Tag Archives: reading

The Essential Bookshelf for Fellow Francophiles

by Amy Thomas

I spent my first year here really boning up on French culture… albeit in a frivolous, beach-reading kind of way. I read tons of great Franco-centric books and recently realized I’ve been missing them. So I picked up Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon (for the third time) and, dammit, try as I might, I’m just not loving it (three times, not the charm in this case). I’ll skim it to the end, picking out the bits on fashion and food, but would love to sink my teeth into something like one of these goodies from last year (plus a few from avant):

 • True Pleasures by Lucinda Holdforth:  Part ode to Parisian women, part history lesson on the city, part memoir, you can’t help but fall in love with Holdforth, a vivacious speechwriter from Australia, along with all the women and pleasures she writes about.

 • Memoirs of Montparnasse by John Glassco:   A memoir by a relatively unknown Canadian writer, this story of being in your twenties, in Paris in the 20s, is colorful, evocative and exhilarating.  A must for anyone obsessed with the Lost Generation (and burnt out on Hemingway).

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke:   With keen British wit, Clarke has made quite a little franchise for himself. After coming out with A Year in the Merde in 2006, he went on to publish four similar books (Dial M for Merde, Merde Happens, and others) about starting from scratch as an expat and dealing with French people, French customs, French bureaucracy and other laughable absurdities. Some people can’t stand his books, but they’re fun, fast reads.

The Authentic Bistros of Paris by Francois Thomazeau and Sylvain Ageorges:   A pocket-sized, arrondisement-organized compilation of the city’s historic, soulful bistros. Color photos and thorough descriptions make it as practical as it is transporting.

 • The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman by Karen Karbo:  You think you know what Coco Chanel was all about? You might want to pense encore after reading Karbo’s adoring but no holds barred take on the French icon, organized in chapters on “Success,” “Fearlessness,” and “Cultivating Arch Rivals.”

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy:  Dundy’s tale gets compared a lot with Sex and the City, but that’s pretty misleading. Sally Jo, the book’s protagonist, may be independent, lovable and always thirsty for a cocktail, but she’s also more neurotic and naïve— and in Paris in the ’50s.

Paris Was Yesterday by Janet Flanner:  As a correspondent for The New Yorker in the ’20s, Janet Flanner was here for one of the most remarkable eras in the city and became a fixture at such landmarks as Café Flore and Shakespeare & Company, covering everyone from Sarah Bernhardt to Madame Curie and everything from art to war. This book compiles her posts—more insightful essays than easy reading.

Betty & Rita Go To Paris by Judith Hughes :  Betty and Rita? Who are they? Two adorable labs that take in all of Paris’ top sights and are captured in darling black and white photos. One of the cutest books ever. 

A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan:   A California cookbook writer recounts the adventures of moving to Provence, starting a fromagerie, learning how to make a proper bouillabaisse, going truffle hunting and other delicious culinary and cultural wonders. Though not set in Paris, it’s a must for anyone who worships at the altar of French cuisine.

 • Return to Paris by Colette Rossant:  Set in the ’50s, this is a rare book that paints Paris as a cold, gray place rather than a city filled with light and wonder. That’s primarily because Rossant lived in Egypt with her vivacious grandmother, before getting sent off as a teenager to the stiff, class-conscious 17th arrondisement, to live with her disinterested mother. 

Pardon My French: Unleash Your Inner Gaul by Charles Timoney:  A fun and quick guidebook to contemporary vocab and idioms and, by default, customs and trends. The chapters on “Food and Drink” and “Young People (and Their Slang)” are particular gems.

Paris Out of Hand by Nick Bantock and Karen Elizabeth:  This “wayward guide” is anything but a guide but, rather, a collection of hotels, sights and shops you might find if Paris was at the bottom of Alice’s rabbit hole. Un peu bizarre, but full of charm and great quotes, too.

The Louis Vuitton City Guide, Taschen’s Paris and StyleCity Paris:   These sophisticated, informative guidebooks (the furthest thing from Let’s Go-style) will ensure you have a cheat sheet to all the best bakeries, most haute hotels, and cool neighborhood finds.

What’s on your Paris bookshelf?

