From memoirs to fiction to food-focused fare, Musement shares 12 books that will transport you directly to Paris from the comfort of your own home.
Never underestimate the transportive power of books—what better medium to whisk us away to our favorite locations than flipping the pages of a book (or books!) set in the city we love? If you find yourself dreaming of Paris these days, here are 12 books to read that will unquestionably transport you to the City of Light.
1. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
Required reading for anyone who loves Paris, A Moveable Feast is Ernest Hemingway’s vivid memoir of his time as a struggling writer in the 1920s. He recounts his toils and trials, all while rubbing shoulders with esteemed literary contemporaries like James Joyce and the Fitzgeralds, leaving the reader yearning to be a fly on the wall during these fabled days of yore.
2. The Paris Wife, Paula McLain
During his time in Paris, Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, joined him in his ex-pat adventures. The incredible novel charts their life as the golden couple of 1920s Paris, bringing the années folles to life—though things aren’t always as they seem, leading to betrayal, heartbreak, and ultimately the end of their marriage.
3. Paris the Novel, Edward Rutherford
Edward Rutherford’s enchanting epic novel zips back and forth through time, recounting the story of six families who lived in different eras. The saga, which takes place between 1261 and 1968, ties in with true event to cast an intriguing light on the City of Light at various points in its often turbulent history.
4. The New Paris, Lindsey Tramuta
The ultimate book for food lovers, journalist Lindsey Tramuta’s The New Paris showcases the creative individuals, both local and from beyond, who have left a distinct imprint on the timeless city, each doing his or her part to contribute to defining the Paris of today. Not only does the book capture everyday life, but it serves as the perfect guide for food pilgrims—once it’s appropriate to get back on the road of course.
5. Notre Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo’s legendary novel named after one of the city’s most beloved sights tells the tale of Quasimodo, the titular cathedral’s deformed bell ringer and his unrequited love for Esmeralda. When in Paris, it’s impossible to not gawk at the magnificent Gothic wonder that is Notre Dame, a landmark etched even deeper into the hearts of Paris lovers far and wide due to the last year’s tragic fire.
6. The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George
Just the name of this novel alone is enough to grab the attention of any Paris-loving bookworm. Nina George’s novel tells the story of Monsieur Perdu, a self-proclaimed calls literary apothecary who prescribes novels for people looking to get through the hard times, all from his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine. Need we say more?
7. P.S. From Paris, Marc Levy
Marc Levy is said to be the most widely read contemporary French author, and this love story unites Mia, a famous London-based actress who heads across the channel to lay low, and Paul, a bestselling American author who lives there—the book will steal your heart!
8. L’appart, David Liebowitz
If follow any Paris ex-pat bloggers, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the brilliant David Liebowitz. The chef and food blogger has published several books, and his L’appart tells heartwarming stories about his ex-pat experience and French culture, all against the backdrop of his apartment renovations. Plus, the book is filled with dozens of recipes from this world-renowned chef.
9.Time was Soft There, Jeremy Mercer
Even if you’ve never been to Paris and you’re a bibliophile who takes yourself seriously, you’ve heard of Shakespeare & Co., the English booksellers on the Left Bank. Jeremy Mercer’s memoir recounts his time living and working in this fabled bookshop under the late owner George Whitman and the cast of characters he meets along the way—talk about living the dream.
10. The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Gourmet Rhapsody, Muriel Barbery
Yes, these are two separate novels but we’re grouping them as one since Muriel Barbery penned both. The first tells the enrapturing story of Renee, the concierge of a building in which an unforgettable cast of characters resides, while the latter tells of a dying food critic (who lives in the very building introduced in its predecessor) who yearns to enjoy a certain sublime food (that he only tasted once) one last time.
12. The Seine: The River that Made Paris, Elaine Sciolino,
A former Paris correspondent for The New York Times, Elaine Sciolino’s books are all required reading for all Paris enthusiasts. Her most recent, The Seine: The river that Made Paris, looks at the storied river that represents Paris for so many, telling the stories of its bridges, towns, and cities, from its starting point in Burgundy all the way to the English Channel.
12. Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik
Last but certainly not least. American journalist Adam Gopnik moved to Paris in 1995 with his wife and young son where they lived for five years and he continued to write for The New Yorker. Paris to the Moon is a compilation of essays that reflect upon his time in the city and what compelled him to live there.