Friday, April 08, 2005

Booked in France

A while ago someone asked me if I had a list of books about France that I would recommend. Well, here are most of the books about France that I have read while here. Mainly, I've listed the basic living books, not others like the Marie Antoinette biography that I really enjoyed.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you agree or disagree with my assessment of a particular book. Also, if you think I've left some basic book about life in France off this list, let me know. Finally, if you have a recommendation about a book on France, pass it on, I'm always looking for a good read.

French Cheeses. This is a really great book to look up all the cheeses that are available in France.

Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, Don Kladstrup, Petie Kladstrup. This is one of my favorite books. It's part history and part good story about how the French hid their national treasure (wine, champagne) during WWII.

Hachette Guide To French Wines 2005: The Definitive Guide To Over 9,000 of the Best Wines in France, Hachette. It's always handy to have a guide on wine... which years you should buy...

French: The Secrets of Classic Cooking Made Easy, Carole Clements. BUY THIS BOOK! This is my French cookbook bible. There is a picture of every recipe and the recipes are easy to follow. This is the every day person's French cookbook.

Paris Sweets : Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops, Dorie Greenspan. I haven't bought this book, but I think Dorie is wonderful and if I ever do buy a dessert book, this would be the one.

Food Lover's Guide to Paris, 4th edition, Patricia Wells. I don't care much for Patricia Wells cookbooks, but I do like this handy reference guide. If you just plan to visit France and enjoy some good food places, e.g., wine bars and tea salons, this is a great book.

Paris Then & Now (Then and Now International Series), Peter and Oriel Caine. I've written about how much I like Peter Caine. This book is a favorite present for those who love Paris.

Around and About Paris, Volume 3: New Horizons: Haussmann's Annexation (Arrondissements 13 - 20) , Thirza Vallois. Thirza has done a lot of research for this series of books on the arrondissements.

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier , Thad Carhart. A very pleasant book about a man, his love of pianos, and his friendship with a Frenchman.

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French, Jean-Benoit Nadeau, Julie Barlow. A bit too serious for me, but so many people loved this book. Written by two Canadians journalists, it has lots of information and many insights about France. Best of the genre.

Le Divorce. Diane Johnson. This book is all story, but provides many insights into cultural differences.

Le Bus : Répertoire des 310 lignes Paris-Banlieue, toutes les stations, les correspondences. The bus is my favorite transportation in Paris. If you want to see more of the city as you are going from one museum to the next, buy this book to figure out the many bus routes.

Plan de ville : Paris par arrondissements, Plans Ponchet. This is one of the books that you'd see a Parisian carry around. Very detailed maps of Paris. Parisians out of their "quartier" are tourists. You can feel like you belong having this in your hands as opposed to a "Let's Go Paris" guide.

Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik. Mixed reviews on this book, but another opportunity to learn more about living in Paris. It came out just as I moved here and it influenced my view of the city. I now have my own opinions and so I don't fully agree with it. Plus I've read a number of first person accounts of France like Nicholas DelBanco's annoying "Running in Place" and have tired of the author as unwitting hero formula.

The Josephine Bonaparte Collection: The Many Lives and Secret, Sorrows of Josephine B., Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe, and The Last Great Dance on Earth, Sandra Gulland. Most women I have met in Paris have read this trilogy. It's historical fiction about Josephine Bonaparte. The story telling is great and for me, at least, it got me very interested in reading more about French history.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris. Honestly, I haven't read this book. My husband read it when we first arrived and laughed all the way through. Since I rarely read the same books my husband reads... I just lost interest in it. However, many people have read this book and really enjoyed it.

Zagats. Even if you come for a long weekend, it is worth buying this book. Why get a mediocre meal in France, when there are plenty of places that are reasonably priced with delicious food? This book will help you make the right choices.

Almost French, Sarah Turnbull. I didn't care much for this book because she seemed to whine and bitch a lot, but so many others have enjoyed it. I think, once again, it had some insights into the cultural differences but I just couldn't get past the fine whine.

A Year in the Merde, Stephen Clarke. I'm reading this book right now. He's a twenty something that lived in Paris for a year working at a French company and has a lot of attitude about the experience. His sexual escapades dominate the story, but there are, once again, insights into cultural differences that make it interesting but the sophmoric behavior is grating.

Paris with Kids, Fodor's. This is a great book if you are coming to Paris with kids. There are plenty of ideas of places to go that will hold the interest of your children.

Monuments That Tell Stories of Paris, Jean Daly. This is a beautiful Paris guide for children of the main monuments. I've bought this book a dozen times to bring back to the children of friends in the US.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:20 PM



One of my favorite books about Paris is Above Paris by Robert Cameron and Pierre Salinger. I bought it when it first came out for big bucks, but now I see it occasionally on the sale table at B and N for cheap! A must have coffee table book for all Paris lovers!
Thanks Auntie M for all the great suggestions!

# posted by Kelley : 2:23 AM  

The Marie Antoinette biography that you mentioned at the beginning, was that Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France (or something like that)? Because I've heard of that book and I was wondering if it was any good, as I'm interested in reading it.

# posted by Sophie : 5:43 AM  

You HAVE to read the David Sedaris book. It's extremely funny.

I tried to read Wine & War but found the writing too over-dramatic but at the same time too boring to get into the story. I'll have to give it another try since you give it such a good review.

Another must have for your list is the essay collection: France: A Love Story. It gives good insight into French life overall, not just in Paris.

I enjoyed Almost French and instead of finding the complaining annoying, I completely related to it. At the time I was also complaining about many of the same things. Maybe I could relate to it because I was also here on account of being married to someone French.
I don't know though if I'd be whining if I was living in Paris and interviewing famous fashion designers!

