Books You Need to Read Before Going to Paris

The magnetic pull of Paris has captivated the imagination of countless literary figures across the ages, casting an enchanting spell that transcends the constraints of time. Revered as the epitome of romance and artistic beauty, the City of Light exudes a timeless charm that has tugged at the heartstrings of people throughout history. [1] Wandering along its lively streets or finding solace in its cozy cafés, Paris possesses a unique ability to ignite the fires of creativity, inspiring numerous authors to infuse its essence into the fabric of their stories.

Whether you stand on the brink of a Parisian adventure, seeking insider insights, or yearn to meander through the city’s intricate streets via the lens of historical fiction, worry not. A treasure trove of literary treasures lies in wait, with each page serving as a portal into this captivating metropolis. Within this thoughtfully curated compilation, you’ll unearth an array of Parisian literary jewels catering to a variety of interests. From enduring classics that have become cultural landmarks to comprehensive guides unraveling the intricacies of Parisian cuisine and traditions, this collection promises an exploration that resonates deeply.

So, whether you’re contemplating a journey to Paris and hunger for the wisdom of seasoned explorers, or you’re eager to immerse yourself in the city’s ambiance by delving into eloquent narratives, this selection beckons. With each title, a door to Paris opens wide, inviting you to stroll down its cobbled avenues and bask in its timeless allure.

The Top Books to Read Before Visiting Paris

This compilation promises to spark your creativity and transport you into a realm of nostalgic daydreams, where you can stroll through the enchanting streets and envisage your journey to this exquisite city. Among these literary treasures, you’ll find glimpses of Parisian daily life from eras gone by, adding an extra layer of allure to your literary voyage.

Literary Classics about Paris

1. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo: This literary gem stands as one of the timeless Parisian narratives, weaving a tale deeply intertwined with the heart of the city itself. Set against the backdrop of Paris’s most cherished marvel – Notre Dame, a medieval Catholic cathedral and an iconic French landmark, the story unfolds within the embrace of its Gothic splendor. Within its pages, a tapestry of tragic irony unfurls, casting a spotlight on the lives of the enigmatic Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell ringer of the cathedral, the mesmerizing Esmeralda, a gypsy dancer, and the complex Claude Frollo, a priest whose motivations and desires drive the narrative’s twists and turns. Furthermore, Hugo’s masterful storytelling is a testament to his vivid imagination and unparalleled descriptive prowess. As you delve into the narrative, you’ll find yourself captivated not only by the characters’ intricacies but also by the author’s ability to transport you directly into the heart of medieval Paris, with all its grandeur and hidden alleys.

2. A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway: This book is essential for those who yearn to peer into the tapestry of 1920s Parisian life. Hemingway, a master of evocative storytelling, guides you through the streets and moments of that era with deft strokes, offering sketches of his daily encounters and vivid portraits that bring the city’s vibrancy to life. Renowned as one of the quintessential Paris books, “A Moveable Feast” presents the Paris of the 1920s as seen through the lens of Hemingway’s keen observation. His words act as a time machine, whisking you back to a Paris that was the canvas of his experiences, as he chronicles his own transformative journey. This narrative invites you to accompany a young and aspiring writer as he navigates the challenges of his craft, gradually carving a path toward becoming a literary luminary of his generation. Hemingway’s exploration of Parisian cafes, literary circles, and the profound impact of his relationships paints a vivid picture of the era’s cultural richness.

3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: In this classic novel, the stage is set against the turbulent backdrop of the French Revolution. As the title subtly implies, the narrative oscillates between the contrasting realms of Paris and London, unfolding its tapestry in the year 1775. The characters’ destinies intertwine, shaping the narrative as we follow the path of Alexandre Manette, a former physician, Charles Darnay, a Frenchman, and Sydney Carton, an Englishman. Their lives become entangled within a series of events, propelling them toward a shared fate. Renowned as one of the literary gems that have stood the test of time, “A Tale of Two Cities” plunges readers deep into the maelstrom of chaos, the romance that blossoms amidst the turmoil, and the dramatic sweep of the era. As Dickens’ eloquent prose carries you through the pages, you’ll witness the grand tableau of societal upheaval, human resilience, and the enduring power of love and sacrifice.

4. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George: Nestled within this heartwarming novel is the tale of Jean, a compassionate bookseller stationed in the heart of Paris. His unique haven is a floating literary apothecary nestled upon a boat that gently floats upon the Seine. Known for his uncanny ability to prescribe the perfect book remedy for others, he finds himself in the curious position of being unable to heal his own heart. The novel charts his geographical and emotional journey, as he leaves behind the iconic streets of Paris and embarks on a voyage to the sun-soaked landscapes of the south of France. This pilgrimage is not just a physical one; it’s a quest for self-discovery, for a reconnection with the fragments of himself, lost to a love from long ago. Within the pages of his journey, a cast of characters as diverse as they are captivating emerges. These fellow travelers, each harboring their own quests for healing and renewal, add layers of depth and resonance to the narrative.

5. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: This literary masterpiece stands as a testament to its Parisian setting, firmly etching its name among the greatest novels ever crafted. Penned by Victor Hugo and initially unveiled in 1862, this classic work of fiction guides readers through the labyrinthine streets of post-French Revolution Paris. With a cast of characters as diverse as the city itself, “Les Misérables” paints a vivid tableau of interconnected lives, their stories serving as windows into the era’s soul. At its core, this narrative is an expansive, poignant tale that centers around the life of ex-convict Jean Valjean. The struggles and hardships he endures form the heart of the story, enveloping readers in a sweeping saga of trials, redemption, and the endurance of the human spirit. Beyond its enthralling characters and riveting plot, “Les Misérables” emerges as a scathing critique of the social injustices plaguing 19th-century society. Crime and punishment serve as poignant themes, unveiling the dark underbelly of a world grappling with disparity and desperation. Yet, within this narrative, the indomitable resilience of the human spirit emerges as a guiding light, offering hope even in the bleakest of times.

