My love of reading books based in Paris and its surrounds encompass what I like to call a nostalgic obsession that extends past just reading. Not only will I read the book, I’ll most probably research the topic and history of the subject and have often searched Google Earth for street views. Yep, being an avid researcher, writer and Francophile (a lover of all things French) I’m bound to do more than just read the text available in a book. If you’re a Francophile and bookworm like me, I’m sure you’re often on the hunt for books set in Paris and it’s surrounds. So, just for you, here are the top ten books every Francophile should read.
Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana De Rosnay, 2006
A shocking and profoundly moving story set in Paris during two separate time periods: 1942 and now. Based on true events.
Themes: Jewish roundup in Paris, a family torn apart, family secrets, and a key to a hidden cupboard.
Who’s it for? If you’re interested in Paris during the occupation of Germany in 1942. An excellent read for Historical Fiction lovers.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, 2008
Renée Michel, a concierge of an upscale Apartment in Paris, deliberately conceals her intelligence but is uncovered by a precocious girl named Paloma Josse.
Themes: Philosophy, class consciousness, and personal conflict.
Who’s it for? Readers who enjoy intelligent prose full of references to literary works, music, films, paintings, and the high-class of Parisian society.
The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George and Simon Pare (translator), 2015
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life.
Themes: Loss, traveling through France, and an emotional personal journey.
Who’s it for? For readers who enjoy contemporary romance filled with warmth and adventure.
A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, 1964
A memoir about his years as a struggling, young, expatriate journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s. Hemingway provides specific addresses of apartments, bars, cafes, and hotels; many of which can still be found in Paris today (or Google Earth it- I did!). His accounts of interacting with literary greats include F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and even the famed artist Pablo Picasso.
Themes: Poverty, life as a writer in Paris, literature, and personal accounts.
Who’s it for? For lovers of Paris during the 1920s and literary greats.
A Paris Affair, by Tatiana de Rosnay, 2015
A brazen yet heartfelt collection of stories that explores our most intimate and forbidden desires.
Themes: Forbidden desires, infidelity, and emotional journeys.
Who’s it for? Readers looking for a highly entertaining collection of short stories set in Paris that can be read in a couple of hours.
Paris, by Edward Rutherfurd, 2013
This riveting and romantic story begins in La Belle Époque, the golden, hedonistic age of peace and joie de vivre in Paris. A skilled fusion of fact and fiction, a display of famous and notorious people and events.
Themes: La Belle Époque, self-discovery, divided loyalty, and long-kept secrets.
Who’s it for? Lovers of the history, art, culture and the people of Paris.
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, T E Carhart, 2000
A charming portrait of Paris and the awakening of a lost childhood passion.
Themes: Renewed passion, Parisian culture, and music.
Who’s it for? Those who have an appreciation for the music of Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Bach, Scarlatti and the other composers mentioned throughout this enchanting novel.
Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs, by Jeremy Mercer, 2005
An enchanting memoir of a struggling writer living and working in the famed Parisian bookshop, ‘Shakespeare and Company’.
Themes: Books, poverty, Paris, and personal accounts.
Who’s it for? Those who have a nostalgic wistfulness for the past and lovers of literature.
The Hare With Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal, 2010
A memoir of Waal’s remarkable family, the Ephrussi, once a very wealthy European Jewish banking dynasty, centered in Odessa, Vienna and Paris, and peers of the Rothschild family.
Themes: Ephrussi Dynasty, Aryanization of Jewish property in Paris, art, history, and family.
Who’s it for? Those interested in Nazi occupation in Paris and the fall of the Ephrussis.
A Night at the Majestic, by Richard Davenport-Hines, 2006
At the Majestic Hotel in Paris on May 18, 1922, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky ate together for the first and last time. This story is a creative blend of fact and fiction of what happened on that night.
Themes: Literary greats, artists, the role of sexuality, and Paris in the 1920’s.
Who’s it for? Those who have a historical interest for literary greats and artists in Paris during the 1920’s will really enjoy this historical account of fact and fiction.
From memoirs, to short stories, to fiction; from La Belle Époque, to the 20’s in Paris, to the contemporary Paris we know today; you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for in the perfect book (or books) based in Paris and its surrounds.