Paris Book List

Recent Paris Reads:

Ever since my year in Paris, I’ve been trying to keep up with all of the fabulous new books set in France (so many books, so little time . . .) and to keep up my efforts to read more French history. If I’ve blogged about the book or created a literary tour, the title will be hyperlinked.


madame picasso

Madame Picasso by Anne Girard (MIRA 2014) – The story of Pablo Picasso and his tragic love affair with Eva Gouel from 1911-1915. Walk in their footsteps with my photo tour from Montmartre to Montparnasse.




Beautiful American Jeanne MAckin

The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin (NAL 2014) – The story of Lee Miller and Man Ray in 1920s-40s Paris. See the sights of 1920s Montparnasse.




lisett'es list

Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland (Random House 2014) – Another lovely art history novel, this one set in Paris and Roussilion in Provence during the 1930s and 40s. Check out some beautiful photos of Rousilion and Cezanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence.




 Allallthelightwecannotsee The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Scribner 2014) A beautifully written World War II novel set in Paris and St. Malo. See some photos from St. Malo, which was seriously damaged by the Allies when they landed in Normandy.





A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable (St. Martin’s Press 2014) – A novel imagining the life of a woman in a newly discovered portrait by Belle Epoque painter Giovani Boldini.



lovers chameleon club Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose (Harper 2014) –  Based in part on the true story of Violet Morris, a lesbian race car driver and Nazi spy.



wide starry sky Under the Wide & Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (Ballantine 2014) – The love story between Robert Louis Stevenson and American Fanny van de Grift Osbourne, set in Paris and the art colony of Grez.



hotel place vendome

The Hotel on Place Vendome by Tilar J. Mazzeo (Harper 2014) The story of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, from its opening in Belle Epoque Paris to its surprising double-sided role during World War II, to its “liberation” by Hemingway. A great slice of cultural history.



astonish me Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf 2014) – A ballet love story with scenes at the Palais Garnier in Paris.




i always loved you I Always Loved You by Robin Olivera (Viking 2014) – This author imagines the story of Cassatt and Degas as a love story. While I don’t agree, I did enjoy reading about Mary Cassatt’s collaboration with Degas.



Demeter's Choice Demeter’s Choice: A Portrait of My Grandmother as a Young Artist  by Mary Tonetti Dora (2014) – The story of a young American sculptor named Mary Lawrence Tonetti who came of age in the art studios of New York and Paris in the late 19th century, and who is most famous for her sculpture of Christopher Columbus for the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.



20th/21st Century Life in Paris

1. Paris Was Ours by Penelope Rowland -Lovely essays by a wide variety of writers who lived in Paris.

2. Paris, Paris by David Downie – Smart essays about the history, sites and personality of Paris by an American who has lived in the Marais district for many years

3. Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin –  The funny story of an American’s job at a Paris ad agency for 18 months

4. Paris My Sweet by Amy Thomas – A pastry blogger’s two years in Paris, with a guide to all of the best boulangeries and patisseries in Paris. Keep this one in your tote bag.

5. My Life in Paris by Julia Child – Julia Child’s years in Paris on rue de L’Université.

6. The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter – A bohemian’s view of Paris on foot, told by a long-time expat who lives in the heart of the Left Bank.

7. C’est La Vie by Suzy Gershman – A newly widowed woman, the author of the Born to Shop Paris guides, faces the challenges of moving to Paris and dating older French men.

8. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebowitz – Pastry chef and cookbook author begins a sweet but perplexing new life in Paris. Includes recipes and advice on leaving and eating well in Paris.

9. Paris In Love by Eloise James – A romance writer’s year in Paris with her reluctant teenagers, including a guide to her favorite restaurants, shops and small museums.

10. True Pleasures: A Memoir of Women in Paris by Lucinda Holdforth – Smart mid-life memoir about the author’s trip to Paris in which she follows in the footsteps of Paris women she admires, from Madame Pomadour and Josephine Bonaparte to Colette and Edith Wharton.

11. Chronicles of Old Paris:Exploring the Historic City of Light by John Baxter

12. Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant

13. Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnick

14. Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan  Sontag and Angela Davis

15. Into A Paris Quarter by Diane Johnson

 World War II Era

1. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (2007) – The fictional story based on the 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv round-up of Jewish families by French authorities who were collaborating with the  Nazis.

