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.”
Read my full review of the book here.
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:
Knopf Mapguides: Paris
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.
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28 thoughts on “13 Must-Read Books About Paris to Read Before Your Trip”
Total francophile here! Moving to France in two months – thanks for the blog links!
Oh my god have the best time! SO jealous!
How fabulous your list is for books to read before going to Paris,
Or just dreaming about it. I have read almost all of them, and like you would
Certainly recommend them! Also don’t forget you have a grandfather who
Cooks French food for you!
Love you and missing you,
That’s so true, I’m very lucky! And I do think you gave me many of these books. Love, Ashley
I adored Julia Child’s My Life in France. What an incredibly fascinating woman! Just thinking about her book is making me crave Paris (and by Paris I mean French food.. and wine!)
I also really liked The Sweet Life in Paris! Lebovitz’s instagram is pretty awesome to follow :)
I loved The Sweet Life in Paris- I really wish he would write a sequel!
Dear Ashley, I love your list! I have been to Paris so many times now and there always is a je-ne-sais-pas-quoi that I adore. Reading about the city when you are far away is a very good way to live that feeling once again!
So true! Though it does make me miss France something awful :)
Thanks for the shout out! I really dig Ann’s blog as well, and she’s lovely in person (I believe she recently wrote about having David over, as they’re friends IRL). I usually find I can’t read any books about Paris, as much as I try — it makes me miss the city too much!
I’m so jealous, I definitely attempted to befriend David but he just thought I was a weirdo. And I actually read most of these books while in France- it makes me miss France too much as well.
This is perfect! I was looking for a new book and I fell in love with Paris when I studied abroad there in college. I live in Turkey now, which is VERY different than Paris and am always looking for a little taste of my favorite French city.
That’s so cool though! I visited my cousin in Istanbul back when I lived in Paris and had the BEST time. The food is unreal!
I’ve only read three of the books you featured so clearly I need to step up my Parisian game as the others sound terrific! I did get The Paris Style Guide earlier this year and just loved it. Such a fresh and different take from your standard travel guidebook. I keep saying that whenever I make it back to Paris (I’ve been 3x but my last visit was over 5 years ago-boo), it’s going to be nothing but a food/culture/shopping trip :)
I’m glad to hear you liked the book! I did as well. And yes, every trip to Paris is a food/culture/shopping trip in my book :)
I love you so much for this post! Incorporating travel and books? You the real MVP :)
Haha thanks! I read and travel a lot I suppose so it’s only natural :)
Starting my second year of living in France! I love…
1. A Year in the Merde: Stephen Clarke
A hilarious story about a British man who tries to hack it in Paris, but usually is met with dog poop, strong French accents and women-troubles
2. Almost French: Sarah Turnbull
An Australian woman falls in love with a French man while traveling in Asia and makes the leap to join him to Paris. Follow along as she learns the subtleties of the French language, French culture and French bureaucracy.
3. How to be a Parisian Wherever You are: Multiple authors
Written by a group of girlfriends, this tongue-in-cheek “guidebook” teaches how to walk, talk, dress and act like a Parisian.
I’ve read Almost French and found it a bit stiff, but really want to read A Year in the Merde. That sounds sooo funny!
I really enjoyed Almost French and A Year in the Merde too!
I really need to read A Year in the Merde – I’ve heard it’s super funny!
I’m definitely going to have to check those books out!
Definitely do! I loved them all :)
This is a great list, Ashley. I’ve read almost all of these and loved them, especially Stuff Parisians Like and The Sweet Life in Paris.
I’ve not yet read Blood, Bones & Butter, so thanks for the recommendation!
It’s a really good one! I’m obsessed with chef memoirs and this was one of the better ones I’ve read.
Cool list Ashley! I’ll have to track down some of these. Might i also suggest “The Road to Burgundy” by Ray Walker in which the author recounts his story about moving to France and starting a winery in one of the world’s most renowned wine regions. It doesn’t exactly take place in Paris, but it’s a great story on how a man follows his dream. Any Francophile would enjoy this book. :)
Ooh that sounds like something I would like! Thanks for the suggestion :)
I love this list and am so glad I found it! I would also like to add:
1. “Joie de Vivre” by Robert Arbor & Katherine Whiteside (The book that changed my life)
2. “Paris, My Sweet” by Amy Thomas (Who doesn’t love a book about French pastries?)
3. “The Greater Journey” by David Mccullough (It gives insight into the personalities of famous French people)
4. “Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris” by Graham Robb
Sorry, I just got so excited in seeing your post that I couldn’t help but share some of my favorites too.
I just read Paris, My Sweet and loved it! Such a fun take on the city. Thanks for the recommendations :)
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