Since starting this blog I've wanted to write about the best books to read before heading to Paris. So here it finally is- my top ten favorite books about France. It's taken me many years and Amazon orders to curate this list, so I do hope you enjoy.
A word of warning- almost all of these books are about French food. Because who doesn't love a good food memoir?
I also wanted to mention that finding English books in Paris is tough. I'd highly recommend bringing an e-reader if you'll be there a while – I absolutely love my Kindle Voyage. I had a Kindle during the year I lived in Paris and it was a total lifesaver.
The Paris Style Guide is the perfect book for not just dreaming of Paris, but actually exploring it.
The book details where you should go to find the best boutiques, flea markets and cafés in Paris. I used to work for a very chic French interior designer so I've been to a good amount of the stores in the book- particularly the design shops in Le Marais.
If you're planning a shopping trip to Paris and have excellent taste, this would be the perfect companion- it's like having a fashionable Parisienne friend in your pocket.
The Sweet Life in Paris is the story of American pastry chef David Lebovitz' move to Paris to start a new life.
In his hilarious memoir David Lebovitz delves into the local food and culture of Paris, making ever-so realistic observations about his adopted hometown. What I love most about this book is that he depicts Paris in such an honest light- sidewalk dog shit and all.
Paris versus New York is a super clever graphic novel that compares Paris to New York, i.e. bagels vs. baguettes.
P.S. – it makes an excellent gift for francophiles!
Paris in Color is a collection of Paris seen through different colors – from baby pink to saffron yellow. This is another book I love to give francophile friends – it's the perfect coffee table book!
Elaine Sciolino, the former Paris Bureau Chief of the New York Times, is a long-time resident of Paris, and more specifically, the Rue des Marytrs. In The Only Street in Paris, Sciolino paints a rich picture of the rue des Martyrs, a historic street in Paris where Degas once painted and François Truffaut filmed scenes from The 400 Blows.
Did you guys ever read Stuff White People Like? This book is the Parisian version.
So often Paris is overly romanticized, but this book calls Parisians out on all their quirks. Stuff Parisians Like is especially funny if you have French friends and recognize the obsession with sushi, Pellegrino and all things Brooklyn.
Read this if you want a good laugh and a real understanding on how Parisians really live.
My Paris Dream is an American woman's memoir about living in France in the 1980s. After college, she moves to France, completely unsure of what she wants to do. Over the years, she finds work as a fashion journalist, rubbing shoulders with fashion greats like Helmut Lang and Karl Lagerfeld.
If you love fashion, this is a book you'll really enjoy.
Mastering the Art of French Eating follows the story of Ann Mah, an American food and travel writer living in Paris. When Mah's husband is called away to Iraq, Mah mitigates her loneliness by tracking down all of France's best dishes in their regions of origin.
Mah's writing is just gorgeous. Case in point- “It still sailed next to me, that parallel life- it would always sail next to me- as full of joy and challenge as the one I was living. I thought of it sometimes, pale and chilled- lit by a satellite moon, not the sun of reality- a ghostly ship charting a route to what might have been, while I remained on the course of what was.”
Here's my full review of the book in case you're still not sold!
I own a lot of David Lebovitz' cookbooks, but My Paris Kitchen is my favorite. I love this one because it mostly contains recipes for savory dishes (though there are several sweet ones- this is David Lebovitz we're talking about.)
One thing to note the recipes aren't just French, but also Moroccan, Indian and even American to reflect Paris' rich ethnic landscape. As per usual, the book contains lots of Lebovitz' wry remarks on Paris life.
The Belly of Paris is a classic novel by Émile Zola. It follows the story of Florent, an escaped revolutionary who finds both solace and community in Paris. But what I love my about the book is how richly it depicts life in 1870s Les Halles, a proletariat market that stood for nearly a thousand years.
This book is perfect for both diehard francophiles and/or food nerds who want to imagine a world now gone. As an aside Émile Zola is a great writer and I'd also recommend his book Le Rêve.
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Are you a francophile too? What are your favorite books about Paris?
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HarperCollins Publishers provided me with a copy of The Paris Style Guide in exchange for a review. They in no way requested I give a favorable review. I purchased all the other books and all opinions are my own, as always.