Summer Reading: Books Set in France

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Summer Reading: Books Set in France
Summer is here and that means it’s time for reading light, fun books, right? Well, for lots of people that’s what it means. I have never been one to think of summer as a time to change my criteria for choosing reading material. In the summer, I still want to read books that are interesting, well-written, and that will leave me a little bit smarter after I’ve finished them than before I began. (But of course, they can be fun too.) In any case, I decided to organize this piece as a literary tour around the Hexagon, highlighting some of my favorite books about France. Are you ready? Okay, then, on y va… Starting in Brittany (at Finisterre, “end of the earth”), I strongly recommend I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do) and (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living, Mark Greenside’s rollicking, super-fun books about how he first came to buy a home in a little town in Brittany, and his amusing, often laugh-out-loud, funny adventures and misadventures there in the 30 years since then. Not quite mastering the art of French living – Mark Greenside Moving on to the capital city, if you haven’t yet read Oliver Gee’s Paris On Air, surely it is time you do so. Paris on Air is a delightful memoir about how this charming young Australian went about building his now-world-famous Paris-based podcast, The Earful Tower. (Get it?) And if you’re looking for books to please the children in your life, you should also know about Kylie, A Crocodile in Paris, and Roger the Liger in Paris, also by Oliver, and charmingly illustrated by his wife Lina Nordin Gee. For another refreshing and also very charming view of Paris from a parisienne, Edith de Belleville’s Parisian Life: Adventures in the City of Light is a great summer (or winter, or spring, or fall) read, in which this Parisian tour guide par excellence takes you on a tour of her very Parisian life. Parisian Life by Edith de Belleville Jeffrey Greene’s books are a wonderful way to get a close-up view of the people, as well as the flora and fauna of Burgundy (as well as some other far-flung places in the world his research has taken him to). His memoir, French Spirits: A House, a Village, and a Love Affair is one of my all-time favorite books about France. And in recent years Greene has written what I think as a kind of trilogy of scientific nature studies: The Golden-Bristled Boar: Last Ferocious Beast of the Forest; In Pursuit of Wild Edibles: A Forager’s Tour; and his most recent book, Masters of Tonewood: The Hidden Art of Fine Stringed-Instrument Making. Greene is an award-winning poet, so all of his writing is  exquisitely well crafted, and it is extraordinarily interesting as well. Then there is M L Longworth’s wonderful Verlaque/Bonnet mystery series, set in Aix en Provence. And there is Martin Walker’s wonderful Bruno series, set in southwestern France, in the Dordogne. I love these books for the masterful writing, the mouthwatering descriptions of French cuisine, the evocative descriptions of French landscapes, and the humor.
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Lead photo credit : Reading books (C) Matias North, Unsplash

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Janet Hulstrand is a freelance writer, editor and teacher who divides her time between France and the U.S. She is the author of "Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You," and she writes frequently on France for a variety of publications, including her blog, Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road. She teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the education abroad program of Queens College of the City University of New York; classes at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C.; and Writing from the Heart workshop/retreats in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region (l’Aube).

Comments

  • Patricia Daly-Lipe
    2022-07-14 07:05:44
    Patricia Daly-Lipe
    Please include my book, 'A CRUEL CALM, Paris Between the Wars'. Based on my mother's life in Paris on the Ile St. Louis between WWI and WWII.James Joyce lived for awhile in the apartment above hers. Plus I include the history of Shakespeare & Co. and much more.

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