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Best Books About Paris
Paris is a famously literary city. Not only has it been the home of many famous historical authors like Victor Hugo, Emile Zola or Ernest Hemingway, but it also acts as the backdrop for many classic and contemporary works of fiction and nonfiction.
There are lots of books to read before visiting Paris, from classics to new releases, so what to choose for your Paris Reading List? Here, travel experts and friends bring us some of their favorite Paris stories, books set in Paris or alternative Paris travel guides that will get you excited for your next trip to Paris.
READ MORE – Why Paris is always a good idea
Best Books Set in Paris
Looking for novels set in Paris to inspire your coming Paris trip? Here’s a good list of classics and contemporary books that take place in Paris.
A memoir of one of the great literary golden ages, Hemingway’s chronicle of Paris in the roaring twenties, unites the stories of two of the 20th century’s greatest writers: Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Follow Hemingway’s steps in the bars, cafés, and restaurants of Paris during his early years as a young journalist and writer. Pieced together from letters, notes, and manuscripts after his death, Hemingway’s book brings to life that Paris which always was a moveable feast.
This is the Paris visitors to Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore, and Brasserie Lipp are trying to touch.
Suggested by Monique Skidmore from TripAnthropologist.com
Funny and inspiring, Almost French by Sarah Turnbull is a must for tragic Francophiles! Sarah was an Australian TV journalist working for SBS when she met a Frenchman and moved to Paris. Her quest to fit in and to live up to the standards/stereotypes of French women is hilarious.
It’s impossible not to love her anecdote of wearing what we would now call “athleisurewear” to nip down to the bakery to buy croissants for breakfast. Her horrified partner protests as she tries to leave the apartment, saying, “But it will not be nice for the baker.” The idea that dressing casually (le jogging is ONLY for when you are going jogging!) might horrify a baker, shows us how dress is such an important and codified part of French culture.
It’s also just about fitting into Parisian culture: how do you have perfect skin, ballet flats, bedhead hair, a wardrobe full of classics that you put together each morning with a certain unique flair – and therefore be quintessentially, nonchalantly French?
Through the funny stories, we develop a real desire for Sarah to get it together – to accept the realities of rats, suburban life and commuting, stereotypes of Anglophones as everyday issues that need to be confronted in order to hold on to the dream of being Parisian. We want her to succeed and you’ll have to read the book to find out if and how she does!
Suggested by Alex from Life Well Wandered
The Room on Rue Amélie takes place during the Nazi Occupation of Paris, focusing in on how the war and day-to-day presence of the Germans affected the lives of American Ruby, her French husband Marcel, their neighbor and Jewish teenager Charlotte, and British Pilot Thomas. Told from alternating points of view, Kristin weaves their stories together as their lives intertwine.
Ruby falls in love and marries a Frenchman, Marcel, and the two move to Paris to begin their lives. Then World War II and the Occupation begins.
After Marcel disappears for long periods of time and ends up being killed, Ruby finds out how to contribute to the Resistance effort in her own way. Ruby’s neighbor, Charlotte Dacher, is 11 when the Nazis invade Paris and she and her family grow more anxious as word of the Nazi treatment of Jews spread. Thomas is a British pilot who ends up in Paris, crossing paths with Ruby and Charlotte and changing their lives forever.
You’ll like this book if you’re interested in the history of Paris during Nazi Occupation and how it affected the lives of ordinary citizens. If you’ve read books like The Lilac Girls or The Nightingale you’ll also enjoy this book.
Suggested by Karen Keathley from PostcardsFromNana.com
Paris Letters by Janice Macleod reads like a diary…in the best possible way! It reads like the diary of a writer. In fact, Janice is a writer, however, she is living a life that she doesn’t love in a job that she finds unbearably stressful. One day in the midst of her inner turmoil and loneliness she asks herself how much money she would need in order to quit her job.
She begins to save and the book actually has some great thoughts about finances and money and our relationship to both interwoven into the story.
She soon finds herself at loose ends in Paris and begins to discover not only herself but her creativity and zest for living.
