If you daydream about living in Paris, eating tarte aux framboises semi-religiously, if you consider yourself a femme fatale, and Françoise Hardy’s Le Temps de L’amour is a soundtrack of your life, then you are at the right place, my friend. This list of books about France, whether French-inspired or written by French authors, is worth checking out.
“In Paris” by Lauren Bastide & Jeanne Damas
Jeanne Damas has been my Instagram crush for a pretty long time. She is the quintessential French girl in my opinion. So, the second I found out that she is going to publish a book about Paris and Parisians, I sat tight and waited. While reading interviews of these very diverse 20 Parisians, I felt like I’m personally having a conversation with every one of them. Please enjoy watching this behind-the-scenes video to get into the mood for this short and sweet book.
“Don’t Be a Tourist in Paris: The Messy Nessy Chic Guide” by Vanessa Grall
I already mentioned Messy Nessy Chic once before but she deserves way more public recognition for what she does. Unfortunately for me, I bought this book after I already went to Paris. But if you have never heard of it before, then lucky you! Now you can go ahead and buy this book before your next trip to the city of Love & Lights. This non-touristy guide is an absolute must-buy even if your type of vacation strictly consists of you Google Map-traveling from your sofa. There is pretty much no way to describe this book accurately. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Basically, think Atlas Obscura met Wes Anderson, and they followed the white rabbit all the way down to Narnia.
“How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are” by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas
From four accomplished Parisian women, this book contains lifestyle instructions on how to dress, eat, love, and live like a true Parisian. All I’ll say about this (spoiler alert!) is even through we can all agree that French women, and the whole French nation to be completely honest, do pretty much everything better than the rest of the world…remember that perfection does not exist and everything you do should be done in a simple, free, and careless manner.
“The Woman Destroyed” by Simone de Beauvoir
Hands down this is one of my top five favorite books. Simone de Beauvoir tells us three different stories of three different French women who are going through some unexpected life crisis. This book touched my soul and ripped my heart apart. No other book made me cry so much – it’s so honest, so harsh, and so inspiring. Strongly recommend.
“A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway
This memoir is basically Hemingway’s love letter to Paris. It describes his life as a young, struggling writer, who immigrated to Paris in the 1920s with his first wife Hadley. This book made me fall in love with Paris before I even went there. I immediately started thinking that all I want in life is to live in Paris with my husband and…”eat well and cheaply and drink well and cheaply and sleep well and warm together and love each other.” Overall, it’s just mind-blowing to think about how many extremely talented and influential artists lived in Paris at this time and interacted with each other on a daily basis. It was such a great time to be alive, one can only imagine what it would be like – but Hemingway helps us travel in time with him to those dreamy days.
“The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain
So, if you want to follow the rabbit all the way down the rabbit hole, here is a good way of doing it – read “The Paris Wife.” This novel shows us Hemingway’s wife’s perspective of the events during the same time period as A Moveable Feast. It was researched and written by Paula McLain. Even though Hemingway is one of my favorite authors, I loved how this book allowed us to see the female side of the story and feel all her happiness and pain while reading it.
“The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway
And if you really, really want to follow the same rabbit deeper down his rabbit hole, then you should read this book as well, in order to have a closure with this story. The Sun Also Rises is a novel about real life: the characters are based on real people in Hemingway’s circle, and the actions are based on real events. Even though a good portion of the book takes place in Spain, it still gives us a pretty decent description of the characters’ Parisian lives.
“A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle
This book is about Peter Mayle and his wife’s first year in Provence. It’s filled with a lot of great gastronomical experiences, local habits, customs, traditions, and Provençal work ethics. He describes day-to-day situations and small town characters with whom he and his wife interact in an exquisitely funny manner.
“Paris to the Moon” by Adam Gopnik
New York Times journalist Adam Gopnik was relocated to Paris with his wife and an infant son in 1995. In this book, Gopnik tells us what it was like to live in Paris as an American at the end of 20th century. He describes nuances of everyday Parisian life and points out the differences between American and French lifestyles. It is especially interesting to see his perspective on parenting and raising his son in this new and foreign environment. A little spoiler – the chapter about the New York-style gym in Paris is extremely hilarious.