The Parisians in store

5 Books to Read Before Your Trip to Paris

The Parisians in store

For even the most casual historians, artists, and cooks, Paris looms large in the imagination as a complete sensory experience, where fashionably modern residents live and work alongside centuries of storied history. Before you go, treat yourself to some of these incredible tales of Paris’s past and present.

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
There’s a reason Shakespeare & Company keeps this book stocked. Hemingway’s experience in Paris perfectly captures that certain sense of longing that visitors feel toward the City of Light. His distinct, blunt style reads like you’re sitting with him at a brasserie, sipping a bière and sharing gossip. His complicated relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald, the wry advice from Gertrude Stein, the patient friendship of Sylvia Beach—it’s absolutely delightful to read, a piece of Paris you can take with you anywhere.

The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz
After working at the famous Chez Panisse in California, American pastry chef David Lebovitz packed his bags and headed to Paris. From his teensy apartment to the DIY attitude of the local pharmacie, Lebovitz lovingly shares tale after tale of how Paris can be both beautiful and baffling. It’s perfect for a glimpse into the daily life of an expat. Oh, and if you fall in love with the food as much as David, each chapter concludes with a recipe.

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, by David McCullough
Starting around 1830 and taking us all the way to the early 1900s, this book tells the tale of generations of writers, artists, and scientists whose manifest destiny lay to the east, not west. Samuel Morse, Charles Sumner, Elizabeth Blackwell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Marie Cassatt—these are just a few of the Americans who fled to, studied, or worked in Paris, and brought back with them a wealth of knowledge that influenced the course of American history.

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris, by Graham Robb
Each chapter in this book revolves around a particular moment in the lives of remarkable Parisians throughout the city’s history. Napoleon’s first visit to Paris, Marie Antoinette’s scramble to find her way through the unmappable city streets by night, a young man’s story of revenge that spans decades, the oft-uncredited engineer who saved Paris from collapsing in on itself, Marcel Proust, Charles de Gaulle, and so many more. With each story full of juicy narrative, it’s easy to forget that you’re absorbing a few hundred years of history, too.

Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced It, by Jill Jonnes
The 1889 Exposition Universelle is the one that brought us the Eiffel Tower, propelled Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley to international acclaim, and made Thomas Edison a count. In this lovingly told history of the 1889 World’s Fair, you’ll read all about the struggle and rush to build the most incredible technological marvel the world had ever known. It’s juxtaposed against bright scenes from around the fair, the excitement of the exhibitors, the artists as they vied for the space to show their work, the incredible impression the Native Americans left on everyone who visited, and so much more. The narrative style immerses you in the fervor, the fascination, and of course, the fun.

Do you dream of going to Paris?

  • Sarah Reller

    Oh la la. The trip to Paris is like a trip to another world. You did forget to mention the most important book, Rick Steve;s “Paris”. It is invaluable for the practical stuff. The everyday and the little joys.