army spent there mark the turning point of the Revolutionary War.

I visited Valley Forge, just outside of Philadelphia, before I read any of the books. I didn’t appreciate what I was looking at. It was just a field! After reading one of the many Valley Forge books (fiction and non fiction), I had a far better understanding of the struggle the troops faced and that’s when I returned and appreciated the preservation of Valley Forge.

Books set in Philadelphia’s Northwest Neighborhood – Germantown

I should confessed that I am a wee bit obsessed with the neighborhood I formerly called home. But, how can one not be infatuated with a location so full of history that can still be seen today?

After you read one of these three books set in or touching on Philadelphia’s Northwest neighborhood known as Germantown I bet you will be the first one to jump on the regional rail for a visit! And then, you’ll be just as enamored of the area as I am. Ha. Don’t make me say I told you so. Read on!

Lilli de Jong, by Janet Benton and Germantown Friends Meeting House

Set in 1883 Philadelphia, Lilli de Jong takes us on a historical fiction journey about a young, unmarried Quaker woman from Germantown who struggles to keep her baby.

The Germantown Meetinghouse is a Quaker place of worship that welcomes all attenders. Don’t be shy! The adjoining cemetery is the resting place of a fictional character in the book.

The Price of a Child, by Lorene Cary and The Johnson House, a station on the Underground Railroad

Although historical fiction, The Price of a Child is based upon the true story of the escape from slavery by Jane Johnson in 1855, with the assistance of members of Philadelphia Vigilance Committee (members of the Underground Railroad), led by William Still and Passmore Williamson.

The Johnson House is a preserved Underground Railroad station located in Germantown that William Still was said to have visited.

Fever 1793 and The Germantown White House

Fever 1793 is a young adult novel based on an actual epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia that wiped out 5,000 people–or 10 percent of the city’s population–in three months.

The fever also caused President George Washington to temporarily relocate to and hold the nation’s business at a home in Germantown. The home is now a National Historic Park known as The Germantown White House.

If you love pairing great reads with great places to visit, be sure to subscribe to The Novel Tourist newsletter to stay up-to-date with all of the activity and travel inspiring reading suggestions. In or near Philly (or planning a visit?) and looking for an inspiring community of readers or just more great ideas, check out The Novel Tourists of Philadelphia Facebook group.

Know others who love to read and do fun stuff? They’ll thank you for sharing this post! And so do I!

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