Last Updated on 20th May 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
I can safely say that this list has been a loooooooong time coming! As a self-confessed Francophile, and someone who has spent time living in the French capital, I read books about Paris pretty much all the time!
So after a little uhm-ing and ah-ing, here are the creme de la creme books about Paris you absolutely have to read before making your trip to France. The 40+ book-long list includes memoirs, historical-themed novels, and some of the best Paris-focused biographies out there!
My Paris Dream by Kate Betts
Kate Betts made up her mind that she would live in Paris and did everything to make that goal a reality. Already, I felt like I had a lot in common with her, and I hadn’t even picked up the book yet! As a recent university graduate, Betts packed up her belongings and moved to Paris.
Not only that, but she had a job lined up with the holy grail of magazines- Vogue. #goals. Although the storyline is lacking in some places, the overall images of Paris Betts conjured up in the book and the fact that it’s set in the 80s, make this a winning memoir for any fan of Paris.
“The best teachers impart knowledge through sleight of hand, like a magician.”
Paris Letters by Janice Macleod
Who doesn’t love a good romance novel set in Paris? Janice Macleod was tired of her boring job, growing relentlessly exhausted by her dating life and so she did what most women dream of. She saved up, packed up her belongings and traveled to Europe for what was meant to be a two-year stint.
Only, that didn’t happen… Within a couple of days, she had met a Polish man in Paris and was quickly falling in love. The book details her discoveries around Paris. Oh, and the story has a pretty happily ever after too! Macleod married said handsome butcher, started her own shop on Etsy and lives in Paris to this very day!
“…the only way to happiness is to find people with whom you can eat, drink and laugh. That is everything”
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Part of a new generation of teen fiction, Anna and the French Kiss is the perfect way to indulge your inner teenage Parisian and buff up on your books about Paris knowledge! It’s pure teen fan fiction and feel-good, so don’t expect any heavy topics from Stephanie Perkins.
I have to admit, when my sister first introduced the book to me, I was more than a little sceptical- I mean, Twilight-esque books don’t particularly appeal to me on a regular basis. However, the main character, Anna quickly grows on you and you’ll quickly be giggling along with her. If you’ve not been to Paris before, then you can start exploring the city’s history from the first chapter.
“Girl scouts didn’t teach me what to do with emotionally unstable drunk boys.”
French Phrasebook & Dictionary
Of all the books about Paris on this list, this is probably the most important of the lot! I’ve said this before and no doubt I’ll say it again: Parisians aren’t rude! But, like everyone, they can get frustrated if you just assume that they can speak your language. After all, their native tongue is French.
It goes without saying that you can’t visit France without at least learning a few simple phrases and learning how to order an expresso! For more tips and insider advice to help you plan your Paris trip, check out my guide of things to know before visiting Paris for the first time.
How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style & Bad Habits
Wow, where do I start with this one! Well, for starters, I’ve done a whole book review about How to be Parisian Wherever You Are here! This is the inspiration book and one I totally recommend reading before any visit to the city of love. It’s full of tips, quotes and is just a lot of fun. Filled with sarcasm and sass, it’s the ultimate in Parisian clichés meet the 21st Century!
“TAKE THE TIME to talk to the elderly lady next door, to read a book, to walk to work instead of riding the subway when it’s a beautiful day. Take the time to escape for a weekend with friends. Take the time to listen and to get to know yourself”.
Little Black Book of Paris
The Little Black Book is the kind of book that fits snugly in your handbook, ready to guide you around the city of lights from the get-go. If you buy the hard copy, then there are fold-out travel maps and handy tips for when your smartphone inevitably runs out of battery!
Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas
This book isn’t just for Paris lovers, but patisserie lovers everywhere! A celebration of all things sweet, the book is all about chocolates, macarons, and croissants. It also happens to be ‘part love letter to New York’, making it a celebration of two of my favourite cities. Like Kate Betts, Amy Thomas fell in love with Paris and did everything she could to move back there. She secured an advertising role and never looked back…
“I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while.”
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Scolio
Funny story, we were wandering around Montmartre the other day and crossed Rue des Martyrs. I started mentioning this book to my boyfriend when he mentioned, quite abruptly, that he was born on Rue des Martyrs. Er, what? Anyway, The Only Street in Paris documents Elaine Scolio’s life growing up in Montmartre. If you’re interested in delving deeper into Parisian life and learning more of its secrets, then this book is for you!
“The rue, proud and modest, wears its history stealthily.”
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
For all the factual books about Paris, there are plenty of fiction ones too. This fiction book will have you laughing and crying and laughing again. The store run by Monsieur Perdu (literal translation: Mr. Lost) contains every kind of book you could ever want- but didn’t know you needed. And, well, the book itself may well be one of the most quotable things I have Paris and love become entangled in a story revolving around a bookstore floating on the Seine. I mean, is this real life?!
“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only hundred.
There even remedies –I mean books –that were written for only one person…A book
is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy”.
Lunch in Paris: A Delicious Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Elizabeth Bard weaves a story of love and Paris, in a memoir that is reminiscent of Letters to Paris. She visits Paris on a whim, falls in love with a Frenchman and, well, never moves home! But if there’s one thing that sells the book, it’s the food images that Bard is so actively able to conjure up. Oh, and there are recipes too, so I was basically sold on this book twice!
“No better way to avoid making a decision than burying yourself in a big fat book.”