I won’t say any more about the story so as not to give plot points away but I will say that I found this book delightful. The author, the writing, the pictures that she paints of Paris both with her watercolors and her words…are all delightful. It is also funny. I laughed at her descriptions of her struggles with the French language and French bureaucracy. It is also inspiring. I know that it helped me to remember that change is possible.
I think that this book would appeal to those who enjoy memoirs, those who love Paris, or those who dream of starting a new life in a new place.
Price: $12.84Was: $16.99
Suggested by Jan Robinson from BudgetTravelTalk.com
“If I am going to be traumatized then it might as well be in Paris”, was the desperate thought of American Sonia Choquette on the implosion of her 32 year- old marriage.
Joined by adult daughter Sabrina, spiritual teacher and Author Sonia arrives in Paris reeling from the shocking Charlie Hebdo massacre. In the following years, she and Paris share a soul-searching journey and inevitably a new reality.
Moving through a succession of apartments and arrondissements she shares honest, funny and unfortunate experiences along the way. After three months, she and Sabrina leave their initial Airbnb apartment in Montmarte. Dubbed the Old Lady, the apartment is shockingly cold and reeks of a pigeon filled atrium. A move across the Seine, to the quintessential Parisian neighborhood of the 7th Arrondissement, sees them living in a beautiful haunted apartment duly christened Old Man.
Readers are taken on long therapeutic walks, discovering each Quartier’s distinct character, visiting a long line of soul-nourishing Cafés and discovering the Paris Sonia loves.
Once again the search is on for a permanent and charming home in Paris – an apartment with high ceilings, tall French doors and perhaps a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe – a home to fill with memories of a happy new life in Paris.
If you’ve ever suffered trauma, dreamt of re-inventing yourself or living in the most beautiful city in the world, you will love this book.
Suggested by Hannah Henderson from HannahHendersonTravel.com
Rutherfurd spins a tale in Paris that spans centuries, combining historical fact with fictional characters. Among these characters are two brothers, one of whom works on building the Eiffel Tower, the other who becomes embroiled in the Pigalle underworld.
The 800+ pages are well worth the effort, as you learn a huge amount of history; all the while becoming intimately involved with the families whose stories link the past with the present-day Paris.
The most interesting chapters detail the development of Paris from the Belle Epoque through to World War II, a time which really helped to shape Paris into the city we know today. A city of art, culture, resistance, and a center for creatives, writers, and forward-thinkers.
As a lover of Paris, it was wonderful to learn more about the history of the city, from the 1200s through to WWII; and to have the City of Light come alive through Rutherfurd’s characters.
Suggested by Carol Perehudoff of WanderingCarol.com
The beauty of reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway when heading to Paris, is that you can experience so many of the same locations the author writes about in this masterful literary work of fiction.
If you’re interested in literature and learning more about the decadent Paris of the Twenties, this novel is a must-read. The cafes of Montparnasse, particularly, capture the essence of Paris in the Twenties, a heady time when so many literary figures, artists and expats made the City of Light their home – Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Hart Crane, and John Dos Passos to name a few.
Written in 1926, The Sun Also Rises captures the post World War I generation as few novels can, with a cast of characters representing a jaded world-weary attitude that seeped into the bars, cafes, and literature of the time. Through the book, you can step into the hot spots of the Twenties and the Lost Generation, such as the incomparable Cafe Select. Located at 99 Boulevard Montparnasse, and still greeting customers today, it’s one of the locations that the main character Jake, goes with his unattainable love, Lady Brett Ashley. The Rotonde, the Dome, and the Closeries des Lilas are three other historic Parisian cafes mentioned, and they’re an apt background for a plot that highlights the characters’ search for meaning in a turbulent time.
Though much of the novel is set in Spain, there are other Parisian landmarks in the book such as the Madeleine Church in the 8th arrondissement, and the Hotel de Crillon, a 5-star hotel that has recently been refurbished and is still on the map of ‘it’ destinations in the city.
