Once I graduated from college, I had lots of time to myself again. Although I miss the late night girl talk, meetings at 8 p.m., working out in the middle of the day, and rolling out of bed for class — ok, wow that’s a lot — I’m also really enjoying this calmer pace of post-grad life. I’ve been using this time to explore my own hobbies: blogging, exercise and reading. As a girl, I always loved D.E.A.R. time at school, but when life got busy, that was one of the first things to go. But now that I have time, I’m re-exploring this pastime and combining it with my love of France. Today I’m sharing the 13 best books set in France.
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In search of a good read, I strolled through Target, and this one stood out to me. Not only was it on sale, but it also was highly rated by Target. Okay, so it was an impulse buy, but it ended up being a good one. Kristin Harmel’s book is a World War II love story of a woman hiding Allied pilots. And although cheesy at times, I devoured that novel once I really got into it.
I have a weak spot for World War II novels set in France. So when the magazine I worked for was sent this book to review, my editor said it was all mine. The story follows a World War II woman and a present-day woman who’s suffered a terrible accident and lost her memory. The novel switches back and forth between the 1940s and present day to eventually reveal the connection between the two women.
We’ve all heard the name and seen the labels. But little know the saga that is the life of French icon Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Her story is one of a flawed hero: Coco went from rags to riches, thanks to her sewing ability, but her life is splotched by her Nazi sympathies. Gortner skillfully weaves in historical fact with compelling narrative to create a novel to paint Coco in all her beauty, blemishes and all. Out of all the books on this list, this is one of my favorites.
And yet another World War II book set in France — hey, at least I’m predictable! It’s been quite some time since I’ve read this one, but it’s worth mentioning. If you’re looking for a feel good book, this isn’t it, but Sarah’s Key is still a great read. Moments before getting arrested during World War II, 10-year-old Sarah locks her brother in a cabinet, thinking she’ll return soon.
If you’re looking for the best books set in France for your coffee table, this is it. Photos of the City of Light cover the pages of this hardcover and are divided by color. It’s a gorgeous book, and every France lover needs this on the bookshelf. If you really like this book, there’s a stationery set with photos from this book.
My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine by Kate Betts
I’ve dreamed about being a big-time magazine editor and also love France intensely. So when I saw the description on this book, I knew I needed to pick it up. Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue editor Kate Betts writes a memoir on her fledgling days in the 1980s as a fashion journalist trying to make it in Paris.
My journalism background means I’m a nonfiction gal by nature. So when I saw that this was a true story about the most decorated spy during World War II, I knew I had to read it. While this book is thoroughly researched down to the nitty gritty, it’s extremely captivating and full of suspense. This novel about French woman Odette Sansom is also filled with real photos of her and places mentioned in the book. Code Name: Lise is a must for any history junkie, but especially for France lovers. As far as best books set in France, this one is near the top of my list.
Watched Julie & Julia and looking to learn more about this cooking icon? This memoir is written by Julia herself along with her brother-in-law’s grandson, who co-wrote and eventually finished the book after she passed at age 91. I’ve just started getting into this one, but if you’re a foodie looking to follow the journey of an American who fell in love with France, this one’s for you.
Have you ever wondered what makes Paris one of the most visited gems in the entire world? I mean, really, what makes it such a captivating place? If you’re a history buff, then this one is for you. With illustrations and paintings sprinkled in, the book takes a historical approach to the rise of one of the most influential cities. This one is on my list, for sure.
Planning a trip to Paris or dreaming of one? This pocket-sized book is your field guide to all things Paris and divides it up by arrondissement. She shares her favorite spots in the City of Light along with why you should visit and must-haves from each. My sister bought this for my birthday one year, and not only is the info inside practical, but it’s also a perfect coffee table book.
How to be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas
I have yet to read this one but see this title on other francophile’s coffee tables and blog posts. Immerse yourself in the vignette-like anecdotes of these four Parisian best friends and what it means to be a French woman.
How is it that France has some of the most delectable, Michelin-starred food, yet it’s the Americans who are obese? Dubbed the “non-diet book,” this read unpacks the idea of eating for pleasure and the French paradox of how this country eats exquisitely yet stays thin. If you’re looking for the best books set in France, this is one to add to your list — it’s on mine!
I stumbled upon Lindsey Tramuta’s blog Lost in Cheeseland years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it for its striking name. I’m also a sucker for any and all blogs about Americans in France. She recently released a book about the female movers and shakers in the City of Light, and the praise for this book is overwhelming. I have yet to read this book, but it’s on my list!
The world’s fascination with France is nothing new, and there are ample bookshelves to prove it. I hope you francophiles get to read some of these books set in France très bientôt !