Paris for One & Other Short Stories by Jojo Moyes
From the best-selling author of ‘Me Before You’ comes a series of heartwarming short stories based on women finding their voices. The first (and focus) story of the collection focuses on Nell, a young woman who finds herself alone in Paris after her boyfriend doesn’t show up for their romantic weekend getaway. However, Nell soon finds herself falling in love with the city and will bring you along on the ride…
“You don’t ever do something just because it makes you feel good?” The assistant shrugs. “Mademoiselle, you need to spend more time in Paris.”
Paris in Bloom by Georgianna Lane
If you’re looking for a beautiful coffee table book, then Georgianna Lane’s beautiful photography and words will fill you with wanderlust. Focusing on beautiful flowers throughout the French capital, for even more incredible photography and Paris perfect snaps, make sure to check Lane out on Instagram @georgiannalane and @aparisianmoment. I promise you, you certainly won’t be disappointed!
Delicious Days in Paris by Jane Paech
For foodie and Paris lovers, there is no better way to discover an offbeat address or quirky eatery than by picking up Jane Paech’s book, Delicious Days in Paris. Filled with incredible recommendations for little-known bistros and complete with several self-guided walking tours, think of this book as your best friend while in the City of Love!
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Set in Paris during the roaring 1920s, A Moveable Feast is a memoir about Hemingway’s life struggling as a young journalist and writer. Reading this book is a surefire way to feel as though you’re stepping back in time and plenty of the cafés, bars, and bistros mentioned within the novel can still be frequented to this day!
“I learned one thing. Never to go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
If this book is good enough to be called ‘the publishing phenomenon of the decade’, then it’s probably worth a read. Written by philosophy teacher Barbery, the book has sold well over a million copies in France. And while the book is philosophical, it’s also incredibly accessible and centres on the story of a 50 something woman who’s a concierge, and a 12-year-old girl from an incredibly wealthy family…
Paris Dreaming by Katrina Lawrence
One of the newer Paris memoirs to join the list of books about Paris, Paris Dreaming is penned by an Australian beauty journalist who first fell in love with Paris age just five years old. Now, having taken plenty more trips to the city, she imparts the lessons Paris has taught her to us readers.
The book itself is filled with personal anecdotes, funny lines, and plenty of insider recommendations on visiting iconic Parisian attractions, as well as more off the beaten path places. So whether you’re dreaming of Paris, or want to get some insider tips before your visit, be sure to pick up this Paris-themed book!
Sundays in Paris by Yasmin Zeinab
If you know anything about French culture, then you’ll no doubt know that Sundays in France, and even Sundays in Paris, are days of rest when many businesses- and even supermarkets- are closed. However, thanks to Zeinab’s book, Sundays in Paris, you’ll have insider knowledge of the best haunts to go come weekends in the city. Filled with great recommendations, this will quickly become your go-to guide for Sundays in the city.
The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
For fans of all things French dessert related, David Lebovitz likely needs no introduction. Following a career as a pastry chef and cookbook author spanning two decades, he packed up his life and followed his dreams to move to Paris. Within the book, you’ll find dozens of original recipes, funny anecdotes, and an all ’round great read.
All The Light We Cannot See by Antony Doerr
Though not strictly set just in Paris, I’m not sure I can adequately describe the beauty of the prose in ‘All The Light We Cannot See’. After all, this is the kind of novel which will intrigue and surprise you in equal measure. Set between the walled city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and the City of Light at the height of WWII, the book one a Pulitzer Prize in 2015. So if you choose to read just one book about Paris, make it this one!
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
Notre Dame de Paris (Hunchback of Notre Dame) by Victor Hugo
The world-famous book that transformed Notre Dame into a crumbling wreck of its former self into a much-loved and world-famous iconic landmark is almost as famous as the cathedral itself. Notre Dame de Paris was written by Hugo in the 19th-century, inspired by his wish to save the cathedral from demolition by inspiring a love for it by the public. Known as the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ in English, the novel contains long and detailed descriptions of the now beautifully restored ecclesiastical building.
“Love is like a tree: it grows by itself, roots itself deeply in our being and continues to flourish over a heart in ruin. The inexplicable fact is that the blinder it is, the more tenacious it is. It is never stronger than when it is completely unreasonable.”
We’ll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn
This heart-warming memoir of time spent in Paris is a must-read for any Francophiles who wish to delve deeper into the secrets of the City of Love. A memoir from Jennifer about adventures she had around Europe together with her daughter
Buy We’ll Always Have Paris
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
When you create a book about two of the most popular cities in the world, you’re sure to create a bestseller. Part of the book is set in Paris, while part of it is
Buy Down and Out in Paris
Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant
If you’re in search of a book by a French author (that you can read either in the original French or in translation), then I might suggest Bel Ami.
Buy Bel Ami
The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola
Set against the backdrop
Buy The Ladies’ Paradise
A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore
The Red Notebook
PS From Paris
Time Was Soft There
One Evening in Paris
One Paris Summer
Paris Still Life
The Paris Wife
Paris By The Book
Murder on the Eiffel Tower
Though not quite as well-reviewed as some of the other Paris-themed books on this list,
The Lollipop Shoes
Waking Up in Paris
Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Though not 100% set in Paris, such is the popularity of the Dan Brown’s novels, that several of them have been turned into films starring Tom Hank. The Da Vinci Code features