Paris inspiration: find out the 10 books about Paris you need to read before your trip.
Ah, Paris… The city of Love! Of Lights! Of art and literature too! With so many great things going for it it’s no wonder there have been thousands of books published about Paris.
But you can’t be expected to read thousands of books before your Paris vacation, can you?
Pick a few from below to get inspired for your Paris trip!
Author: Irène Némirovsky
Page count: 484
If any of you are history nerds like me, you’ll love this novel by French Jewish author Irène Némirovsky. The novel was originally intended to be a part of a 5 part series about life in France in 1940.
Sadly before she finished the series, Némirovsky was captured by the Nazis in 1942. Her work remains unfinished.
Némirovsky’s daughters held onto the writing, publishing it in her honor in 1998. Pay homage to Némirovsky and get to reading!
A Moveable Feast
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Page count: 181
Yep, you knew this one was going to make the cut. You may not be a fan of Ernest Hemingway… Let’s face it, he was kind of a jerk. But there’s no denying the greatness of his novel A Moveable Feast. Set in 1920s Paris, the autobiographical piece traces Hemingway’s newly-married life.
Commit this quote to memory in mind and heart: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
Paris to the Moon
Author: Adam Gopnik
Page count: 342
Adam Gopnik was an American who moved to Paris to work as a correspondent for The New Yorker. Paris to the Moon is his collection of writings about life in Paris.
Image: Google Books
His writing highlights the ups, downs, and difficulties of being an expat living in France.
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Author: Victor Hugo
Page count: 704
This, ladies and gentlemen, is THE classic of Paris classics. Victor Hugo wrote the novel in an attempt to save Notre Dame Cathedral, which at the time was slated to be torn down.
Image: First manuscript page by Victor Hugo, Encyclopédie Autodidactique Quillet, Tome 3, 1960.
Quite the successful marketing campaign, wouldn’t you say?
Everyone knows the characters: a gypsy named Esmerelda, and the hunchback Quasimodo who is in love with her. The story takes place in and around Notre Dame in the mid-1800s. Since Paris is has barely changed at all over the years, you’ll recognize places you may have been in your own visits! However, the Paris described by Hugo is markedly different than what we see today.
Author: Tatiana De Rosnay
Page count: 294
Image: Google books
This book is centered around the WWII round up of thousands of Jewish families in Paris. The round up and shipping out of families to various concentration camps across Europe is a huge scar in France’s history. However, it’s an important book that will give you serious insight into France and Paris.
This is another great book for history buffs. The story switches back and forth between the 1940s and present day and is very moving. It’s a hard read, but very worth it.
My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories
Author: David Lebovitz
Page count: 352 (includes recipes)
Do you need a break from heavy reading? You’ll want to get this book by author David Lebovitz. Who doesn’t love yummy food? And funny stories about Paris? Lebovitz is one of our favorites, and this book tells the story of his life after he decided to pack up and ship out to Paris.
Image: David Lebovitz
That was 10 years ago and during that time Lebovitz has collected his fair share of funny experiences. Sandwiched between delicious recipes, Lebovitz bares all about what it’s like for an American chef to live in Paris.
The Dud Avocado
Author: Elaine Dundy
Page count: 260
The Dud Avocado is set in the 1950s. What a time to live in Paris! It follows the life of character Sally as she lives as an aspiring actress in Paris… on the dime of a rich uncle, no less.
The book is beautifully written and trust me, you won’t want to put it down. Between the stories of cocktail parties, failed performances, and her trips to the Ritz with her Italian lover, it’s hard not to love and envy Sally at the same time.
Tropic of Cancer
Author: Henry Miller
Page count: 318
This suggestion is for the more, er, adventurous readers. Tropic of Cancer was originally banned in the United States after its initial publication for its graphic sexual excerpts.
Thankfully, we don’t ban books anymore, and today it is available everywhere. The book details Miller’s time in Paris and surrounding towns, and also includes passages about his love affair with famous writer, Anais Nin.
The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain
Page count: 352
Okay, so you’ve read A Movable Feast. Not impressed with Hemingway? That’s okay because, spoiler alert: Hemingway is not a great husband to his first wife Hadley when they are together in Paris.
We see Hemingway’s side of things in A Moveable Feast, so now it’s time to see things from Hadley’s point of view. This is a work of fiction, but it is very well written, and it helps the reader see the Hadley/Hemingway relationship from both sides.
Down and Out in Paris and London
Author: George Orwell
Page count: 213
You’ll recognize George Orwell for his most famous novel 1984. However, this story about poverty in Paris and London in the 1930s is also an amazing piece.
Image: Google books
You all know and love the romanticized Paris we see today, don’t you? But it wasn’t always the beautiful city of croissants and free flowing wine portrayed in books and film. For those of you interested in the grimier side of Parisian history, this book is for you.
So, there you have it! Our list of 10 books to read about Paris before you visit. You don’t have to read ALL of them, but one or two would be a great way to get exited about your trip.
Have we missed any?