Contributed by Ania from TheTravellingTwins.com
I have visited Paris several times, both before and after reading Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code. This book added a layer of mystery to Paris for me and changed my perception of the city.
The story follows Profesor of Harvard and symbolist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu as they try to solve a murder in the Louvre. Their search leads them to a member of Opus Dei trying to find the Holy Grail. The trail leads our protagonists and us around Paris. The Ritz Hotel where Robert Langdon is staying, the Left Bank, Saint-Sulpice Church, and the Louvre.
For all lovers of this story, I have a piece of good news: You can follow the Da Vinci trail when visiting Paris yourself. And for those who haven’t read this book here is yet one more morsel of trivia – Dan Brown’s book was banned in the Vatican, Lebanon, and India as being offensive to Christianity. I think it’s an excellent book for everyone who loves mystery and Paris.
Alternative Paris Travel Books
Get out of the box. Instead of the classic guidebooks, check out these alternative Paris travel books for a much more local feeling. Explore the different Arrondissements of Paris, learn their secrets and look for their hidden gems with these alternative travel books about Paris.
Written by a local journalist, she shows us all the most beautiful hidden corners and other gems in Paris.
A practical guide charmingly illustrated throughout to some delightful discoveries of Paris. A beautiful little book which provides insights into the “real Paris” the author knows and loves.
This comprehensive and illustrated guide is perfect for independent cultural travelers wishing to escape the crowds and understand cities from different and unusual point of views.
Best Books About Paris History
Any trip to Paris comes to a good dose of history, the streets of Paris have sooo many stories to tell. Here’s the list of our favorite Paris books covering interesting periods or chapters about the history of Paris.
This is a wonderfully written history of Paris by a noted historian and Francophile. The most readable, exciting, and informative history of Paris.
This bestseller that tells the remarkable story of the generations of American artists, writers, and doctors who traveled to Paris between 1830 and 1900 and how they changed America through what they learned.
Price: $13.78Was: $18.00
This is the history of Paris development from chaotic medieval alleyways to the commercial and chic Grand Boulevards.
Best Books About Paris Food & Wine
What’s the essence of the French cuisine? What to eat and drink in Paris? Check out our favorite books about Paris food & wine, perfect for food lovers.
The food-lovers official go-to guide for an incredible gastronomic adventure in the City of Lights.
New Yorker staff writer A.J. Liebling celebrates the richness and variety of French food, fondly recalling great meals and memorable wines during his stay in Paris.
Price: $7.47Was: $17.00
David Lebovitz is an American pastry chef living in Paris who writes about the bakeries, chocolates, cakes, restaurants and sometimes perplexing cultural differences in Paris.
Best Paris Fashion Books
How to dress like a Parisian? Do you need some inspiration for your Paris Packing List? These Paris fashion books here below cover anything from French fashion, Parisian chic and Paris Street Style.
A beautiful book with gorgeous illustrations about fashion in Paris. Megan Hess takes you through the French capital, showing you the best places for a fashionista to eat, sleep, shop and play.
A wise and witty guide with beautiful illustration to finding your personal style, taking inspiration from how real Parisian women dress. This is really useful with many practical advices.
Don’t you know how to dress like a Parisian woman? This book gives clear ideas on building your wardrobe to look chic, with that “French touch”. Great ideas on what to add or adapt from your existing clothes and accessories.
Best Paris Books for Kids
If you are traveling to Paris with kids, you may want to inspire them with a couple of kids books about Paris. Our little Paris Reading List includes fun and educational books for kids of all ages. These Paris books for kids are perfect to learn about the City of Lights and get them as excited as you for their next trip to Paris.
“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines the smallest one was Madeline.” Our little Parisian heroine is everybody’s favorite. Great for ages 4 and up, the kind of books “Please read it to me again,” in children
A fun and informative way for kids to learn about the French Impressionists and some of their masterworks.
Let your kids become little experts about Paris through curious facts, challenging tasks, quizs, and games. A fun way to see Paris through the kids eyes.
We hope that you liked our Paris Reading List. What is your favorite book about Paris?
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