Armchair Traveler’s Reading List: France

the Armchair traveler's guide to

A selection of these and other titles on France can be found on display just beyond the New Book Room.

Fiction:

Murder in the Marais (An Aimee Leduc Investigation) by Cara Black
“Private investigator Aimée Leduc must decrypt a digitized photo from the 1940s. But when Aimée visits the historic Jewish quarter of Paris to deliver the picture, she finds its intended recipient murdered–and with a swastika carved in her aged forehead.”

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
“Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared.”

The Bookseller: The First Hugo Marston novel by Mark Pryor
“Max—an elderly Paris bookstall owner—is abducted at gunpoint. His friend, Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy, looks on helplessly, powerless to do anything to stop the kidnapper. Marston launches a search, enlisting the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green. Their investigation reveals that Max was a Holocaust survivor and later became a Nazi hunter. Is his disappearance somehow tied to his grim history, or even to the mysterious old books he sold?”

City of Darkness and Light by Rhys Bowen
“Agreeing to flee New York City when her husband is targeted by a gang for his part in a high-profile arrest, Molly travels to Paris to stay with art-student friends whose disappearances are tied to the murder of a renowned Impressionist artist.”

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
“When an angry, grieving musician faces expulsion from her private school, she travels to Paris to complete a school assignment and uncovers a diary written during the French revolution.”

Vango: Between Sky and Earth by Timothée de Fombelle ; translated by Sarah Ardizzone
“In a world between wars, a young man on the cusp of taking priestly vows is suddenly made a fugitive. Fleeing the accusations of police who blame him for a murder, as well as more sinister forces with darker intentions, Vango attempts to trace the secrets of his shrouded past and prove his innocence before all is lost.”

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd
“Presents a multigenerational saga detailing the history of Paris, from its founding under the Romans to the hotbed of cultural activity during the 1920s and 1930s. It is an epic portrait of Paris that leaps through centuries as it weaves the tales of families whose fates are forever entwined with the City of Lights. The multigenerational saga takes listeners on a journey through thousands of years of Parisian history, through intimate and vivid tales of characters both fictional and true, and with the sights, scents, and tastes of Paris come to life.”

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
“When Anna’s father sends her to an American boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school, she reluctantly goes, and meets a boy who becomes her best friend, in spite of the fact that they both want something more.”

Non-Fiction:

When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 by Ronald C. Rosbottom
“What life was like in Paris after June 1940, when the Nazis occupied France, juxtaposing the eerie sense of normalcy felt by many Parisians with the passion of the strong resistance movement that rose around Charles de Gaulle.”

Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts
“An award-winning historian, Roberts traveled to fifty-three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites, discovered crucial new documents in archives, and even made the long trip by boat to St. Helena. He is as acute in his understanding of politics as he is of military history. Here at last is a biography worthy of its subject: magisterial, insightful, beautifully written, by one of our foremost historians.”

Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France by Jean-Vincent Blanchard
“Chief Minister to King Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu was the architect of a new France in the seventeenth century and the force behind the nation’s rise as a European power. One of the first statesmen to clearly understand the necessity of a balance of powers, he has captured the imagination of generations, both through the story of his life and through Alexandre Dumas’s portrayal of him as a ruthless political mastermind in the classic The Three Musketeers.”

Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris by Eric Jager
“On a chilly November night in 1407, Louis of Orleans was murdered by a band of masked men. The crime stunned and paralyzed France since Louis had often ruled in place of his brother King Charles, who had gone mad. As panic seized Paris, an investigation began. In charge was the Provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville, the citys chief law enforcement officer, and one of history’s first detectives. As de Tignonville began to investigate, he realized that his hunt for the truth was much more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. Arich portrait of a distant world, BLOOD ROYAL is a gripping story of conspiracy, crime and an increasingly desperate hunt for the truth. And in Guillaume de Tignonville, we have an unforgettable detective for the ages, a classic gumshoe for a cobblestoned era.”

Paris In Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James
“James chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world–Paris–all the while inviting her reader into the life of her most enchanting family.”

Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light by John Baxter
“As he takes you through five of the city’s greatest neighborhoods—Montmartre, Montparnasse, the Marais, and more—Baxter shares pithy anecdotes about his life in France, as well as fascinating knowledge he has gleaned from leading literary tours of the city by dark. With Baxter as your guide, you will discover the City of Light as never before, walking in the ghostly footsteps of Marcel Proust, the quintessential night owl for whom memory was more vivid than reality; Hungarian photographer Gyula Halász, known as Brassai, who prowled the midnight streets, camera in hand, with his friend Henry Miller; Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault, who shared the Surrealists’ taste for the city’s shadowed, secret world; and Josephine Baker and other African-American performers who dazzled adventurous Parisians at late-night jazz clubs.”

Transnational France: The Modern History of a Universal Nation by Tyler Stovall
“In this compelling volume, Tyler Stovall takes a transnational approach to the history of modern France, and draws the reader into a key aspect of France’s political culture: universalism. Beginning with the French Revolution, Stovall traces the evolution of France through industrialization, the rise of republicanism, empire, the world wars, and decolonization. Throughout the book, Stovall examines France’s relations with three areas of the world: Europe, the United States, and the empire. By exploring these global interactions, the text provides new insights into both the nature of French identity and the making of the modern world in general.”

Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured by Kathryn Harrison
“A fully documented, inspiring portrait of the 15th-century peasant-turned-saint draws on historical facts, folklore and centuries of critical interpretation to evaluate the questions attributed to her character.”

Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train by Ina Caro
“In one of the most inventive travel books in years, Ina Caro invites readers on twenty-five one-day train trips that depart from Paris and transport us back through seven hundred years of French history. Whether taking us to Orléans to evoke the visions of Joan of Arc or to the Place de la Concorde to witness the beheading of Marie Antoinette, Caro animates history with her lush descriptions of architectural splendors and tales of court intrigue. “

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
“Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success, and discovering what it truly means to be at home”

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb
“Napoleon Bonaprate, Marie Antoinette, Baudelaire, Baron Haussmann, the real-life Mimi of La Boheme, Proust, Charles de Gaulle–these and many more are Robb’s cast of characters in a series of stories about the Paris you never knew.”

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City by John DeJean
“In this compelling portrait of a city in transition, Joan DeJean shows that by 1700 Paris had become the capital that would transform forever our conception of the city and of urban life.”

Films:

La Vie En Rose starring Marion Cotillard / Foreign Film
“Edith Piaf was raised in a brothel, wrested from the only life she knew by her father so they could join the circus, Edith spent her teen years on the streets. She is finally “rescued” by a crime figure who gives her career a start, and, ultimately, her international success and final illness. She was always frail, sickly, malnourished, and wildly temperamental. She was often on drugs or alcohol, and she was always in search of true love. Middleweight boxer, Marcel Cerdan, captures her heart and gives her something to live for, besides her music–at least for a while.”

Brotherhood of the Wolf starring Samuel Le Bihan and Mark Dacascos / Foreign Film
“Based on an 18th-century legend, “Beast of Gevaudan”, this French film follows a scientist and his Iroquois sidekick/partner as they pursue a monstrous wolf ravaging the French countryside. Along the way Le Bihan gets entwined with a beautiful noblewoman and a prostitute with secrets.”

Chocolat starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp
“When a single mother and her young daughter move to rural France and open a chocolate shop – with Sunday hours – across the street from the local church, they are met with some resistance from the rigidly moral community. But as soon as the townspeople discover their delicious products, their attitudes begin to change.”

Bon Voyage starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu / Foreign Film
“Following the premiere of her latest picture Viviane finds herself with a dead man in her apartment. Frédéric is a writer who’s been falsely accused of murder, thanks to Viviane. Viviane has fled Paris for Bordeaux with a cabinet minister, and once Frédéric escapes from prison, he is not far behind. Once they reach Bordeaux, which is in chaos, they become entangled in a plot involving a physicist, his endlessly resourceful assistant, an amiable ex-con, a shady reporter and several bottles of heavy water that absolutely, positively must not fall into the hands of the occupying Germans.”

A Little Chaos starring Kate Winslet
“A romantic drama following Sabine, a strong-willed and talented landscape designer, who is selected to build one of the main gardens at King Louis XIV’s new palace at Versailles. In her new position of power, she challenges gender and class barriers while also becoming professionally and romantically entangled with the court’s renowned landscape artist Andre Le Notre.”

Paris starring Juliette Binoche and Roman Duris / Foreign Film
“While waiting for a heart transplant that could save his life, Pierre reunites with his sister and her lively children. This rediscovery of his family and observation of the teeming streets outside his window give Pierre hope, and a new sense of how he might spend the time still left to him. A story about the middle-class and bourgeois, immigrants and students, fashion models and the homeless, and all the lovers and strangers whose paths could cross and change in Paris.”

Le Chef starring Jean Reno and Michael Youn / Foreign Film
“Jacky Bonnot, 32, “Mozart of cuisine” with a definite but misunderstood talent, dreams of success and a fine restaurant. His financial situation forces him to accept low-end jobs; then he crosses paths with the legendary chef Alexandre Lagarde, who is under pressure from the company that owns his restaurants.”

Paris, Je T’Aime / Foreign Film
“The world’s top directors and some of America’s top stars create a panoramic portrait of Paris. Find yourself transported by these sexy, romantic, haunting, dramatic, and beautiful stories.”

Therese starring Audrey Tautou and Gilles Lellouche / Foreign Film
“Therese has married wealthy but arrogant Bernard Desqueyroux, and is now part of his oppressively traditionalist family. When Bernard’s younger sister Anna falls madly in love with a handsome young Portuguese man, Therese is tasked by the family to persuade Anna to forego the planned nuptials. But as she witnesses Anna’s determination to keep her lover by her side, Therese finds her own desire to free herself from the provincial conventions that threaten to keep her forever repressed.”

Force Majeure starring Johannes Bah Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli / Foreign Film
“An idyllic family skiing vacation takes a stunning turn when an avalanche threatens the ski lodge restaurant, sending people fleeing and demanding quick decisions that change the course of the family dynamics and trust.”

Renoir starring Michel Bouquet and Christa Theret / Foreign Film
“Set on the French Riviera in the summer of 1915, Jean Renoir — son of the Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste — returns home to convalesce after being wounded in World War I. At his side is Andrée, a young woman who rejuvenates, enchants, and inspires both father and son. Renoir locates a fascinating moment of change, with one century’s way of thinking giving way to the next.”

Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman
“Tells the story of the 14-year-old ill-fated Archduchess of Austria and later Queen of France. Marie Antoinette has became one of the most misunderstood and abused woman in history, from her birth in Imperial Austria. And how the young woman must grow up in front of the entire country of France.”

The Pink Panther starring Peter Sellers
“Inspector Clouseau pursues a jewel thief, who, in turn, is romantically pursuing Clouseau’s wife.”

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