Here are some of our favorite books and links about Paris, France, historic figures, lifelong learning, and other such stars in the constellation of books concerning all things Parisian and French and the second half of life.
Au Contraire, Figuring out the French, Guy Asselin and Ruth Mastron - This is one of my favorite books about the French and Americans. Comparing and contrasting, the authors show us much about them, and us.
TimeOut Paris Guides – TimeOut is the ultimate guide for anyone coming to stay to live in Paris. It contains the basic information we need to find socks, sizes, markets, movies, etc.
https://en.parisinfo.com/ - The city of Paris’ website for tourism. It has just about everything you could need.
Contemporary French Novels
Billie, Anna Gavalda – This author spins the most delicate stories of intimacy. She does not ever disappoint.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery – It’s a beautiful movie, too.
Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, Faiza Guene – Paris is not the city of light and love for young Doria. Published by Guene at age 19, this novel sold over 100,000 copies and has already been translated around the world.
In the Absence of Men, Philippe Besson – Critics rightly call this beautiful novel a French version of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.
The Meursault Investigation, Kamel Daoud – This novel examines Camus’ classic, The Stranger, from a very different point of view.
Paris in History
Paris has become a fashionable subject and lately, a new Paris history is published every year. Pick your favorite…
Seven Ages of Paris, Alistair Horne
How Paris became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City, by Joan DeJean
Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb
Paris: The Biography of a City, Colin Jones
Metronome, a History of Paris from the Underground Up by Lorant Deutsch – This book has been turned into a dynamic documentary.
Paris in books - some literary, some less literary
A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
My Life in France, Julie Child
Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin
The Sweet Life in Paris, David Lebovitz
La Cousine Bette, Honoré de Balzac
Catherine de Medici, Renaissance Queen of France, by Leonie Frieda – Frieda reworks the much maligned and misunderstood Catherine de Medici. It’s unputdownable.
Francis I, The Maker of Modern France, by Leonie Frieda – Francis I is a fascinating character, and Frieda rewrites his story with her usual magisterial skill.
The Queen’s Necklace:Marie Antoinette and the Scandal that Shocked and Mystified France, by Frances Mossiker – The scandal of Marie Antoinette’s necklace is, well, scandalous, and this book walks us through it, day by day, step by step, from crooks to the Queen.
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, David McCullough – The remarkable stories of the Americans, famous, infamous, and unknown, who came to Paris and brought its bits and pieces back with them.
Albert Camus – The Stranger is a classic, but so is The Plague.
Alexandre Dumas – He wrote swashbuckling novels such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Perhaps not High Literature, but they are terrific reads for kids and more grown up kids.
Patrick Modiano – He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014 and we finally translated him into English. Start with the Occupation Trilogy.
Marcel Pagnol – This is a wonderful trip through the south of France at another time. Many of his novels have been made into movies. They are a delicious romp of theatrical characters dripping in cliché, but they give the full effect of Provence and Marseille drama.
Peter Mayle – Years later, Mayle moved to Pagnol’s south of France and wrote his novels, offering the world another, modern, hilarious perspective of life in Provence. Start with Pagnol and then read Mayle, or the other way around – there is no wrong answer. One reinforces the other.
Classic Titles of French Literature and other such favorites
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo – A classic, and far better than the movie.
The Red and the Black, Stendhal – In this classic 19th century classic, we see Julien Sorel grow up with the sprawling backdrop of post-Napoleonic France.
Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust – Marcel enjoys a cookie and remembers it all, and it is all exquisite and delicately detailed. If they were to film Proust’s famous Remembrance of Things Past, it would be a Merchant Ivory film.
The Lover, Marguerite Duras – This coming-of-age novel catapulted Duras onto the world’s literary scene and sold over one million copies. It is an excellent novel for first time readers in French.
The War, Marguerite Duras – At the end of the war, Duras’ husband, Robert Antelme, returned from Bergen-Belsen. She kept a diary of those months, detailing his slow return to health and the highly charged atmosphere of post-war Paris. This diary-novel has recently been made into the eponymously named film.
The Human Race, Robert Antelme – Once his health returned, Antelme and Duras eventually divorced and he wrote this text. This book stands alone and cannot be compared to any other book. Although it is crushingly beautiful, it cannot be called literature. It stands above literature and has no equal in the Pantheon of books. One could say it is about us, our humanity, and the beauty of man’s capacity for compassion.
The Madwoman of Chaillot, Jean Giraudoux – Oil prospectors suspect that there is oil under Paris and they begin to take over the city. The eccentric Countess Aurelie pulls together her team of dreamers and idealists and they fight to take back their city from the evil capitalists. Who will win? This is one of the sweetest plays ever – and Katharine Hepburn played the eponymous role in the movie.
Favorite blogs & other online resources
https://www.nextavenue.org - Next Avenue is public media’s first and only national journalism service for America’s booming older population. Our daily content delivers vital ideas, context and perspectives on issues that matter most as we age.
http://www.greyfoxblog.com - for the well dressed man
http://adelehorin.com.au/tag/creativity/ - Although no longer active, this blog contains many interesting & pertinent essays.
http://sixtyandme.com/start/ - If you want to build your dream life after 60, this community is for you! Margaret Manning hosts this site and she will keep you guessing - and moving.
http://retirementjourneys.com - This husband & wife team share their real-life experiences to inform and inspire the choices to be made on the retirement journey.
Do you have a favorite? Did we miss one? Share it with us and we will add it to the list.