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Books about Paris

Richard of Philadelphia points out that since there are so many books about Paris, I should have an entire page devoted to them alone. So, let's get started. Send me your titles, along with a sentence or two about them. I'll put them up here as they come in, along with a list of my own favorites.

And to kick things off, Richard suggests Julia Child's My Life in France. Richard writes: "You thought that you knew Julia, but you don't. Follow her from her first French meal to, well, you know: her becoming JULIA CHILD! A really fascinating account of her postwar life in Paris, her marriage, family and being the big American woman who gets more serious about French cooking than anybody else from the U.S. Detailed descriptions of all things food in Paris as well as a gossipy second half."

Susan indicates that David McCullough's The Greater Journey: American's in Paris is a great read. Her review: "A history of Paris through the eyes of Americans during the 1800's. Famous Americans of the time and their travels and living experiences in Paris including authors, physicians, artists, diplomats. I learned so much about French history and Americans living that history, their viewpoints, and perspectives.
Optional information follows."

Jeffrey enjoyed Alex Karmel's A Corner in the Marais: Memoir of a Paris Neighborhood. Here's what he has to say about the book: "A very well-written memoir by an American author who fell in love with Paris as a young man; returned and married a French woman, and then bought an apartment in the Marais. Through some very interesting research, it turns out the apartment is over 600 years old. This provides the author with a great vantage point to discuss unique aspects of Parisian history in a very personal (never dry or academic) light. The focus is on the history of the Marais, and the author finishes up the book with a historic walking tour of the Marais. The book is a very good balance of personal memoir and historical perspective."

Cindy suggests Cara Black's Murder in the Marais: "The first in a series of 10 books about security expert and private investigator Aimee Leduc. The series gives you a GREAT sense of Paris, and each book is set in a different neighborhood. Aimee has a little mutt named Miles Davis (pronounced 'Meels Dah-vees') and always has a chic vintage designer find from a flea market close to hand for those occasions when only Chanel will do. Oh, and by the way, the plots are great fun."

Marco recommends Alistair Horne's The Seven Ages of Paris. He writes: "In this book Alistair Horne describes the History of the most beautiful city in the world. It's great if you plan to spend more than a weekend in Paris. It provides great suggestions (although not purposedly) for places to visit. And it allows you to place all these sights in a historical context. Impress your friends and family with your historical knowledge, but above all enjoy this beautifully written history and learn how Paris became what it is today."

Scott suggests The Good Thief's Guide to Paris, by Chris Ewan. Scott says, "This is a mystery. It's hard to put down. Lots of action in and about Paris apartments, museums and Shakespeare & Company (next door to Hotel Esméralda), etc."

Chris recommends Thirza Vallois' Around and About Paris: How to See the Real Paris on Foot, which comes in three volumes [Arrondissements 1 through 7 (Vol. 1); 8 through 12 (Vol. 2); and 13 through 20 (Vol. 3)]. "History, characters, architecture, food and a little scandal on each page. Gets you mentally and emotionally 'on your feet' before you absorb each neighborhood." 

Sam says we all should be reading Andrew Ayers' The Architecture of Paris. Sam writes: "The author is a Brit who lives in Paris, the book was published in Germany but was not promoted at all by the publisher; it's a bit pricey ($26) but excellent both for tourists and also for art historians interested in that City's structures." Tom says that you should always listen to what Sam says.

J. Thompson suggests Gordon Cope's A Paris Moment: "In Paris, when you walk out the door . . . the day springs to life as a full-blown performance, and if you are not part of the audience, you are part of the cast." With a wonderful turn of phrase and a wicked sense of humour, Cope provides an intimate account of everyday life in a magical city, most often as "part of the cast." Sometimes your wildest dreams really do come true. No-one knows this better than author Gordon Cope whose life took a very exciting turn when his wife, Linda, was offered a one-year posting to the world's dream destination - Paris, the City of Lights.

Another favorite is Sarah Turnbull's Almost French: An irresistible travel memoir set in the world's most enigmatic and seductive city, Almost French is the new book by Australian writer Sarah Turnbull. 'This isn't like me. I'm not the sort of girl who crosses continents to meet up with a man she hardly knows. Paris hadn't even been part of my travel plan...' One night in Bucharest, a chance meeting with a charming Frenchman changes journalist Sarah Turnbull's travel plans forever. Acting on impulse, she agrees to visit Frederic for a week in Paris, a city Sarah thinks she knows well. That is, until she falls in love. Put a very French Frenchman together with a strong-willed Australian woman and the result is some spectacular and often hilarious cultural clashes. Sarah's clothes, her laugh, her conversation—even how much she drinks—set her apart. Language is a minefield of misunderstanding and the simple act of buying a baguette at the local boulangerie is fraught with social danger. But as she navigates the highs and lows of this strange new world, from life in a bustling inner city quartier and surviving Parisian dinner parties to covering the haute couture fashion shows and discovering the hard way the paradoxes of France today, little by little Sarah falls under its spell: maddening, mysterious and charged with that French specialty—seduction. Funny, perceptive and poignant, this is a charming story of an adventurous heart from a delightful Australian writer who finds herself becoming almost French.

Bob suggests Polly Platt's Savoir Flair!
He writes:
"This book is a fun read that defines what it means to be French, and specifically Parisian. It is a wonderfully entertaining and insightful book which focuses on the French way of seeing and experiencing—the French world view. I learned more about popular French culture and values in these hilarious pages that in all the rest of the "tourist guidebooks" I have ever read about France put together. This is the book that opens the doors to a much deeper appreciation and a much richer understanding of what makes the French tick. Savoir Flair! is an accessible and anecdotal insider's view of Paris that could turn a superficially enjoyable vacation into an extraordinary personal experience you will remember for a lifetime! A must read."


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