Hotel Stories: Real & Imagined

Some fiction writers choose to set their romantic trysts, exciting adventures, and murderous plots in a world revolving around a hotel, inn, or motel.  And of course there are some very engaging nonfiction reads about real hotels with illustrious pasts and glamorous histories.

Even if you do not feel ready to indulge in a getaway right now, you can freely escape to the atmosphere and ambience of a hotel or motel by way of these fiction and nonfiction titles available with your Library card in book or ebook formats.

Nonfiction

The Barbizon : The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren

This book tells the story of New York’s most glamorous women-only hotel, and the women-both famous and ordinary-who passed through its doors. World War I had liberated women from home and hearth, setting them on the path to political enfranchisement and gainful employment. Arriving in New York to work in the dazzling new skyscrapers, they did not want to stay in uncomfortable boarding houses; they wanted what men already had-exclusive residential hotels that catered to their needs, with daily maid service, cultural programs, workout rooms, and private dining. The Barbizon would become the most famous residential hotel of them all, welcoming everyone from aspiring actresses, dancers, and fashion models to seamstresses, secretaries, and nurses. The Barbizon’s residents read like a who’s who: Titanic survivor Molly Brown; actresses Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedron, Liza Minelli, Ali McGraw, Jaclyn Smith, and Phylicia Rashad; writers Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, Diane Johnson, Gael Greene, and Meg Wolitzer; and so many more. 

The Castle on Sunset : Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy

Since 1929, Hollywood’s brightest stars have flocked to the Chateau Marmont as if it were a second home. An apartment building-turned-hotel, the Chateau has been the backdrop for generations of gossip and folklore: where director Nicholas Ray slept with his sixteen-year-old Rebel Without a Cause star Natalie Wood; Jim Morrison swung from the balconies; John Belushi suffered a fatal overdose; and Lindsay Lohan got the boot after racking up nearly $50,000 in charges in less than two months. But despite its mythic reputation, much of what has happened inside the Chateau’s walls has eluded the public eye–until now. With wit and insight, Levy recounts the wild revelries and scandalous liaisons, the creative breakthroughs and marital breakdowns, the births and deaths to which the hotel has been a party.

The Hotel on Place Vendôme : Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of World War II, this is the captivating history of Paris’s world-famous Hôtel Ritz–a breathtaking tale of glamour, opulence, and celebrity; dangerous liaisons, espionage, and resistance.

Inside the Dream Palace : The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel by Sherill Tippins

Since its founding by a utopian-minded French architect in 1884, New York’s Chelsea Hotel has been a hotbed of artistic invention and inspiration. Cultural luminaries from Sid Vicious to Thomas Wolfe, Edith Piaf to Patti Smith, Jean-Paul Sartre to Dee Dee Ramone—all made the Chelsea the largest and longest-lived artist community in the world. This is the hotel’s story, from its earliest days as a cooperative community, through its pop art, rock-and-roll, and punk periods, to its later transformations under new ownership.

The Plaza : The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel by Julie Satow

This is journalist Satow’s thrilling, unforgettable history of how one illustrious hotel has defined our understanding of money and glamour, from the Gilded Age to the Go-Go Eighties to today’s Billionaire Row. Satow not only pulls back the curtain on Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball and The Beatles’ first stateside visit-she also follows the money trail. This account reveals how a handful of rich, dowager widows were the financial lifeline that saved the hotel during the Great Depression, and how, today, foreign money and anonymous shell companies have transformed iconic guest rooms into condominiums that shield ill-gotten gains-hollowing out parts of the hotel as well as the city around it.

Fiction

All the Ways We Said Goodbye : A Novel of the Ritz Paris by Beatriz Williams

A glorious historical adventure that moves from the dark days of two World Wars to the turbulent years of the 1960s, in which three women with bruised hearts find refuge at Paris’ legendary Ritz hotel.

The Chelsea Girls : A Novel by Fiona Davis

From the dramatic red brick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City’s creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home–a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine’s Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

The Glass Hotel : A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. When the financial empire collapses, it obliterates countless fortunes and devastates lives. Vincent, who had been posing as Jonathan’s wife, walks away into the night. Years later, a victim of the fraud is hired to investigate a strange occurrence: a woman has seemingly vanished from the deck of a container ship between ports of call.

The Hotel Neversink by Adam O’Fallon Price

Thirty-one years after workers first broke ground, the magnificent Hotel Neversink in the Catskills finally opens to the public. Then a young boy disappears. This mysterious vanishing–and the ones that follow–will brand the lives of three generations over the course of this novel. At the root of it all is Asher Sikorky, the ambitious and ruthless patriarch whose purchase of the hotel in 1931 set a haunting legacy into motion. His daughter Jeanie sees the Hotel Neversink into its most lucrative era, but also its darkest. Decades later, Asher’s grandchildren grapple with the family’s heritage in their own ways: Len fights to keep the failing, dilapidated hotel alive, and Alice sets out to finally uncover the murderer’s identity.

The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina Garcia

A novel about the intertwining lives of the denizens of a hotel in an unnamed Latin American country in the midst of political turmoil.

Mistress of the Ritz : A Novel by Melanie Benjamin

A captivating novel based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II–while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hotel Ritz in Paris-In March 1940, the Nazis sweep Paris and immediately take up residence in one of the city’s most iconic sites: The Hotel Ritz. There, under a roof legendary for its unprecedented luxury and for its fabled residents–including Coco Chanel, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Cole Porter, Hemingway, Balanchine, Doris Duke, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and now Hermann Göering–the Nazis rule over a paralyzed city. But two residents of the Ritz refuse to be defeated: its director, Claude Auzello, and his beautiful American actress wife, Blanche. They not only oversee the smooth workings of the hotel, but both Blanche and Claude throw themselves fearlessly into the dangerous and clandestine workings of the French Resistance.

Murder at Hotel 1911 : an Ivy Nichols mystery by Audrey Keown

If you want to spend a night amid the luxury and charm of the early 20th century, book a room at Hotel 1911. You’ll find 28-year-old Ivy Nichols behind the reception desk. The hotel is Ivy’s only link to the family that abandoned her when she was a small child. Now, plagued by panic attacks, she pedals her sea-green Schwinn bicycle to work every evening, hoping desperately to hold on to her job. When wealthy, imperious Ms. Swain arrives at the hotel and belittles Ivy, the young woman seeks consolation in the welcoming kitchen of George, the hotel’s chef. Despite her tormentor’s barbs, she dutifully informs George that Ms. Swain has a deadly allergy to shellfish. So when Ms. Swain collapses at dinner and dies, the police suspect that the chef made a tragic, inexcusable error. Desperate to save George’s career, Ivy sets out sleuthing. She learns that numerous people in and around the hotel had motives to contaminate Ms. Swain’s plate.

The Sanatorium : a novel by Sarah Pearse

A chilling debut in which a detective must uncover the dark history of a luxury hotel in the Alps if she has any hope of stopping the deaths that won’t let up. . . Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Once a sanatorium treating tuberculosis patients, it was abandoned years ago and had fallen into disrepair. Long plagued by troubling rumours, it has recently been renovated into a lavish hotel. And an imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place detective Elin Warner wants to be. But having received an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she had no choice but to accept. 

Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride

 A book about grief, travel, and female loneliness narrated by an unnamed middle-aged woman from a series of hotel rooms around the world.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden there. 

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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