After living in Paris and visiting the city for years, I’ve read many, many books set in Paris. And since starting this blog, I’ve had writing about my favorite books about Paris on my to-do-list.
So here it finally is: the best books about Paris I’ve ever read. It’s taken me many years and Amazon orders to curate this list, so I do hope you enjoy it.
Note – I have read every book on this list and highly recommend them all – this is not a generic listicle, I promise!
Best novels set in Paris:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Set in occupied France during World War II, this novel interweaves the story of two unlikely friends: a blind French girl and a brilliant German soldier.
Though not strictly set in Paris (much of the book takes place in Brittany), the beautiful prose really makes France come alive. If you’re looking for historical fiction about Paris, this is an excellent choice.
The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola
The Belly of Paris is a classic novel by Émile Zola. It follows the story of Florent, an escaped revolutionary who finds both solace and community in Paris. What I love about the book is how richly it depicts life in the 1870s Les Halles, a working-class market that stood for nearly a thousand years.
If you’re looking for a book that takes place in Paris written by a French author, I highly recommend this one.
Best memoirs about Paris:
The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
In this laugh-out-loud memoir, American pastry chef David Lebovitz moves to Paris to start a new life. As a pastry chef, Lebovitz is committed to finding the best sweets in Paris, and in telling his story, shares many hilarious observations about his adopted hometown.
What I love most about this book is that he depicts Paris in such an honest light, sidewalk dog shit and all.
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
As I’m not a mom, I wasn’t sure I’d like this book. But honestly, I LOVED it. Druckerman, an American journalist, marries an Englishman and they move to Paris. Shortly after arriving, she has her first child and learns first-hand how the French raise their children.
This book was not only witty and well-written, it also offers many fascinating insights into French culture. Highly recommended.
My Paris Dream by Kate Betts
My Paris Dream is the story of an American woman who lived in France in the 1980s. After college, she moves to France, completely unsure of what she wants to do with her life. Over the years, she finds work as a fashion journalist in Paris, rubbing shoulders with fashion greats like Helmut Lang and Karl Lagerfeld.
If you love fashion, this is a book you’ll really enjoy.
Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah
Mastering the Art of French Eating follows the story of Ann Mah, an American food and travel writer living in Paris. When Mah’s husband is called away to Iraq, Mah mitigates her loneliness by tracking down all of France’s best dishes in their regions of origin.
Her writing is absolutely gorgeous:
It still sailed next to me, that parallel life- it would always sail next to me- as full of joy and challenge as the one I was living. I thought of it sometimes, pale and chilled- lit by a satellite moon, not the sun of reality- a ghostly ship charting a route to what might have been, while I remained on the course of what was.”
The Only Street in Paris by Elaine Sciolino
American Elaine Sciolino is a long-time resident of Paris who lives on the Rue des Martyrs, a left-bank street in Paris that Sciolino calls, ‘a half-mile of magic’. Sciolino paints a rich picture of the rue des Martyrs, a historic street in Paris where Degas once painted and François Truffaut filmed scenes from The 400 Blows.
I loved reading about her personal experience living in Paris as well as the fascinating, centuries-old history of the rue des Martyrs.
Best non-fiction books about Paris:
Stuff Parisians Like by Olivier Magny
Did you guys ever read Stuff White People Like? This book is the Parisian version.
So often Paris is overly romanticized, but this book calls Parisians out on all their quirks. Stuff Parisians Like is especially funny if you have French friends and recognize the obsession with sushi, Pellegrino and all things Brooklyn. Read this if you want a good laugh and a real understanding of how Parisians really live.
Paris versus New York by Vahram Muratyan
Paris versus New York is a clever graphic novel that compares Paris to New York, i.e. bagels vs. baguettes. This book is perfect for New York or Paris lovers.
It’s also great for design enthusiasts. The design of the book is gorgeous – I’m obsessed with all of the fonts and graphics!
Best coffee table books about Paris:
Paris in Color by Nichole Robertson
Paris in Color is a coffee table book about Paris that showcases the city by different colors – from baby pink to saffron yellow.
This is another book I love to give francophile friends – it’s the perfect coffee table book! In fact, I’ve already given it to three friends, ha.
The New Paris by Lindsay Tramuta
The most recent addition to my Paris book collection, The New Paris is a fascinating take on modern Paris. American journalist Lindsay Tramuta celebrates modern creatives and entrepreneurs who are bringing a fresh perspective to a city often mired in the past.
It’s also worth noting that the book’s photography is gorgeous. This would make a fantastic gift for a francophile.
Best Paris guide books:
In my opinion, this is the best Paris travel book out there. A truly pocket-sized book, this book folds out into districts, which makes it excellent to explore Paris. It features maps, tips, and addresses, and notes lots of local favorites and forgive me, but, hidden gems. I carried it around the whole time I lived in Paris.
The Paris Style Guide by Elodie Rambaud
The Paris Style Guide is the perfect book for not just dreaming of Paris, but actually exploring it. This book is a shopping guide on where to find the best boutiques, flea markets and cafés in Paris.
If you’re planning a shopping trip to Paris, this would be the perfect companion- it’s like having a fashionable Parisienne friend in your pocket.
What are your favorite books about Paris? Are there any memoirs or novels that take place in Paris I need to add?
You may also like:
- The 5 French Expressions That Will Have You Navigating Paris Like a Pro
- The 10 Most Crazy Delicious Foods You Must Eat in Paris
- How to Order a Baguette like a Parisian
HarperCollins Publishers provided me with a copy of The Paris Style Guide in exchange for a review. They in no way requested I give a favorable review. I purchased all the other books and all opinions are my own, as always.