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Readers Respond: What's your favorite book about French or France?

Responses: 52

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You've probably glanced through dozens of French travel guides and grammar books, but what about the human side of learning French and visiting France? There is some great non-fiction out there - humorous yet helpful, fun but not frivolous. I've shared my favorite non-fiction books related to French and France, so tell me about yours!

My Life in France, by Julia Child

Right after World War II ends, Julia Child and her husband move to Paris where he serves in the Diplomatic Corps. It is during this time that Julia seizes on learning to cook like the French and brings a French cookbook to the American housewife. Mastering the Art of French Cooking I is the by-product. Delightful memoir written at an advanced age.
—Guest papergirl

Les Français (3rd ed.) by Wylie Brière

A book, in French, for intermediate to advanced French students, which attempts to explain and give empirical evidence for why and how les français et les americains misunderstand each other. Culture is based in the social, political, and educational history of a people, and the authors give examples and evidence for the statements they make, contrasting the way the French see themselves in relation to space, for example, and contrast that to the way Americans do. I have read only the first chapter but I am delighted with this book! It is written in such a way that technical words are understandable in context. It is obtainable relatively inexpensively online.
—Guest Leigh

The Discovery Of France

I never realized just how fascinating the story of the French language was until this book. Until about 100 years ago, the language we now call "French" was only spoken by roughly 20% (if memory serves) of the country! You could start in one village, walk a mile down the road to another village, and there they would speak another language entirely, and neither villager could understand the other! Amazing, quick read. Highly recommended for any fellow francophiles.
—evanblanton

Paris The Secret History - Andrew Hussey

This is easily the most interesting and intriguing account of what has gone into making Paris the city that it is that I have come across. Every chapter is packed with intriguing facts and stories, and ends with an interesting link to the present. I found it unputdownable. Hussey is a former Liverpool musician who fell in love with Paris as punk busker (when punks were fashionable), and went on to become a journalist and academic in the city which has become his home. Fascinating, unusual book, thoroughly recommended.
—Guest John Booker

A Moveable Feast

Ernest Hemingway's tales of his life as a young struggling writer, living in Paris. The stories describe expat life in 1920s Paris, and offer interesting perspectives on Hemingway's effort to become a professional writer. It is enjoyable to read, both in English and in French.
—Guest TonyCJ2

A Family In Paris

'A family in Paris' is my favourite book on french culture, and as a francophile who has read many books on france, that's saying something! I love the descriptions of the places and arrondissments, culture, fashion and perhaps most of all, the simple (but somehow chic) day to day activities. This book really powered my passion for Paris and parisien culture. Highly recommended.
—Guest Marie-Rosina

Favourite book about France

The fictional books that really started me learning about French history and gave me a love of France and desire to visit the places in the book (which I have done) was the Angelique series by Serge & Ann Golon. Never was there such a hero as Geoffrey de Peyrac or as admirable and feisty a heroine in Angelique. I just wish Ann's publishers would release and translate her final novel in the series set in Quebec, which they have held up for years because of a dispute.
—Guest Elaine

Suite Française

Irène Némirovsky's masterpiece, published at the beginning of the German occupation.
—Guest Bevan Davies

Paris Discovered, by Mary McAuliffe

Places in Paris which are not "tourist attractions" but which have links with so much of her history, stories told with an historian's insight and knowledge warmed with the writer's love for all things about Paris.
—Guest Frances Elliott

Villa Air-bel

wonderful account of an american's effort to get artists andwriters out of france at beginning of WW2. This young man, Varian Fry, had 200 people on his list but in 13 months saved over 3000, i think. He is the only American to have received the highest Israeli award. Beautifully researched and written.
—Guest marlene Budzynski

re Jean de Florette

Not charming! A dipiction of two faced small town self righteousness which escalates into the destruction on an innocent man's dreams!
—Guest guest scuff

Living in Provence

Although I have never lived in France, but have that as #1 on my Bucket List, I'd like to refer you to a book written by a family friend who left the rat race of business in San Francisco to spend a year in the town of Uzes, in Provence. She (Suzanne Saxe-Roue) and her husband wrote a wonderful book about their experiences called Courage and Croissants, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to live in France. She can be contacted at Suzanne@healthyjoyfulliving.com.
—Joanne Serin

French or Foe? by Polly Pratt

This book wonderfully explained many things I didn't know about French attitudes (despite my PhD in French and living in France some 30 years!). Buy fast-- the author has died, so book may soon be out of print.
—pbchloe

Les Miserables

I loved this book! From the entire chapter about the value of pooh to the shocking portrayal of poverty in France at the time. It's just a shame that such poverty and injustice still exists, all wrapped up behind the shiny faces of the likes of David Cameron or Sarkozy. Revolution now!
—Guest Philip

In re: "The Necklace"

In re: Izis Marvel's suggestion (q.v.) of "The Necklace": The French title of the story to which she refers is "La Parure" not "La Ficelle." Nota bene. By Guy de Maupassant. Excellent recommendation, but I recommend "La Mule du Pape" by Alphonse Daudet. Gentle; humorous; heart-warming. And very colorful and delightful and, above all, fanciful language. Set in medieval Avignon. "Qui n'a pas vu Avignon du temps des Papes, n'a rien vu." The story reveals the origin of the adage that Daudet says is, or was, current in Provence, "Il est comme la mule du Pape, qui garde sept ans son coup de pied." The final "scene" of the story reminds one for all the world of poor ol' Wile E. Coyote at the unfortunate conclusion of one of his ill-conceived attempts to nab The Roadrunner. Short; intermediate-level; highly recommended. Daudet's fanciful language is charming!
—Guest Richard

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