what should i read before i visit paris?

I signed up for a cheap flight list this past fall, and I watched the deals arrive in my inbox every week: a mistake fare from Toronto to Italy here, an incredible deal from San Francisco to Shanghai there. It didn’t feel like I would ever find that elusive combo of timing, price, and departure and destination cities that would work for me.  Then one day it happened.  A trip from New York (easily accessible from DC) to Paris, for less than the cost of my annual trips home to Seattle.  I picked my dates and booked a late-September trip to Paris! 

It hit me a couple of days later: I don’t know anything about Paris (or France!), AND I don’t speak French.  Spanish, sí.  Portuguese, sim.  French, non!  Cue: research time!  I ordered the latest Lonely Planet Paris travel guide, followed the advice on Oh Happy Day!’s guide to booking a Parisian AirBnB, and then I downloaded the Duolingo language learning app to my phone.  So I’m working on the language, and I’ve got my lodging and the general logistics figured out. 

BUT.  I want to be a little more prepared than that.  I want to have some vivid images in my mind’s eye to compare to the real thing. I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school, but I couldn’t think of another Paris-set book that had made a lasting impression.  So, I needed to construct a Paris-centric reading list.  Nothing too ambitious, you understand – just enough to give me a taste and keep me excited for my trip in the months to come. I asked friends and family for recommendations and put one book on the list that I’d been meaning to read anyway.

Books on my Paris reading list:

paris reading list

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – I’ve owned this book for several years, but I haven’t read it.  It was recommended with high praise.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley – I read (and loved!) Knisley’s graphic memoir Relish, but I don’t know if I would have ever picked up this earlier comic if I hadn’t been planning my trip.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – I’ve only ever read Hemingway’s short stories, but my friend (and all-things-French expert!) Lauren suggested this one.

Paris Buildings and Monuments by Michel Poisson – My uncles are architects, gourmets and world travelers.  They lent me this out-of-print book so that I can get up to speed on the visual environment I’ll be experiencing.

Well friends, I want to open the floor to you.  What else MUST I read before I go to Paris?


Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Wow, that's amazing!! Oh my gosh, yay for you, how fun to go to Paris! I don't have any recommendations of Paris reading choices, but I can't wait for the fall to hear more about your France adventures!

Shooting Stars Mag said...

How exciting! My sister's been to Paris and she loved it. I'm going to London for the first time in September and I can't wait. I love Lucy Knisley and I just recently read French Milk, so I'd recommend! She talks a lo about places to go to see various art and she talks about restaurants and food a TON, so it was fun. Made me really want to go to Paris. hahah


p.s. book giveaway going on if interested!

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