I have a small obsession with books about France. Specifically, books about American women living in France. I am enamored with the French idea of LIVING life and savoring the moment. I know my idea of what that means and the reality of daily French life is probably skewed. However, I still keep devouring books about France. Here are a few I have read cover to cover.
1. Bringing up Bebe
This is the book that started my obsession. I read this after a pregnant friend told me about it. I wasn’t pregnant but I found the author’s description of French life fascinating. While reading the book I realized I had heard the author on NPR talking about the French daycare system and she said “It is just easier to raise a child in France.” This book talks about that and French social customs.
2. Forever Chic
This was my second book about French life. The author is a journalist living in France. She is a woman of a certain age and the book is geared toward middle age women. My biggest takeaway from this book was the idea that French women wear make up and dress nicely “because it is polite.” It shows a level of caring about other people to look nice for them. This still motivates me to make an effort to look nice even if I am just running to Target – “because it is polite.”
3. Lesson from Madame Chic
The author lives in southern California and was an exchange student in France. This book is full of practical advice for how to live with less and enjoy the moment. I like how the author begins with a story or observation from her time in France and then describes how she “translates” the idea into American life.
4. At Home with Madame Chic
After I finished Lessons from Madame Chic I jumped straight into the author’s second book. This book has a plethora of advice about making a house a cozy “French” home and about daily activities to practice the French way of savoring life. She also describes how to simplify life with kids (the author has two young daughters) and not get caught up in the hectic pace of American life. There are a number of recipes for making home cleaning products.
5. French Toast
This book was the first I found that took a more critical look at French life. I appreciated the honest assessment of some of the challenges of French culture such as how difficult it is to have close friendships and how hiding wealth from the government is a badge of honor. The author is even handed in her description of French culture and the challenges of being an American in France.
6. Words in a French Life
I adore this book. It is my second favorite book on French life. First because the author does not live in Paris but in the South of France. Second because she is clearly a bibliophile and loves word study. Each chapter is based around a French word or concept and the author tells stories about learning the word or idea. I love books that make me spontaneously laugh and this book did that a number of times. The author has a clever way of telling stories and has a large dose of self depreciating humor.
7. On Rue Tatin
This is a cookbook and life journey log. The author actually has a cooking school in a small town in France. People can go to her home/ cooking school to learn about French life and French cooking. The book discusses the author’s love of food and her husband’s loving restoration of the sprawling and dilapidated French home they purchased. Each chapter ends with a number of recipes. Some recipes are intimidating – I don’t even know where I would find those ingredients. While others are more accessible – I recognize all those ingredients and could make that. I actually bought this book and have tried a number of the recipes in it and they turned out delicious.
8. Lunch in Paris
This is currently my hands down favorite book about French life. The author is a freelance writer and has the funniest writing style. I laughed and giggled throughout the story due to her turn of phrase or aside while telling about living in Paris. She is also even handed about French culture and describes the good and the bad aspects of living in Paris. This is more of a memoir than the other books. I found it amusing and delightful.
There you have it. My top eight books about French life and culture. Which one will you try? Which book would you recommend I add to this list?