Top 8 Books About France – Tips, Travel, Culture and Local Traditions
French literature, culture, local traditions, and history, there are lots of aspects you can read about if you're a francophone.
But whether you’re curious about certain things, you like to learn more or you can appreciate a good book, here are a few interesting books about France that will satisfy your curiosity.
You don’t necessarily need a passion for France, but a passion for reading and a curious sense of knowledge. Here are my best recommendations.
What Are the Best Books About France?
Your English is Better Than My French, by Eric Kirchmann (2023)
If you’ve ever been to France, chances are your expectations were a bit different from reality. In fact, that’s the case almost everywhere in the world. It makes perfect sense. It’s one thing to look at pictures and read reviews and a different thing to be there in person.
I could describe this book as a travel guide, but it also offers a narrative sense of adventure. It’s written as a guide that involves professional planning based on previous mistakes and failed expectations. But then, apart from teaching you how to enjoy a holiday, it will also take you through it.
The story follows the author and his wife as they discover France beyond what’s recommended for tourists, from cycling in the countryside to exploring beautiful Paris and finding all of its hidden gems.
To me, this book is like going on holiday, being there along with them, exploring France, and getting a few France travel tips.
Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow (2003)
This is one of those books about France that will give you a deep insight into the French soul and passion.
But to be honest, it’s not what I was interested in. Instead, I wanted to learn more about a few lifestyle aspects regarding the French, as well as the secrets behind them.
Let me start with the beginning…
French people eat, drink, and smoke more than most other populations in the world. With all these, their heart problems as not as common as in the USA, not to mention outliving many Europeans. Where’s the catch?
From an economic point of view, they only work 35 hours a week. They take seven weeks of paid holiday on a yearly basis. You’d think they’re poor, but the country is among the biggest economies in the world. Where’s the catch?
I know, it sounds unusual, but this book explores French secrets from their lifestyle. It's a deep incursion into their ideas about everything in the society… Or, to keep it simple, this book gives you a full picture of the French, as well as some useful France travel tips.
My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme (2007)
There’s a movie based on this book. There’s nothing wrong if you’ve seen it, the book is much more detailed and will give you a better idea about France.
Anyway, it’s an autobiography written by world renowned chef Julia Child.
Her French incursion started in 1948, when she first came to France with her husband. She followed him and his job, but she had no clues about France. She couldn’t say a word in French, and she had no clues about the local culture.
She started blending in, shopping, taking some classes, and eventually finding her passion, cooking.
Her story revolves around her experience in France, how she discovered herself and her passion, the ups, and downs of her integration into France and her marriage.
I think this is one of the most authentic descriptions of the French lifestyle because it comes from someone who has actually gone through this hard process of integration.
I know, it all happened decades ago, and certain things may no longer be actual. But whether you like France or you're interested in moving there, I think this book will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect or what people are like.
The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George (2016)
Looking for something different? No problem. If you’re not that much into biographies and personal memoirs, how about a bit of fiction?
This book describes French authenticity in a unique manner. The story takes you to Seine, on a recently restored barge. Jean has a bookshop, and as crazy as it may seem, the business runs on the barge.
Some would describe it as an apothecary because Jean has a unique ability. He can see what books are more suitable for his customers, regardless of what they’re after.
There's only one person he can't cure, and that's himself. His heart has been broken since his love left for Paris more than 20 years ago. She left a letter behind, but he couldn't read it.
Everything changes when a new neighbor moves in. Jean finds the inspiration to unlock his heart and go find the love of his life or at least figure out what happened to her. This is when the adventure begins. Get ready for mixed feelings of love, romance, sadness, happiness, good vibes, and moods.
The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz (2011)
The author has a special connection. He's visited the most romantic city in the world and has always dreamed of living there. He did it eventually, after getting everything he owned in three suitcases. He had visited the city before as a tourist.
But then, you’re right… It’s one thing to visit a place as a tourist and another thing to live there. He had a bit of a shock straight away.
He had to discover a new society, cultural differences, social conduct rules, men’s fashion, how footwear works there, and why shopkeepers are not trying to sell you anything.
And then, we all know that Paris has one of the most sophisticated cuisines in the world too.
David smashed it in the end, and this book tells his story as he unveiled and adapted to a brand new culture.
Certain things will make sense, others won't. One thing is for sure, though… I ended up laughing with tears, especially when he had to dress up to take the garbage out, just because everything in Paris is about your appearance.
Unsurprisingly for some, this book also includes the secrets to a few unique recipes. After all, it’s written by one of the most popular chefs in the world, what did you expect?
How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are, by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas (2014)
This isn't the type of book that will teach you about culture, attitude, or fashion in Paris. Instead, it goes in the other direction and shows you why many things in Paris don't make sense.
It’s one of those books about France that will surprise you with attitude. Basically, you’ll learn about local views on all these things, but you’ll do it in a funny negative way. It deconstructs everything in the local culture.
It's not a negative release, though. In fact, I find it incredibly funny. It’s full of wit and passion and comes with exclusive points of view from more bohemian authors who aren’t afraid to go through myths and old fashioned concepts.
Get ready to learn about things you didn’t know about or hear things you didn’t expect. Trust me, if you want a more realistic view on France and especially Paris, this book will give you a good idea, but also some useful France travel tips.
Rendez-Vous in Cannes, by Jennifer Bohnet (2020)
Jennifer Bohnet’s masterpiece makes a statement straight away. To most people, France is all about Paris and nothing else. To those who dig a bit deeper, France is a mix of different aspects of life, lifestyles, and cultural aspects.
This book describes France in a fictional manner but with a realistic point of view.
All in all, the story follows two different women dealing with different dramas throughout the Cannes Film Festival.
Anna is in love and returns to the festival after almost four decades. She hopes she's over her past and can continue her life.
On the other hand, Daisy is there for the first time. She’s a journalist, but she’s also single and ready to enjoy herself throughout the event.
But for both of them, the past decides to come back, and that's when everything changes.
The Bonjour Effect, by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow (2017)
This isn’t the authors’ first collaboration and aims to help foreigners get used to the secret code of French conversation.
Despite being in Paris so many times, the two have always struggled to find a comfortable way to communicate with the French.
I know, it sounds hard to believe, but you can speak the same language and understand nothing. Why? Simple. The French don’t really communicate. Instead, they converse. This guide will make it all clear.
These books about France go in more directions and target French society from more directions. Whether you’re interested in the local culture, the culture shock, or things that don't mean anything at a glance, these books will give you a good idea about what to expect there.
Some of them come from personal experiences, while others will introduce you to the French lifestyle through fiction.
Check out our favorite travel books!
My profession is online marketing and development (10+ years experience), check my latest mobile app called Upcoming or my Chrome extensions for ChatGPT. But my real passion is reading books both fiction and non-fiction. I have several favorite authors like James Redfield or Daniel Keyes. If I read a book I always want to find the best part of it, every book has its unique value.