Top five books to read before visiting Paris
Paris is a city to experience — not just visit. From Delacroix paintings adorning the walls of Saint-Sulpice church to bullet holes from World War II in the walls at the Place de la Concorde metro stop, there are signs of history and art everywhere you turn. The challenge can be knowing what you are seeing and knowing where to look. That is why I love reading about places before visiting.
Here is a list of my favorite books to read before visiting Paris to enhance your experience.
1.) My favorite book if you plan to visit Versailles (or the Conciergerie) is Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Frasier (affiliate link). It reads like a novel full of love and adventure with twists and turns…only it was real life. Well researched, Antonia Frasier provides different points of views to the same events given an even more in depth view of the life and happenings of Marie Antoinette. Once at Versailles, you’ll find yourself looking at Marie Antoinette’s bedroom, hamlet and Petit Trianon in a whole new way
2.) If you enjoy the intersection of American history with French history then David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (affiliate link) is the book for you. Telling the (almost) lost stories of Americans who fell in love with Paris around the turn of the 20th century, this book is a fascinating recount of artists, writers, politicians whose achievements impact us even today. McCullough’s writing style is easy to read and you won’t find history boring.
3.) Interacting with Parisians (and the French) is simple – mind your manners. There is a formal code of conduct in France known as la politesse. It really isn’t difficult once you know the secret. The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau (affiliate link) is a fascinating look at French culture and the French language. You’ll find your trip so enjoyable once you know the French really aren’t rude. They are actually very polite.
4.) Looking to explore an off the beaten path place in Paris, look no farther than Elaine Sciolino’s The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des (affiliate link). Reading the story of the street through the stories of the people who live and work there, you’ll find yourself determined to find the vintage murals painted on the side of buildings, to uncover a designer label must-have in the vintage fashion store and even keeping an eye out for the author herself.
5.) No reading list about Paris (or France for that matter) is complete without the grand dame herself Julia Child. My Life in France (affiliate link) documents the amazing story of Julia Child’s life of self discovery and adventure in France with her husband Paul. Full of humor and “can do” attitude, you’ll be inspired to embrace all the ups and downs of your trip to experience Paris to her fullest.
I hope you enjoy my reading suggestions. If you have a favorite book, I’d love to know about it. I’m always on the lookout for a new book. You can connect with me on The Paris Itinerary Instagram and Facebook pages.
If you’d like more information about how to not just visit Paris but experience Paris, be sure to sign up for The Paris Itinerary ezine – published weekly.