8 New Books You Need to Read Before Flying to France

These new reads will get you excited for your next adventure to the land of fresh croissants, fragrant lavender, and ultra-chic street style.

8 New Books You Need to Read Before Flying to France

Few countries are as (ahem) storied as France, and for good reason—its capital is a long-heralded epicenter of fashion and food, and its countryside has been the source material for some of the world’s greatest artists. Whether you’re planning a trip or just want to scratch a Francophile itch, these eight new reads can inspire.

For the eclectic wanderer

Don’t Be a Tourist in Paris: The Messy Nessy Chic Guide
by Vanessa Grall (Roads Publishing; hardback available now, paperback forthcoming February 2019)

Are you looking for the best places to take a date? To indulge your inner bookworm? To have an offbeat adventure? To explore under-the-radar adventures? Paris is the perfect city for all of these, and blogger Vanessa Grall has recommendations for where to do them. The founder of MessyNessyChic.com has compiled her favorite places from years living in Paris as an expat, and she shares them here.

Preorder it: amazon.com

For the consummate artist


Cover art courtesy of Artisan Books

Travels Through the French Riviera: An Artist’s Guide to the Storied Coastline, from Menton to Saint-Tropez
by Virginia Johnson (Artisan Books, May 2018)

In this book, Canadian artist Virginia Johnson captures the colors of the French Riviera, where she has been visiting for nearly 30 years. The aesthetic is whimsical and personal, with 150 watercolor illustrations from her travels (find, for example, spreads of Johnson’s favorite colors of a city and small sketches of a local fruit seller). But the book is rich with practical information: where to eat gelato, where to buy traditional fabrics, what to pack, what to bring back, how to make a citron pressé, and more.

Buy it: amazon.com

For the memoir lover

My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now
by Peter Mayle (Alfred A. Knopf, June 2018)

Late British writer Peter Mayle moved to the village of Ménerbes in Provence with his wife Jennie in the late 1980s. His resulting memoir, A Year in Provence, became a best seller and inspired screenplays and a legion of fans. This, Mayle’s last book, was written before his death in January, and pays tribute to his early days spent in the region and more recent recollections from their lives there.

Buy it: amazon.com

For the history buff

A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment
by Stéphane Hénaut & Jeni Mitchell (The New Press, July 2018)

The secret histories of food can shed light on a culture’s approach to politics, religion, power, and social values. And it is these histories—of crepes, peanuts, oysters, baguettes, and other delectable treats—that Hénaut and Mitchell explore. The coauthors (and spouses) lend a deep understanding to the social studies of French food; Mitchell is an academic specializing in conflict and war, and Hénaut has had a long career in the culinary space and currently works as a cheesemonger.

Buy it: amazon.com

For the curious cook


Cover art courtesy of Penguin

Killing It: An Education
by Camas Davis (Penguin, July 2018)

When Camas Davis finds herself unemployed and heartbroken, she decides to make a life change. A big one. Killing It is Davis’s memoir about dealing with these abrupt disruptions: going from her role as a lifestyle editor for magazines to learning the craft of butchery; from the city of Portland, Oregon, to an abattoir in Gascony, France, while touching on issues of meat production and what it means to get a meal on the table.

Buy it: amazon.com

For the aspiring novelist

French Exit: A Novel
by Patrick deWitt (Ecco, August 2018)

Socialite Frances Price and her adult son Malcolm (along with their cat Little Frank, who may or may not be possessed by Frances’s late husband) leave New York City to avoid facing financial and social ruin head-on. Instead, as the book’s title suggests, they escape to Paris by way of a luxury cruise liner, where they’re eventually joined in an apartment by a gaggle of eccentric characters all looking for connection.

Preorder it: amazon.com

For the portraitist-at-heart

In Paris: 20 Women on Life in the City of Light
by Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide (Penguin, September 2018)

French model and designer Jeanne Damas teamed up with journalist Lauren Bastide, former editor in chief of French Elle, to craft a profile of Paris through portraits of 20 women who live there. Through Damas’s photography and Bastide’s prose, readers travel across the City of Light meeting an array of women who build their lives in one of the world’s most romanticized cities.

For the cocktail connoisseur


Cover art courtesy of Tarcher Perigee

Preorder it: amazon.com

A Drinkable Feast: A Cocktail Companion to 1920s Paris
by Philip Greene (Tarcher Perigee, October 2018)

Travel in time to the 1920s, when artists and literary icons like Josephine Baker, Ezra Pound, Joan Miro, and Ernest Hemingway roamed the streets and drank in the bars of Paris. Cocktail historian Philip Greene takes readers behind the recipes for more than 50 cocktails, many of which have become classics like the Sidecar, the Bee’s Knees, and the champagne cocktail (reportedly beloved by Zelda Fitzgerald). Mixology aficionados will especially appreciate the tasting tips throughout.

Preorder it: amazon.com

AFAR participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you purchase an item featured in this story. All products and services listed here are independently selected by AFAR journalists.

>>Next: 10 Must-Read Books for Every Type of Summer Trip

Sara Button is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience.
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