The Best Memoirs About Parisian Life

1. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz: Penned by the talented David Lebovitz, a culinary maestro with a Parisian twist (originally hailing from the United States), this work is a delightful blend of gastronomy and the City of Light. A chef whose reputation has been artfully baked into the very essence of Paris, Lebovitz unveils the city’s sweet side like none other. With a palette that understands the nuances of every flake, crumb, and cream, he’s the ultimate guide to navigating the Parisian pastry scene. Whether you’re in pursuit of the ultimate croissant or yearning to discover the ideal macaron flavor as interpreted by Pierre Hermé, this book holds the keys to unlocking these delectable secrets. Lebovitz doesn’t just provide mere recommendations; he immerses you in a sensory journey, unveiling the Parisian pastry landscape with the insight of a connoisseur. As you traverse these pages, you’ll gain not only a taste for the culinary treasures but also a glimpse into the heart of the city that so lovingly embraces its sweet creations.

2. Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod: A memoir that dances on the edge of inspiration, this narrative follows Janice MacLeod’s path from corporate confines to the artistic embrace of Paris. As her story unfurls, MacLeod’s decision to trade her corporate role for the life of an artist becomes a vivid tale that traverses continents and heartscapes. The pages invite you to step alongside her as she sets foot in Paris with a single suitcase, embarking on a daring escapade fueled by passion and a hunger for the unknown. Amidst the cobblestone streets and iconic landmarks, the city’s allure seeps into her soul. The rhythm of Paris becomes her melody, new friendships blossom, and a canvas of love and artistry unfolds. Nestled within this romantic landscape is the tale of a chance encounter with Christophe, a man whose presence adds an extra layer of enchantment to her story. The memoir’s pages are adorned with vignettes of the diverse souls she befriends and the journey of sharing her personalized artwork with the world.

3. My Life in France by Julia Child: This captivating narrative authored by Julia Child promises to find its way into your hearts and stomachs, as it invites you into a world of vibrant flavors and heartfelt stories. Within its pages, Child’s journey unfolds, chronicling her years in France and the profound impact it had on her life. As you delve into her narrative, you’ll witness her evolution from an intrepid cuisine explorer to a passionate chef. The book serves as a testament to her relentless pursuit of culinary knowledge and her deep dive into the intricacies of French culture. Through her eyes, you’ll discover the enigmatic culinary secrets that have elevated her to the esteemed status of a world-renowned chef. The journey doesn’t stop at the kitchen, though. Child’s narrative extends into her endeavors in crafting her iconic cookbook, with all its trials and triumphs. The memoir offers a heartwarming glimpse into her life, captured through a lens that reveals intimate moments with her family and her own transformative experience as she embraced life in France.

4. Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik: The pages of this book serve as a chronicle of their escapades, drenched in humor and sprinkled with wit, providing readers with an engaging and endearing account of their Parisian odyssey. Gopnik’s prose takes on the quality of a heartfelt love letter to the city, each paragraph a brushstroke that paints a vivid picture of their life amidst the enchanting streets and hidden corners of Paris. As you immerse yourself in their experiences, you’ll discover the charm of an American family navigating the nuances of ex-pat life. The narrative unfurls as a mosaic of moments, capturing the unique challenges, delights, and epiphanies that come with embracing a foreign city as your own. Gopnik’s keen observations offer a window into the rhythm of daily Parisian life, often casting a warm and affectionate light on the cultural quirks and charming peculiarities that define the city. This is not just a travelogue; it’s an invitation to venture beyond the guidebook’s pages and into the heart of Paris as experienced by a devoted explorer. It’s a narrative that ignites wanderlust and stirs a yearning to taste the flavors of ex-pat life, a testament to the transformative magic that only a city like Paris can conjure.

5. Waking Up in Paris by Sonia Choquette: Within the pages of this beautiful memoir lies the poignant narrative of Choquette’s voyage of self-discovery. The decision to transplant herself to Paris after a challenging divorce marks the genesis of her transformative journey. With a heart full of aspirations, she seeks solace and inspiration amidst the cobblestone streets of le Marais, immersing herself in the city’s rich culture and way of life. As you turn the pages, you’ll be enveloped by Choquette’s perspective, experiencing Paris through her lens as she navigates this new chapter of her life. Her reflections on encounters and experiences serve as windows into the intricate tapestry of the city, offering a more intimate and personal portrayal of the Parisian landscape. The memoir is an invitation to journey alongside Choquette as she embraces the rhythm of daily life in Paris, discovering not only the city’s charm but also her own resilience and capacity for growth. Her tale is one of inspiration, a narrative that resonates deeply with those seeking solace, healing, and a renewed sense of purpose.


Paris has forever held a reputation steeped in romance and an unmatched sense of delight, evoking an irresistible allure for countless individuals yearning to experience its enchanting streets. Yet, within this allure lies a crucial realization: to truly comprehend the essence of the City of Love. This realization compels both visitors and locals alike to delve into a diverse selection of books before stepping foot on Parisian soil. Ranging from the timeless literary classics to a plethora of memoirs penned by celebrated authors, the array of choices is abundant and varied, catering to a spectrum of preferences and curiosities.