Today I fly to Paris for the umpteenth time and suffice it to say that this is one city I will never tire of. Not only do I adore being in Paris, but I’m also so much of a Francophile that I will take every opportunity to speak about Paris; read about Paris; research Paris… the list is endless. I’ve compiled a list of the very best books you should read before visiting the city, both old and new. They’re in order of preference, so if you only have time for one or two, know that you can start with the first recommendation!
1. Paris Dreaming by Katrina Lawrence
I picked up this book in the Perth airport recently and knew in an instant that it would be a bookshelf favourite of mine. Katrina, I am convinced, is my spirit person an approximate 20 years my senior and with even more trips to Paris under her belt than me (I’m sitting on somewhere around 8 by now). With her own personal anecdotes and a running commentary on Paris’ best eateries, boutiques, etc. to match, there really is no better book to read before your first visit to Paris or if you’re Parisian in another life like me… 😉
2. Paris Letters by Janice Macleod
This book traces the adventure of Janice, an American lady who sold all her things and packed her bags for Paris. I partly love this book because I wish I had have done this at some stage in life (26 is still not too late, right!?) and partly because it brings back so many fond memories from my own trips to Paris. If you love champagne, macarons, and postcard-pretty-Paris, you will love this book.
3. Sundays in Paris by Yasmin Zeinab
If you’re less of a hopeless romantic and more of a realist, pick up this newbie by Yasmin Zeinab. Sundays in Paris is jam-packed full of the best places to spend a Sunday in Paris: from coffee shops to concept stores and all of the beautiful brunch spots!
4. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
My love for French pastries is about on par with my love for Paris, so it is no surprise that I have this book on my bookshelf. David Lebovitz is a chef and Parisian (originally from the States) who has carved a name for himself in the pastry capital. David knows all of the ins and outs to the pastry world – from where to truly find Paris’ best croissant, to which flavours you should choose by way of macaron a la Pierre Herme.
5. Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
I fond this book when I was researching similar books to “Paris Letters” because I loved it so much that I didn’t want the journey through Paris to end. The pro for this book is that it is full of recipes at the end of each chapter, so if you’re more of a foodie (the recipes are mostly savoury, just a heads up) then this book is for you.
6. The Only Street in Paris by Elaine Sciolino
I had never heard of Rue des Martyrs before reading this book, however immediately made it my priority to visit on my very next trip to the French capital. This book follows the journey of Elaine to Paris and her undying love for her neighbourhood street, which has since become a new favourite of mine (and soon will be one of yours, too, I’m sure!)
7. Delicious Days in Paris by Jane Peach
If you enjoy walking around cities to earn your cards (ahem, story of my life…) then Delicious Days in Paris is a perfect travel companion for your time in Paris. This book is full of one day walking itineraries that will take you around the sweetest stores in Paris, through the most gorgeous parks, streets, and even stop at some local boutiques you may not have found otherwise.
8. Parisian Chic City Guide by Ines de la Fressange
Another great city guide that will fit in your handbag: Parisian Chic City Guide is about as chic as a city guide gets (note: I purchased this at renowned concept store Colette before they closed down. Très chic.)
9. Paris in Bloom by Georgianna Lane
If you’re not much of a reader and prefer to whimsically flick through the pages of a book, then you should already have Paris in Bloom on your coffee table. This book is an inspired walk through Paris in Spring (my favourite season to visit), with pinks and purples bursting to life in the pages.
10. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway
An oldie but a goodie: if you haven’t already succumbed to the powers of a Hemmingway memoir, this book is the perfect place to start.
11. Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant
Another oldie but a classic, Paris Stories is a little heavier to read, but well worth it if you’re looking for a book with more depth and substance than the previously mentioned romantic novels and memoirs (yes, I’m a dreamer!)
12. Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
As the follow up to her “Lunch in Paris” book, Elizabeth moves to Provence and shares her adventures there. Whilst not about Paris specifically, I feel I must include this book because I enjoyed it so much that it inspired me to visit Provence on this trip!
13. Paris: Through a Fashion Eye by Megan Hess
If you’re in the fashion industry or follow it, you’ll already know the work of the incredibly talented Megan Hess. Travellers to Paris can learn a lot about the city in this book, but for me I just love the beautiful illustrations that whimsically take me to Paris in the pages.
14. The Little Paris Book Shop by Nina George
If you prefer a novel, pick up this book by Nina George that is set in Paris and gives a great context to the city for your first or next visit.
15. Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah
I found this book quite funny and educational in a way that I could better understand the way French men and women act, how to win over a waiter, and a few key French phases along the way.
16. The Holiday Goddess by Jessica Adams
This is one of the first travel books I ever owned and picked up at a $10 discount book store. The book is a travel guide to some of my favourite cities: Paris, London, New York and Rome.