- November 6, 2018
- All things Paris
- Amanda Mehtala
During this time of uncertainty, many of us have been instructed to stay home for the foreseeable future. While this rules out the opportunity of seeing the beautiful Paris in the flesh, there are still ways you can immerse yourself in parisian culture from the comfort of your own home. One of our favourite pastimes is reading - what better way to get through the coming days of self-isolation than by picking up one of our favourite books centred around the city itself?
Paris has seemingly forever drawn literary figures from all over the world, inspiring countless works all about the City of Lights. Whether you're planning a trip to Paris and looking for some Paris books to read beforehand, or simply a francophile in need of a fix of your favorite French capital, here's our hand-selected favorites, the best 10 books about Paris!
For those seeking a Parisian cabinet of curiosities - Don’t be a tourist in Paris by Vanessa Grall
Off-beat, eclectic guide to Paris from famed blogger Vanessa Grall - creator of MessyNessyChic - Nessy shows you how to walk Paris's streets like a local: find the most eccentric architecture, get cozy in hidden cafes, party in the catacombs, tour the city with a broken heart, and wander like a true bohemian. A lively, eccentric and esoteric guide to the hidden Paris of your dreams, from an outsider who's made it her home. Vanessa Grall is a London girl who moved to Paris and never looked back. Her alternative guide to Paris can be described as a 'chic cabinet of curiosities', recording her bohemian adventures in the city. Her eye for style, both classic and kitsch, have even brought her beyond the City of Lights, look for a very non-touristy guide to NYC coming soon!
For the forward-thinking francophile - The New Paris by Lindsey Tramuta
After living in the City of Lights for 10 years, Lindsey began to notice an undercurrent of change, an unspoken movement taking over Paris that remained to be truly captured and put into words. The New Paris - The people, places, and ideas fueling a movement seeks to do just that, to identify the underlying themes of change shared in the stories of many Parisians; themes of infusing young international talent into French tradition, or of a newly embraced propensity to achieve ones dreams in a complete career shift. Tying it all together are profiles of Parisians, Q&As with some of the leaders in each movement, and a whole lot of context to tell you what has shifted, how, and why it’s important for the city.
For a taste of quintessential Paris - The Only Street in Paris by Elaine Sciolino
Part memoir, part travelogue, part love letter to the people who live and work on a magical street in Paris. Elaine Sciolino, the former Paris Bureau Chief of the New York Times, invites us on a tour of her favorite Parisian street, offering an homage to street life and the pleasures of Parisian living. With rich history full of quirky anecdotes, rue des Martyrs comes to life through its inhabitants. The Only Street in Paris will make readers hungry for Paris, for cheese and wine, and for the kind of street life that is all too quickly disappearing.
For the forever romantic - Je t’aime me Neither Parisian adventure series
Is Paris really the eternal City of Love? Author and blogger Lily Heise explores this in her two funny novelized memoirs, Je T'Aime, Me Neither and its sequel Je T'Aime... Maybe?, about looking for romance in Paris. Far from la vie en rose Lily's hilarious romantic roller coaster involves the most unusual range of suitors from exciting jet fighter pilots to elegant (and very married) counts and from rebellious rock stars to lovestruck Latinos and the most surprising scenarios. These lively tales will leave you laughing or crying, at the very least, eager to turn the page to see what could possibly happen next!
– “If you’re looking for a sort of Parisian-style Bridget Jones, you’ll love Je T’Aime… Maybe?” – Heather Stimmler, author of Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City.
For a taste of 1920s Paris - The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history and pours himself into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is is an insider look at the love and loss of one of the most famous Americans in Paris.
For a look at the modernisation of Paris - How Paris became Paris by Joan DeJean
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Paris was known for isolated monuments but had not yet put its brand on urban space. Like other European cities, it was still emerging from its medieval past. But in a mere century Paris would be transformed into the modern and mythic city we know today.
Though most people associate the signature characteristics of Paris with the public works of the nineteenth century, Joan DeJean demonstrates that the Parisian model for urban space was in fact invented two centuries earlier, when the first complete design for the French capital was drawn up and implemented. As a result, Paris saw many changes. Venues opened for urban entertainment of all kinds, from opera and ballet. A century of planned development made Paris both beautiful and exciting. It gave Paris its modern identity, and by 1700, Paris had become the capital that would revolutionize our conception of the city and of urban life.
For the incredible figures Paris has seen - The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris by David McCullough
the remarkable story of the generations of American artists, writers, and doctors who traveled to Paris, the intellectual, scientific, and artistic capital of the western world, fell in love with the city and its people, and changed America through what they learned, told by America’s master historian, David McCullough. Telling their stories with power and intimacy, McCullough brings readers into the lives of remarkable men and women whose stories have led them to make history not in the West, but in Paris.
For the history buff - Metronome by Lorant Deutsch
A fascinating history of Paris through the lens of the city's iconic Metro system. Did you know that the last Gallic warriors massacred by the Romans lie beneath the Eiffel Tower? That the remains of Paris's first cathedral are under a parking lot in the Fifth District? Metronome follows Loránt Deutsch, historian and lifelong Francophile, as he goes on a compelling journey through the ages, treating readers to Paris as they've never seen it before. Using twenty-one stops of the subway system as focal points—one per century—Deutsch shows, from the underground up, the unique, often violent, and always striking events that shaped one of the world's most romanticized city. The book has even been made into a French television series by the same name!
For the Paris dreamer - Doorways of Paris by Raquel Puig
With more than three hundred photographs of Paris’s most enchanting doorways from Raquel Puig, creator of the popular Instagram account of the same name, Doorways of Paris presents a whole new way to explore the most beautiful city in the world. Organized by arrondissement so residents and visitors alike can seek out the doors as they walk, this book celebrates the glories of the city’s architecture, from Napoleonic majesty to art nouveau whimsy, Haussmannian symmetry to art deco elegance. Doorways of Paris is a portal to Parisian life that will have readers longing to find a doorway to call their own.
For the sweet tooth - The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
A deliciously funny, offbeat, and irreverent look at the city of lights, cheese, chocolate, and other confections. Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city and after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he finally moved to Paris to start a new life. But he soon discovered it's a different world en France. From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men's footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David's story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city. Once you stop laughing, the more than fifty original recipes, for dishes both savory and sweet, will have you running to the kitchen for your own taste of Parisian living.
Paris books honorable mentions:
Classics: Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris and Les Misérables, or Julia Child's My Life in France
Something new: Olivier Giraud, star of one-man-show How to Become Parisian in One Hour, just released his own bilingual EN/FR book Le guide pratique du parfait parisien
For the family: A timeless classic, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans