That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light (Velvet Morning Press) A collection of essays from French, ex-pat and Francophiles that shows the city through their eyes. Some of the entries are fiction and some are true-life stories — the beauty is that they all demonstrate an honest, most often humorous, portrayal of the French capital and the people who live there.
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris (Back Bay Books, 2001) Hilarious collection of personal stories, including his adventures learning mangled French in Paris. Even better, get the audio book which is narrated by Sedaris. His inflections and humor come across even more effectively and the results are spectacularly hysterical.
Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik (Random House Trade, 2001) Gopnik’s quirky, fascinating collection of stories from Paris written for The New Yorker range from insightful political analysis to playful tales of city life with his wife and young children. His eye for the very small, quotidian details of Parisian life is spot-on and often lyrical.
Shakespeare & Company, Sylvia Beach (University of Nebraska Press, 1991) In 1919, Beach opened an English-language bookshop and lending library, which became a magnet for the community of ex-pat writers and characters living in Paris at the time. Beach remembers them all in the intriguing memoir. Buy this at the shop which bears the name, in the shadow of Notre Dame, now run by the legendary George Whitman’s daughter – the appropriately named Sylvia Beach Whitman.
Hunting and Gathering, Anna Gavalda (Riverhead Trade, 2007) An intriguing story about a down-on-her-luck Frenchwoman, Camille, and her two housemates in a spectacularly decrepit Parisian mansion. Beautifully drawn characters and intensive honesty on the part of the writer add up to a compelling portrait of life and love in contemporary Paris.
Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay (Saint Martins Press, 2010) Recently made into a movie, Sarah’s Key intertwines the lives of Sarah, who lived during the nightmare of the Velodrome d’Hiver in 1942 and Julia, an American journalist living in Paris in 2010. It is a disturbing dramatization of the Nazi occupation during WWII and how the events of Sarah’s life affect Julia more than 60 years later.
The Paris Wife: A Novel (Broché 2012) This best-seller depicts the love story between Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley as well as the dazzling days of Paris in the 1920s.
And God Created the French, 2nd edition, Louis-Bernard Robitaille (Studio 9 Books Music, 2003) This quirky book by a Canadian journalist in Paris is packed with intriguing observations that will surprise even experienced Francophiles.
French Toast: An American in Paris Celebrates the Maddening Mysteries of the French, Harriet Welty Rochefort (Thomas Dunne Books, 1998) A freelance journalist from Iowa offers a fresh perspective on French attitudes about food, sex, love, and marriage.
A Traveller’s History of France, 7th edition, Robert Cole (Interlink Publishing Group, 2005) A concise history with anecdotes of French history from Paleolithic to modern times.
Understanding Cultural Differences, Edward T. and Mildred Reed Hall (Intercultural Press, 1990) An academic analysis of how the French, Germans and Americans do business.
Au Contraire!: Figuring Out the French, Gilles Asselin and Ruth Mastron (September 2010) A book about French culture from a historical perspective, including important business and cultural differences between France and the US.
Rick Steves’ Paris 2015, (Avalon Travel Publishing, 2014) A respectable travel book that gives good information on tourist destinations as well as commentary on what is worth visiting and what can be skipped as well as how to avoid lines and take advantage of all Paris has to offer. Rick Steves adds a dose of humor to his guide, so it is often less a dry travel book than a friend’s notebook about what to see and do.
One Thousand Buildings of Paris, Kathy Borrus, Jorg Brockmann and James Driscoll (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2003) Wandering the streets of Paris with this book is a treasure, it gives delectable details about gorgeous buildings.
Le Bus Parisien: Repertoire des 80 lignes, Nouvelle Edition, Detailed, pocket-sized guide to city bus routes and their connections to RER and metro lines. Really indispensable to have in your pocket when you are trying to navigate your way around the city.
Paris Pratique: Par Arrondissement, These easy-to-use handy Paris street guides are divided by arrondissement, and include a street index, and metro, bus and RER routes.
Other (Adjusting to Life in Paris)
AAWE Guide to Education in France (8th Edition), produced by the Association of American Wives of Europeans. A handbook that explains the complex French educational system, provides extensive information on schools with English-language/bilingual programs and English after-school and summer activities.
Bloom Where You’re Planted, How to Live in France, Produced by the Women of the American Church. A helpful guidebook that provides information on all aspects of living in Paris.
Culture Shock! Paris: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette, Frances Gendlin (Marshall Cavendish Corporation). A concise resource that covers all topics that a newcomer needs to know to settle into Paris.
French or Foe, Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France, 3rd edition, Polly Platt (Distribooks, 2003) + follow-up Savoir-Flair: 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French, 2nd edition (Assimil Gmbh, 2007). Polly Platt is a (transplanted) French institution and uses her extensive knowledge of French culture to provide amusing but practical advice for fitting into French society. The sequel is more of the same.