Books Every Francophile Should Read

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Perhaps no country is more alluring than France, the land of flaky pastries, opulent palaces, and effortless fashion.

I’ve been a Francophile since my first visit to Paris when I was sixteen. Since then I’ve acquired more Eiffel Tower figurines than a Parisian souvenir shop. I have a subscription to a magazine devoted exclusively to French food and culture. I even attempted to learn French, until I realized I’d have more luck learning to juggle chainsaws, blindfolded (On a good day my accent sounds like a German with a speech impediment).

And because I can’t hop on a plane to Paris whenever the mood strikes—which is, generally speaking, daily—I curl up in my recliner with a stale pastry and live out my French daydreams vicariously through books.

Below is a list of books every Francophile should read:

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Published posthumously, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast paints a beautiful picture of the literary expat community in Paris during the 1920s. With a glittering cast of characters and its lovely Parisian setting, this book is perfect for people who adore both France and literature.

Though he’s more famous for his novels, A Moveable Feast is my favorite Hemingway work. Because unlike most of his books, which are as uplifting as drunk driving commercials, A Moveable Feast made me feel warm and fuzzy and desperate to book a trip to Paris.

Buy it here.

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik

In 1995, Adam, his wife, and their young son relocate from New York City to Paris. Paris to the Moon is a collection of Gopnick’s hilarious experiences as an expat adjusting to life in France.

Though the book felt uneven in parts, his cultural observations contrasting American and French culture made me laugh so hard I cried.

Buy it here.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

In a similar vein, British author Peter Mayle writes about how he and his wife left England and bought a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in Provence. In A Year in Provence, Mayle gives a humorous month-by-month account of their first year in France.

This book is especially enjoyable for those who love French food, as eating is one of Mayle’s primary occupations.

Buy it here.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Though often overshadowed by his more famous work, The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night is another brilliant novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Set on the French Riviera in the 1920s, Tender is the Night tells the story of the rise and fall of Dick Diver and his mentally unstable wife. Much of the storyline was based on Fitzgerald’s own experience with his wife Zelda.

Buy it here.

I’ll Always Have Paris by Art Buchwald

In 1948, Art Buchwald bought a one-way ticket to Paris with the intention of becoming a writer. What he lacks in experience he makes up for with ego and confidence. Improbably, he snags a job as an entertainment columnist for the prestigious Paris Herald Tribune.

 In I’ll Always Have Paris, Buchwald looks back on the wild years he spent living large as a writer in Paris.

Buy it here.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Bored with her life as a provincial housewife, protagonist Emma Bovary seeks excitement in an affair. Quite predictably, she sets in motion a downwards spiral of self-destruction and scandal.

Though not an uplifting read, Flaubert’s novel is brilliantly written and offers a glimpse into rural life in France during the 1800s.

Buy it here.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosney

Set during WWII, Sarah, a 10-year-old Jewish girl, and her family are arrested by French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup. Before she leaves, Sarah locks her little brother in a cupboard, assuming she’ll be back later that day to retrieve him.

In 2002, a journalist uncovers the story of what had happened on that dark day in French history.

Buy the book here.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Perhaps no opening line is as famous as this one from Dickens’ classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

Set in both Paris and London, the novel takes place during the brutal French Revolution. Like most Dickens novels, A Tale of Two Cities doesn’t shy away from the gritty aspects of life.

Dickens’ masterful writing makes reading about historic events vastly more interesting than those dry Western Civ. textbooks you slogged through in school.

Buy it here.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Set during WWII in occupied France, Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of a brilliant German boy and a blind French girl whose paths ultimately cross. Doerr’s evocative writing and beautiful storytelling make All the Light We Cannot See a pleasure to read.

Buy it here.

As with every book list ever written, this one is far from exhaustive. Which books would you add?


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Books Every Francophile Should Read

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