*This post has been updated on April 9, 2020
A few weeks back, I spotted a fellow Francophile at the local coffee shop reading Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes.
I gently interrupted her to ask how she liked the book so far. She smiled and said that she enjoyed it very much since she was missing Paris after a recent visit. Then I asked her if she had pursued any other Parisian-themed reading. When she shook her head, I quickly shared a few suggestions for further reading. I left her with a decent list of recommendations—whether or not she really wanted them or not.
To say that I’ve read a decent number of books about Paris or France is an understatement. There can never be enough books on Hausmannian design and architecture, the heritage of French fashion houses, or champagne—or any wine, really.
I have yet to pursue more traditional literature on Paris—Baudelaire, Zola, and the like as well as Hemingway, McCullough, etc.—but here’s my recommended reading for those in love with the Paris dream.
Travel to Paris, Provence, and beyond with these books set in France
Important note—these are not listed in any particular order:
Parisienne Narratives: Stories of Women in Paris
- F is for France, a Curious Cabinet of French Wonders by Piu Eatwell. An alphabetical breakdown of quintessential trivia and fun facts about France. Eatwell cleverly lends her English sensibilities while explaining the French je ne sais quoi.
- Paris My Sweet, A Year in the Light by Amy Thomas. A playful read that’s part dessert, part map, Thomas maps out the best patisseries in Paris and pastry shops in New York City. It’s a cute, quick, and light novel to help you unwind from the ordinary hustle.
- Love Life Style by Garance Doré. I had the pleasure of meeting Garance at a Fashionista meetup in the city before reading the book. I’ve always been a huge superfan of her illustrations and her blog—reading her book has solidified Garance’s status as a true model for the modern woman.
- My Paris Dream by Kate Betts. Another inspirational read for the fashion lover seeking a way to live in the City of Light—Betts shares her story of landing a position at Fairchild Publishing and navigating her life between Paris and New York.
- How to be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. A playful read to pass along to your girlfriends and keep in plain sight in your apartment at all times. Whenever you’re having a bad day, you can open the book to any chapter and feel better.
Historical Fiction: Walking History of Paris
- Paris, the Novel by Edward Rutherfurd. One of the longer novels on this list, Rutherfurd artfully curates a beautiful historical fiction for the reader to experience Paris through different time periods.
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (translated by Lydia Davis). I read this specific edition while I was an undergraduate and it is my favorite classic French literature book that I’ve read so far. I still have my course notes tucked away in the back cover.
- Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine by George M. Taber. As a journalist, Taber had the stroke of luck to witness a significant moment in the history of wine. Taber guides the reader through the industry players and uncovered what keeps the reputation of French wines so heavily guarded.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book takes place in Paris and Saint-Malo in Bretagne—it’s a beautiful story about secrets and cherishing the people who matter to us the most.
- A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. Mayle’s story of moving from England to Lubéron, Provence with his wife is a fine example of modern travel writing as we know it today. His anecdotes of navigating situations with his neighbors and living in France are delightful to read.
- The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. I wish I had found this book before I moved to Paris! Lebovitz—a talented pastry chef from Los Angeles—recounts his story as an American moving to Paris with great humor and attention to detail.
- I Love You Too Much by Alicia Drake. This book caught me off guard with how much it moved me with its sense of place and the journey of the characters. It’s a beautiful novel and one that will always stay in my mind.
- P.S. from Paris by Marc Levy
- Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan (in French). I read this book as part of a book group led by French is Beautiful—I was concerned that I wouldn’t understand it, but it’s very clear and possible to navigate with the occasional aid of a dictionary.