If you're interested in reading about France without feeling like you're reading a textbook, there are a number of travel essays and other books written about France. Some of them concentrate on a particular region or place, and some of them are about France as a whole. There are so many, it's hard to decide where to start. Here are a few to help you on your way.
PARIS by Assouline - This 976-page book of photos and quotes is a must have for anyone who loves the city of lights. After flipping through this album you'll feel as if you have seen every corner of Paris. Every district is covered, every major street and landmark, and tons of charming little neighborhoods you never saw before. The hardcover book comes with a sturdy slipcase to help keep this much looked-at book in mint condition.
A Moveable Feast
One of Ernest Hemingway's most famous narratives, this memoir chronicles the adventures of one of America's most admired expatriates in Paris. Hemingway had a true love of Paris and for all aspects of life there. His stories and descriptions are vivid and truly enjoyable for anyone who has experienced the beauty and charm of Paris. Hemingway tells tales of some of his famous friends in Paris, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound.
In this charming narrative, Harriet Welty Rochefort shares her anecdotes surrounding life being an American in Paris married to a French man. She recounts how she met her husband and how her life has changed completely since she has moved to France, and how she deals with her Parisian mother-in-law and the French school system, among other things. This is a funny and charming book that gives Americans a chance to see how the French really live.
Paris in Mind
Jennifer Lee has compiled this selection of essays regarding some famous writers and others' experience in the city of lights. Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein, known for having spent a great deal of time in Paris, all appear in this collection, as well as Thomas Jefferson and comedian Dave Barry, among others. Each short essay is different from the next, and although each author's perspective is unique, they all agree that Paris is a uniquely wonderful city.
France in Mind
Alice Leccese Powers is the editor of this compilations, similar to Paris in Mind (both share the same publisher and are part of the Vintage Departures Original series). Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and Thomas Jefferson return to the series, offering up new writings this time. Peter Mayle (author of A Year in Provence), F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Dickens appear for the first time. Any American planning to explore France will love the stories this book offers.
We'll Always Have Paris
Similar to Paris in Mind, this book by history professor Harvey Levenstein (who previously wrote another book about American tourism in Paris) takes a look at America's love affair with Paris since the 1930s. Although there have been some rough periods in the French-American relationship, in the end, most Americans think fondly of the charming aspects of French culture: the wine, the food, the châteaux, the scenery, etc.
The Firefly French/English Visual Dictionary
This certainly is not your run-of-the-mill French-English dictionary. Whoever put this thing together had a lot of time on their hands. This is a collection of exquisitely detailed drawings of just about every object known to man with the French and English written next to it. The categories are exhausting and diverse: outer space, home and garden, food and drink, anatomy, vehicles, animals, and plenty more. This dictionary is fun to look at and very useful for any French student.
This is the ultimate story for cat lovers and France lovers. Helene Thornton is an Englishwoman who moved to small village in Provence and met many cats and a French man, who like her, shared her passion for them. Unfortunately, this is one of the few things they have in common. She was considered eccentric by those in her village and the Frenchman was anything but. Despite their many differences, however, they fell in love. This book recounts the tale of their romance amongst cats and the South of France.
One Thousand Buildings of Paris
It's hard to believe there are 1,000 buildings in any one city, but Paris has them, and here's the proof. If you're an architecture junkie, you will truly cherish this book, with photos and descriptions of (clearly) 1,000 of Paris' most exquisite buildings. Some are well-known: like the Eiffel Tower, others you surely won't have heard of. It appears as if every corner of Paris has been photographed in this book. Jorg Brockman is an excellent photographer, capturing the spirit of Paris in every one of these blue-tinted pictures.
Extremely Pale Rosé
Jamie Ivey, the author of this book, and his wife Tanya and friend Peter, all having come to France from London for a vacation, are on a "Very French Adventure" (as the cover of the book states) to find the palest rosé in all of France, a deal they made with a French woman who claimed she had the palest at her vineyard. They travel through all the famous wine regions, tasting as they go. It turns out, rosé is not thought of very highly in France, a fact quite ironic considering the premise of the novel. This book has been compared to the popular A Year in Provence (see below).
A Year in Provence
If you've never read a travel memoir, this is probably a good place to start. Peter Mayle's stories of slow-paced Provence start with this book, which tells the story of his year-long stay in the lavender-strewn French region. Each chapter represents one month of stories of lovely French meals and excursions, descriptions of the beautiful countryside, and just about everything in between. Starting on New Year's Day and ending on Christmas, this is a non-stop year-long tale that will be hard to put down if you have any interest in Provence whatsoever.
Rendez-vous with France
This book was surely written to introduce children to French more than anything, but the artwork is beautiful and the vocabulary is actually very useful. Author Jill Butler's artwork has been used on other products such as coasters and clip art featuring quaint designs of French bistros, cafés and other scenes. She also has several other books equally as charming, but this one may be her best.
Eloise in Paris
Everyone loves Eloise - boy does she get around! This time she's in the city of lights with Nanny and Skipperdee, ready to cause trouble at every corner of every rue. Certainly Kay Thompson's adorable Eloise's anecdotes hooks in readers of all ages, but Hilary Knight's classic drawings are integral to this series and will be cherished by all. The book is in English, but peppered with some of Eloise's favorite French phrases. If you're up for a fun challenge, there's also a version completely in French!
My Paris Sketchbook
Although judging by the cover, this looks like a coloring book, it is actually a collection of drawings done in Paris by artist Alain Bouldouyre. In true sketch quality, some of the sketches are in color whilst parts remain in black and white. The drawings are accompanied with the author's descriptions of Paris. This book certainly isn't long enough to take to the beach, but it's a definate keepsake for francophiles.
wow, a whole book about one street? Yes indeed, if there is one street more famous than any other in the world, it is certainly l'avenue des Champs-Elysées (which, in English, means Avenue of the Elysian Fields, another name for Heaven in Greek and Roman mythology). This book retells the history of the Champs-Elysées from its beginning to the present, with tons of black and white and color photos. Tons of celebrities have strolled down the famous sidewalks, tons of famous companies have moved on and off its premises, and millions of tourists and Parisians alike have basked in its glory. If you love Paris, you will fall in love with the story of the Champs-Elysées.