2. The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (2010) – A multi-generational memoir about a Jewish family’s collection of Japanese netsukes, from their acquisition in Belle Epoque Paris through their near loss in World War II and beyond. (See also 19th c. Paris)

3. Wine & War by Don and Petie Kladstrup (2001) – The story of the struggle and resistance of French winemaking families in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace during Nazi occupation.

4. Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation by Charles Glass – Fascinating nonfiction account of the Americans who stayed in Paris during World War II against the American Ambassador’s advice, including Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Co.

5. Pictures at an Exhibition by Sara Houghteling – A story of Nazi art looting in WWII Paris told by the son of  Jewish art dealer. An exceptionally researched and beautifully executed book about lost paintings, lost love, the art of survival and the power of the imagination.

6. Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel, Nazi Agent by Hal Vaughan – At best, Chanel would do anything to survive in WWII Paris. At worst, she was an anti-semitic Nazi collaborator and morphine-addicted snob who not only slept with the enemy, but worked as their agent. The evidence suggests the worst.

7. Suite Françaiseby Iréne Nemerovsky – Beautifully linked stories about the years of German occupation, as told by a Jewish author who was deported and killed in Auschwitz decades before the book was published

8. Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure  Hunt in History by Robert Edsel – A special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives to save the world’s great art from the Nazis.

9. And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alan Riding  

The Hemingway Era

1. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (2010) – Hadley Hemingway’s fictionalized story of her marriage to Ernest Hemingway and their years together in Paris

2. Paris Without End by Gioia Diliberto – The more thorough nonfiction account of Hadley and Ernest Hemingway’s marriage

3. The Last Nude by Ellis Avery (2011) – The story of Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka and her model and muse who lived in Paris in the 20s and 30s, with a character modeled after Hemingway

4. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston – A novel in a creative scrapbook style about an adventurous young woman who comes to Paris to work at a magazine in the 1920s

5. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Ernest Hemingway’s story of his early years in Paris with Hadley, written with regret and published after his death

6. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – A thinly disguised fictional story about a group of heavy drinking expat Americans who live in Paris in the 20s.

7. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein – The autobiographical story of Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, who were leaders of the modernist expat art and literary community in Paris in the 20s and 30s.

8. Paris Was Yesterday (1925-1939) by Janet Flanner – Based on Flanner’s “Letter from Paris” in the New Yorker.

9. Walks in Hemingway’s Paris: A Guide for the Literary Traveler by Noel Riley Fitch – Best walking tour through the Left Bank for literary travelers.


19th Century Historical Fiction

1. The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields – The fictionalized Paris love story between Edith Wharton and Morton Fullerton during the years that Edith rented the Vanderbilt townhouse on rue de Grenelle. Even if this book took place in 1907, I just can’t picture Edith Wharton as a 20th century woman, so I place this book along with the other 19th century historical fiction.

2. Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore – A bawdy mystery about the Impressionists obsession with the color blue.

3. Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell – The tragic love story of Claude Monet and his first wife, model and muse Camille.

4. Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace –  A fictionalized account of Van Gogh’s last months in Auvers-sur-Oise, from the point of view of Dr. Gachet, his friend, doctor, model and fellow painter.

5.  I am Madame X by Gioia Diliberto – The story of John Singer Sargent’s most famous model, the American beauty Madame Gautreau, and the painting that scandalized Paris.

6. The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland – The fictionalized story behind Renoir’s painting

7. Lydia Cassatt Reading the Newspaper – The fictionalized story of Mary Cassatt’s years in Paris with her family and sister Lydia

8. The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R.           

9. The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay



1. The Greater Journey by David McCullough

2. The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

3. The Judgment of Paris by Ross King

4. The Personal Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe

5. Eiffel’s Tower

6. The Paris Flood


19th Century Fiction

1. The Ambassadors by Henry James

2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

3. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

4. Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant

5. Old Man Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

6. Trilby by George du Maurier

French Revolution/Napoleon

1. Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran – The fictionalized story of Madame Tussaud’s years in Paris as the owner of a Paris wax museum before and during the Revolution.

2. Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford – The enjoyable, anectdotal biography of Louis XV’s famous mistress.

3. Walks Through Napoleon and Josephine’s Paris by Diana Reid Haig – A small guidebook to help you tour in and around Paris in the footsteps of Napoleon and Josephine with recommended shops and restaurants along the way. From the Church of St. Roch on rue Saint-Honoré to Malmaison and Fountainbleu.

4. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – Believe it or not, I’d never read this before I got to Paris.

5. The Second Empress by Michelle Moran – The story of Napoleon’s second wife, Marie-Louise of Austria, whom he wed in order to have an heir.

6. Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber – Fascinating look at the role of fashion in revolutionary France.

7. Napoleon & Josephine: An Improbable Marriage by Evangeline Bruce


Paris Art Books, Nonfiction and Memoir

 1. The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal – Part family biography, part art history, this is the story of the Euphrussi family collection of Japanese netsukes, small ivory carvings. The story begins in Belle Epoque Paris with the art collector and flaneur Charles Euphrussi and continues through and beyond Nazi occupied Vienna.

2. Paris, The Impressionistsby Ellen Williams – Walking tours of the artists’ studios, homes and the sites they painted, with period café and restaurant recommendations

3. Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) – The exhibition catalog of the Berthe Morisot Exhibit at the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris in 2012, the first retrospective of the artist in Paris in over 70 years, including biographical texts by family members

4. Renoir, My Father by Jean Renoir – Jean Renoir’s biography of his father, full of touching detail and memories

5. Artist in Residence: A Guide to the Homes and Studios of Eight 19th Century Artists in and Around Paris by Dana Micucci – Travel guide to the artists’ homes that have been turned into museums, including Bonheur, Courbt, Delacroix, Daubigny, Millet, Monet, Moreau and Van Gogh

6. The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe – A thorough nonfiction account of the lives of Monet, Renoir, Manet, Degas, Cassatt, Morisot and others

7. Modeling My Life by Janet Scudder – The autobiography of an American sculptor who came to study art in Paris in 1893 and ended up staying most of her life

8. Overcoming All Obstacles: the Women of Académie Julian by Gabriel P. Weisberg and Jane Becker, Ed. – Catalog of an exhibition held at the Dahesh Museum in New York, focusing on the women who studied at the Académie Julian in late 18th century Paris

9. Background with Figures by Cecilia Beaux – The autobiography of an American painter who has been called a female Singer Sargent. She studied in Paris in the late 1900s

10. The Studios of Paris: The Capital of Art in the Late Nineteenth Century by John Miller – An extensive listing, with photographs of many of the studios of artists in Paris from Montmartre to Montparnasse.

11. An Interlude in Giverny by Joyce Henri Robinson and Derrick R. Cartwright –             The exhibit catalog for An Interlude in Giverny at the Musée d’Art Américain Giverny in 2001, with essays about the life of Frederick and Mary MacMonnies whose home in Giverny was the center of an American art colony in the late 1890s and early 1990s.

12. A Flight With Fame: The Life and Art of Frederick MacMonnies by Mary Smart – A thoroughly research biography of the life of Frederick MacMonnies, and American sculptor and painter, with a complete catalog of the artist’s works

13. Rue de la Grande Chaumiere: The Cradle of Montparnasse by John Crombie – A small guidebook from a local Paris press about the history, artists and sites in the heart of Montparnasse

14. The Journal of Marie Bashkirtself – The amazing journal of a Russian aristocrat who came to study painting at Académie Julian in Paris in the 1880s, but who died of tuberculosis at the age of 25.

15. Painting Professionals: Women Artists & the Development of Modern American Art 1870-1930 by Kirsten Swinth – The story of the unsure art training and career paths of American women painters in the U.S. and abroad in the late 19th and early 20th century.

16. Little Women Abroad by Louisa May Alcott and May Alcott

17. Studying Art Abroad by May Alcott

18. May Alcott: A Memoir by Caroline Ticknor

19. French Ways and Their Meaning by Edith Wharton

20. Rilke in Paris by Rainer Maria Rilke & Maurice Betz


Beyond Paris

1. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

2. Long Ago In France by MFK Fischer

3 thoughts on “Paris Book List

  1. The Art of Rebellion, published June 2016 (Rebelight Publishing) follows a young woman as she struggles to make her way in the art world of Paris late in the 19th century. If you’d like a free ecopy of the book, possibly to review on your blog, please let me know. My book has been on the Calgary bestselling list for 3 weeks now and has 6 5-star reviews on Amazon to date. Brenda Leahy, at


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