Reading about Paris, as much as visiting it, is always a pleasure, so I wanted to share wonderful books set in Paris with you today. Paris, often referred to as the “City of Light” or “La Ville-Lumière,” has long been a source of inspiration for writers and a setting for some of the most memorable and captivating stories in literature.
Its enchanting streets, iconic landmarks, and rich history provide a backdrop that has lured countless authors to weave their tales within this magnificent city. From the romantic boulevards along the Seine River to the hidden corners of Montmartre, Paris has a unique ability to transport readers into its world. So, we’ll explore wonderful books set in Paris, each offering a distinct perspective on the city and its many facets.
Books Set in Paris
A Waiter in Paris – Edward Chisholm
Edward Chisholm’s spellbinding memoir of his time as a Parisian waiter takes you below the surface of one of the most iconic cities in the world and right into its glorious underbelly.
The waiter inhabits a world of inhuman hours, snatched sleep and dive bars; scraping by on coffee, bread and cigarettes, often under sadistic managers, with a wage so low you’re fighting your colleagues for tips.
It’s physically demanding, frequently humiliating and incredibly competitive. And with a cast of thieves, narcissists, ex-Legionnaires, paperless immigrants and drug dealers, it makes for a compelling and eye-opening read among books set in Paris.
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a shy twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness when she meets Ernest Hemingway and is captivated by his energy, intensity and burning ambition to write. After a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for France.
But glamorous Jazz Age Paris, full of artists and writers, fuelled by alcohol and gossip, is no place for family life and fidelity. Ernest and Hadley’s marriage begins to founder, and the birth of a beloved son serves only to drive them further apart. Then, at last, Ernest’s ferocious literary endeavours begin to bring him recognition – not least from a woman intent on making him her own… One of my faves among books set in Paris.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
A classic among books set in Paris. Renée is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building. She maintains a carefully constructed persona as someone uncultivated but reliable, in keeping with what she feels a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renée: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives.
Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renée lives with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.
The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George
On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.
The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved. A cute one among books set in Paris.
A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway
A must-read among books set in Paris. Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway’s most beloved works. Since Hemingway’s personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined and debated the changes made to the text before publication. Now this new special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.
Featuring a personal foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest’s sole surviving son, and an introduction by the editor and grandson of the author, Seán Hemingway, this new edition also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-published Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son Jack and his first wife, Hadley. Also included are irreverent portraits of other luminaries, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Madox Ford, and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft.
Sure to excite critics and readers alike, the restored edition of A Moveable Feast brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the unbridled creativity and enthusiasm that Hemingway himself experienced. In the world of letters it is a unique insight into a great literary generation, by one of the best American writers of the twentieth century. For the Hemingway fans among books set in Paris.
Paris Echo – Sebastian Faulks
Here is Paris as you have never seen it before – a city in which every building seems to hold the echo of an unacknowledged past, the shadows of Vichy and Algeria.
American postdoctoral researcher Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq have little in common, yet both are susceptible to the daylight ghosts of Paris. Hannah listens to the extraordinary witness of women who were present under the German Occupation; in her desire to understand their lives and through them her own, she finds a city bursting with clues and connections. Out in the migrant suburbs, Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. For him, in his innocence, each boulevard, Métro station and street corner is a source of surprise.
In this urgent and deeply moving novel, Faulks deals with questions of empire, grievance, and identity. With great originality and a dark humour, Paris Echo asks how much we really need to know if we are to live a valuable life among books set in Paris.
Paris by the Book – Liam Callanan
Twelve weeks before Leah Eady arrived in France, her husband disappeared. Early one morning, he walked out the door and never came back. All he left behind was a scrumpled note in a cereal box, leading her to the bustling streets of Paris.
Once she arrives, she discovers a mysterious unfinished manuscript written by her husband, and set in the very same city. Hoping to uncover more clues, Leah takes over a crumbling bookshop with her two young daughters, only to realise that he might just be closer than any of them ever imagined… A cute read among books set in Paris.
The Secret Paris Cinema Club – Nicholas Barreau
Alain Bonnard, the owner of a small art cinema in Paris, is a dyed-in-the-wool nostalgic. In his Cinéma Paradis there are no buckets of popcorn, no XXL colas, no Hollywood blockbusters. Alain holds firm to his principles of quality – to show films that bring dreams to life, make people fall in love. And Alain would do anything for his clientele – particularly the mysterious woman in the red coat who, for some time now, has turned up every Wednesday and always sits in row seventeen. What could her story be?
Finally one evening Alain plucks up courage to invite the unknown beauty to dinner. But just as the most tender of love stories is getting under way, something happens that turns Alain’s life upside down, shoving his little cinema unexpectedly into the public eye. So when the woman in the red coat suddenly vanishes from his life, the cinema owner can’t help but wonder if it is more than a coincidence. Taking matters into his own hands, Alain sets off in search of the stranger he has come to love – roll the opening credits for a timeless cinematic romance worthy of the Parisian silver screen! A sweet one among books set in Paris.
The Only Street in Paris – Elaine Sciolino
A non-fiction among books set in Paris. Elaine Sciolino, the former Paris Bureau Chief of the New York Times, invites us on a tour of her favorite Parisian street, offering an homage to street life and the pleasures of Parisian living. “I can never be sad on the rue des Martyrs,” Sciolino explains, as she celebrates the neighborhood’s rich history and vibrant lives. While many cities suffer from the leveling effects of globalization, the rue des Martyrs maintains its distinct allure.
On this street, the patron saint of France was beheaded and the Jesuits took their first vows. It was here that Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted circus acrobats, Emile Zola situated a lesbian dinner club in his novel Nana, and Francois Truffaut filmed scenes from The 400 Blows.
Sciolino reveals the charms and idiosyncrasies of this street and its longtime residents-the Tunisian greengrocer, the husband-and-wife cheesemongers, the showman who’s been running a transvestite cabaret for more than half a century, the owner of a 100-year-old bookstore, the woman who repairs eighteenth-century mercury barometers-bringing Paris alive in all of its unique majesty. The Only Street in Paris will make readers hungry for Paris, for cheese and wine, and for the kind of street life that is all too quickly disappearing. A good-read among books set in Paris.
The Parisians – Marius Gabriel
Paris, 1940. The Nazis have occupied the city―and the Ritz. The opulent old hotel, so loved by Parisians, is now full of swaggering officers, their minions and their mistresses.
For American Olivia Olsen, working as a chambermaid at the hotel means denying her nationality and living a lie, every day bringing the danger of discovery closer. When Hitler’s right-hand man moves in and makes her his pet, she sees an opportunity to help the Resistance―and draw closer to Jack, her contact, whose brusque instructions may be a shield for something more…
Within the hotel, famed designer Coco Chanel quickly learns that the new regime could work to her benefit, while Arletty, one of France’s best-loved actresses, shocks those around her―and herself―with a forbidden love.
But as the war reaches its terrible end, all three women learn the true price of their proximity to the enemy. For in the shadow of war, is anyone truly safe? For the historical fiction lovers among books set in Paris.
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Are there any books set in Paris you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?