# posted by Anna : 8:17 AM  

I love "Me Talk Pretty One Day" too, but anyone picking it up for stories of France should be warned that the France stories are only in the second half of the book. ;) The whole thing is really hilarious though.

# posted by ViVi : 9:24 AM  

I would recommend 1,000 Buildings Of Paris, by Brockmann/Driscoll, which is just what it says -- 1,000 photos of the most beautiful and interesting buildings in my favorite city, with some text, too.

# posted by Amy Alkon : 9:25 AM  

Good gosh! I've got some reading to do! I do have a very dog-eared 1997 copy of Paris Pratique (not sure if they just changed the title to plan de Paris or what), though.

Husband (French) ordered the Sixty Million Frenchmen book. He thinks it's very witty and well-written. I just started it, and I'm totally bummed that they mention Sarlat and Les Veyzieres in Dordogne (Périgord). My FIL had a house down there and we used to spend our summer holidays there. I don't want anyone else to know about it!! It's ours!
Great job on the book list!

# posted by RighteousBiche : 2:54 PM  

Kelley, I'll have to check out Above Paris. I love photo books.
Pilar, I read Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser. It's was a great read.
Anna, I will try to read Sedaris. Regarding Almost French, my American friends who are married to Frenhmen completely related to her story, so maybe it was just me. I read it and felt like you mentioned... she gets to do really cool, great things (interview fashion gods) that most people will never get to do and still she complains!
Vivi, I must read this book!
Amy, I think I've heard about that book. I love the building here, so I'm sure I will like your recommendation.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 2:57 PM  

I only really popped in to have a mooch around but now I am gonna have to go and by a book...

I mean it would juts be rude not to wouldn't it.


# posted by Yoggy Adams : 4:48 PM  

This is a wonderful recap of some good books and I trust you Auntie M. Wine & War - my favorite here, I like the telling of how far people went to protect their wines; Paris Sweets - wonderful background info and recipes; Plan de ville - this is what our son's former teacher gave us to use when we stayed w. her and it is much better than even anything Michelin!

I'll be looking for more of your reviews! Terry in SF

# posted by Anonymous : 5:31 PM  

I think I'll check out that one then, since now I've heard a good review of it. Thanks for the rec, and also for the book list!

# posted by Sophie : 7:09 PM  

Some great recommendations, M. I have to add two more novels by Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce (which I love): Le Marriage, and L'Affaire. More Americans living in Paris, interacting with the French and experiencing amusing cultural differences. I can lend them to you if you like.

# posted by Lisa : 11:21 PM  

Hi Auntie –

An interesting list !

One recent book that you might find of value is Paris In Mind, edited by Jennifer Lee. Therein she has assembled almost thirty essays and book excerpts about the City of Light. An excellent read.

I'm a very big fan of older books about Paris, myself: I have a huge collection (smile) When I see a list, I am invariably reminded of what Samual Putnam (who came to live in Paris in that most wonderful of years, 1927) said in Paris Was Our Mistress:

There is no such thing as a Paris that everyone knows, that may be captured and put into a guidebook or a volume of whimsical reminiscences, for the benefit of the tourist or curiosity-seeker. It is always somebody's Paris. It always has been and always will be.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 9:44 AM  

Ohh, I think I'll have to get the Wine & War book. Sounds like a good one. They all sound good actually. I've read a few of them. And David Sedaris is very funny by the way.

I always enjoy reading "A Moveable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway. It's an old one but still just as great. Of course Paris isn't even remotely the same anymore but I love reading about how it used to be to be an expat. Loads of fun going to now famous bars and running into say Picasso or Gertrude Stein.

You always have good tips Auntie M. Thanks for the list.

# posted by chrisc : 11:57 AM  

RB, I'll be very interested in your final ctitique of 60 million Frenchmen. Please let me know!
Yoggy, Those books are mostly about cultural differences from the perspective of living in France. I wonder if there are the opposite... books about expats in the US. That would probably be very amusing too.
Terry, I do believe you gave me the idea for the list. Thank you! I really had a fun time looking over the books.
Pilar, If you end up reading the book, let me know. I'd like to know what you think.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 3:29 PM  

I actually liked Almost French. Probably because I tend to whine a lot about my adoptive country, Germany. hehe.

# posted by AnP : 3:51 PM  

Auntie M, from reading your blog, I think you'd like 1000 Buildings Of Paris very much. I bought it when I was kind of down -- and I use it for escape...luckily, you don't have far to go!

# posted by Amy Alkon : 6:38 PM  

An excellent list - the cheese book is so .... I used to like Andre Gayot's "The Best of Paris," but it's really long-in-tooth now - published in '97.
Ina Caro's "The Road From the Past" informed my view of France, Paris and Europe more generally - a minor masterpiece of travel and imagination.

# posted by richard : 10:43 PM  

I like story compilations about Paris too. To add to the previously mentioned Paris in Mind - Paris Tales by Helen Constantine (translated from French) and France, A Love Story edited by Camille Cusumano - about women writing about the French experience. Terry in SF

# posted by Anonymous : 12:23 AM  

Anp, Maybe it was also because I kept wondering why her husband, who sounded like an angel, put up with all her demands and insults.
Amy, That book is on my list when I get to a book store.
Robert, I'll have to look up that book. Sounds interesting.
Terry, I'm not as big on compliations. Not sure why. But, I'll have to have a look next time I'm at Brentano's.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 12:27 PM  

I loved the book Monuments that tell stories of Paris, but I didn't get a copy while we were there. Can you tell me where I can obtain a copy in the States? Thanks.


# posted by Anonymous : 8:28 PM  

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