Amy Thomas  was powerless to say no when the opportunity arose to come to Paris and work on Louis Vuitton’s digital advertising. Her days are now a delicious balance of sampling viennoiseries, admiring high fashion, easing into the expat lifestyle and blogging about it all at God, I Love Paris.


English Language Books: Where to Buy Them in Paris

by A.  Letkemann

Updated September 2013

English language bookstores in Paris are more than just a place to pick-up your latest copy of that steamy new novel or copy of Vanity Fair.  They are also cultural centers where you can meet international authors as well as explore ideas and topics of interest to you. Below is a list of popular English language bookstores in Paris, though not exhaustive, it’s as comprehensive as we can find.

Abbey Bookshop – La Librairie Canadienne
29, rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris
Phone: 01 46 33 16 24
Métro: St-Michel or Cluny La Sorbonne

A Canadian bookshop around the corner from Shakespeare & Co., with lots of secondhand British and North American fiction, good social science sections, plus knowledgeable and helpful staff — and free coffee.

64, rue de la Folie Méricourt, 75011 Paris
Phone: 01 49 29 27 27
Métro: St-Ambroise, Oberkampf, Parmentier, Filles du Calvaire, or République

Berkeley Books of Paris
8 Rue Casimir-Delavigne, 75006 Paris
Métro: Odéon

Second hand bookshop specializing in literature, criticism, history, philosophy, religion, poetry, literary journals, cookbooks and children’s books.

The Book Cellar
23, rue Jean de Beauvais, 75005 Paris
Phone: 01 46 34 62 03
Métro: Maubert-Mutualité

37, avenue de l’Opera, 75002 Paris
Métro: Pyramides, Opera

Closed in summer 2009 to the chagrin of  readers, Brentano’s reopened in February 2010 under new ownership.  The selection of English language books here is rather limited.

224, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Phone: 01 42 60 76 07
Métro: Tuileries or Concorde

Fine arts, Anglo-American literature, guidebooks, newspapers, and magazines.  The oldest English bookstore on the continent.

Gilbert Jeune
Multiple locations for different departments around Place St. Michel, 75005 Paris

15bis boulevard Saint Denis, 75002  Paris
Tel: 01 55 34 75 75

San Francisco Book Co.
17, rue Monsieur-le-Prince, 75006 Paris
Phone: 01 43 29 15 70
Métro: Odéon or Luxembourg (RER B).

Buy, sell and trade your English-language hardcover and paperback books at this Left Bank establishment, opened in 2005. It offers a variety of categories (including some first editions and rare collectibles), new and used books, as well as a read-only library upstairs. Get on their mailing list via their Web site to obtain updates of visiting authors and other literary events.

Shakespeare & Co.
37, rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
Phone: 01 43 25 40 93
Métro: Maubert-Mutualité or St-Michel Notre-Dame

Open from noon to midnight daily, this legendary Parisian book store sells used, antique as well as some new books. Though not at the original location of Sylvia Beach’s famous store, it still attracts a crowd of would-be Hemingways. Get on their mailing list via their website to obtain updates of visiting authors and other literary events.

Tea and Tattered Pages
24, rue Mayet, 75006 Paris
Phone: 01 40 65 94 35
Métro: Duroc

Tea and Tattered Pages’ owner passed away some time ago and a new owner is being sought.  The shop is closer until further notice.  This tiny, independent bookshop is a bit off the beaten path, but they’ve got some of the best deals on new and used English-language books, and a tearoom serving up authentic brownies and apple pie.

W.H. Smith
248, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Phone: 01 44 77 88 99
Métro: Concorde

This is one of the largest English language book stores in Paris (an independent branch of the British bookstore chain), with an impressive magazine selection and English food products upstairs. They host regular author events and readings for free if you get on their mailing list (on the Web site). Open on Sunday afternoons.

Editor’s Note: You can find a limited selection of English language books in the major French bookstore chains such as FNAC and Virgin Atlantic and perhaps your neighborhood librairie. The French word for bookstore is “librairie”; a library is known as a “bibliotheque”.  Amazon.fr also offers English language books with lower shipping rates than if you order from Amazon.uk or Amazon.com.

Sadly, two beloved English language bookshops, The Red Wheelbarrow and Village Voice, closed in 2012.  Read about these developments here.