This does not include speculative fiction novels. So, no fantasy/sci-fi. No classics. Don’t expect The Shining, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, etc. etc. Here are some lesser-known contemporary books with unconventional/atmospheric settings.
Starting off with an everyday setting, The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern is set in an Irish cul-de-sac. Though it may appear uninteresting in the beginning, the entire neighborhood comes to life as the novel progresses. Attributing to this close-knit community setting, the entire book feels warm and fuzzy, filled with meaningful character interactions. The story follows Jasmine through her year off from work. Another quirky thing about the book is that it’s written entirely in second person. Pick it up if you wish to sunbathe in warm and welcoming surrounding.
A little on the uncommon side, The Midnight Watch by David Dyer is set on a ship. Which ship? You may ask. Why, none other than the SS Californian! The ship that witnessed Titanic’s distress rockets and didn’t go for its aid. Macabre, yes. But beautifully so. It’s a fantastic piece of historical fiction with captivating prose and characters.
The next one inspired this post. Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam is set in various places some of which include an archaeological site in Pakistan and a dismantling site for ships in Bangladesh. The locations themselves breathe magic and poetry into the story.
Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro is set in Hailsham, a school for different kids. Now, it is imperative that if you plan to read this book you go in blind. Hailsham is probably the most intriguing school, second only to Hogwarts. Its premise is as much a character in the story as Kathy or Ruth.
Lastly, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Set in 1920 Alaska, makes for a perfect winter read. The atmospheric details in this book make the story amply magical. Like the world of Narnia, the snow child will freeze your fingers and toes with nothing but text on a page. Based around a Russian fairy tale about a couple with no kids who one winter construct a frame of a child made out freshly fallen snow that comes alive the next morning. It’s a story of Mable and Jack and of the snow child, but also of the unforgiving Alaskan winter cold.