Paris Book Club
If you enjoy reading about a place almost as much as being there, you will love my list of best-selling memoirs about Paris and France, all written by women.
I have personally selected and reviewed each of these books, and you will NOT find a more comprehensive list of memoirs and novels about France anywhere else!
Meet the Authors
As part of my new Virtual Adventures Club, I am hosting LIVE Webinars to interview these celebrated and accomplished authors! Imagine hearing their stories up close and personal!
Their books are available in paperback or e-book simply by clicking the Title Links below!
*I do ask that if you are interested in buying these online that you do so with my links. I receive a small affiliate commission which helps pay in part for the administration costs of running this website. Thank you for supporting me.
Do Not Go Gentle, Go To Paris by Gail Thorell Schilling
The perfect memoir for women of a certain age. Rattled by fears that she is losing her keys, her looks, her job, and her sweetheart, Gail, 62, rashly announces that she will go to Paris, a dream postponed for 40 years.
So begins her solo journey through France, living like a student as her budget often dictates, but always finding a silver lining in the choices she makes. You will find yourself wondering how you would fare on such a trip and cheer Gail along with her optimistic, infinitely curious nature as she rebuilds her self-confidence and gets comfortable with how to age in her own way.
A great read!
Waking Up In Paris by Sonia Choquette
If you are going to start over somewhere new…why not do it in Paris?
You may know Sonia as a spiritual teacher and intuitive guide. She begins her memoir devastated by the unexpected end of her decades-long marriage and decides to relocate to Paris, the scene of many happy memories from her life as a student and young mother.
Arriving in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, she found Paris as traumatized by this unforeseen event as she had been by her divorce. Together, over the following years, she and the city she loves begin a journey of healing that involves deep soul-searching and acceptance of a new, sometimes uncomfortable, reality.
Seven Letters from Paris by Samantha Vérant
This is one of those stories that if it happened to you, you would definitely have to write a book!
At age 40, Samantha Vérant life was falling apart. She was jobless, in debt, and feeling stuck until she stumbled upon seven old love letters from Jean-Luc, the sexy Frenchman she’d met in Paris when she was 19. With a quick Google search, she finds him, and both are quick to realize that the passion they felt 20 years prior hasn’t faded with time and distance.
Samantha knows that jetting off to France to reconnect with a man that she only knew for one sun-drenched, passion-filled day is crazy and probably won’t work out, but it’s the kind of crazy she’s been waiting for her whole life.
So so good!
(Moral of the story — go back and read those old love letters ladies!)
How To Make a French Family by Samantha Vérant
This is Samantha’s follow-up to Seven Letters from Paris. Samantha moves to France to begin her life with her new husband, Jean-Luc, and his two kids. But almost from the moment, the plane touches down, Samantha realizes that there are a lot of things about her new home―including flea-ridden cats, grumpy teenagers, and language barriers―that she hadn’t counted on.
Struggling to feel at home and wondering when exactly her French fairy tale is going to start, Samantha isn’t sure if she really has what it takes to make it in la belle France.
The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux
This is Samantha’s first novel! The author of Seven Letters From Paris, and How To Make A French Family has outdone herself with this tale. It features an American chef who returns to her French roots when she is disgraced and turfed out of her beloved career in New York. Sophie ends up back in France visiting her ailing grandmother who has successfully turned the family chateau into a thriving hotel with two restaurants.
Sophie’s timing could not be better as this story unfolds. This is pure fun and fantasy with all the French accoutrements, including recipes!
Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod
Absolutely one of my favourite memoirs about Paris!
Stuck in a copy-editing job and stagnant routine that holds little adventure, Janice finds an industrious way to buy herself two years of freedom in Europe. A few days into her stop in Paris on Rue Mouffetard, she spies a handsome butcher — yes, a butcher — who looks like Daniel Craig but doesn’t speak English. And Janice does not speak French!
Janice is incredibly creative and industrious in how she turns her three loves — words, art, and Christophe, into a story of re-invention and a way to make her happily-ever-after in Paris last forever.
A Paris Year by Janice MacLeod
This is Janice MacLeod’s second book where she combines her excellent photography and artwork with stories about Paris that follow through the four seasons. It is truly a feast for the eyes and the soul.
I particularly love her watercolour scenes depicting a place, a custom, a moment in Paris, reflected through Janice’s eyes. This is one of those books you want on your coffee table or next to your bed so that you can keep looking at it again and again.
My Good Life In France by Janine Marsh
Janine’s journey begins with a trip across the English channel to pick up some cheap (but very good I am sure) French wine. It is on that trip where Janine finds herself putting in an offer on a rundown old barn in the area of Pas de Calais. And voila, she begins her new adventure living in rural France.
Don’t expect another Under the Tuscan Sun story. There is no endless sunshine or sexy Italian men, although her husband sounds like a real doll. It is fantasy turned into real life with a lot of sweat, colourful characters, and a growing menagerie of cats, dogs, chickens, and ducks that have names like Gregory Peck and Ginger Rogers.
You will love it.
My Four Seasons In France by Janine Marsh
This is part two of Janine’s story (author of My Good Life In France) where she illustrates how each season brings new challenges, as well as, new delights. Freezing weather in February threatens the lives of some of the four-legged locals; snow in March results in a broken arm, which in turn leads to an etiquette lesson at the local hospital; and a dramatic hailstorm in July destroys cars and houses, ultimately bringing the villagers closer together.
With warmth and humor, Janine showcases a uniquely French outlook as two eternally ambitious ex-pats (she and her husband) drag a neglected farmhouse to life, and stumble across the hidden gems of this very special part of the world.
Keep writing Janine. I will never get tired of hearing about your good life in France.
My (Part-Time) Paris Life by Lisa Anselmo
I have read and re-read this memoir because I could relate a little to the author’s back and forth life crisscrossing the Atlantic between Paris and her home (in New York).
Like me, Lisa was trying to go to Paris as often as her bank account would allow, and for her, that was several times a year.
In this way, Lisa creates two lives, one where she worked as a creative director for a major U.S. magazine, and the other where she was free to discover herself and a renewed sense of purpose. Lisa then decides to buy an apartment in Paris, more or less a one-room abode in a lesser-known district while she continues to balance her bifurcated life.
That is when the fun really begins!
Paris Undressed by Kate Kemp-Griffin
“WE wear underwear. French women wear lingerie,” is how Paris-based Kate Kemp-Griffin began her conversation with me. And I didn’t need much convincing taking into account the sorry state of my undies. This is the starting point for this wonderful part-memoir, part-manual, that illustrates the fact that French women inherently seem more confident about their bodies and are able to embrace the sensuality of life and love.
Oh yes, this is a must-read!
Paris Times Eight by Deirdre Kelly
Deirdre Kelly has been a respected dance critic and fashion reporter writing for Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, and Canadian national newspaper The Globe and Mail. She writes eloquently about the eight visits that she has made to Paris starting out as a starry-eyed nanny or “au pair” when she was just nineteen.
I was riveted by her surprising encounter with ballet legend Rudolph Nureyev, and her raw dissection of the Paris fashion scene where she crashes an exclusive fashion show. This is a book where Deidre expertly balances the fantasy of Paris with the unreal expectations we sometimes place on this city.
It reads like a dream and feels as decadent as creme brûlée.
Paris A Love Story by Kati Marton
Kati Marton reminisces about her thrilling and turbulent life, from her days as a little girl in Budapest, where her journalist parents were imprisoned by the secret police, through her studies at the Sorbonne during the French student uprisings of the late ’60s, to a tour of duty as ABC News’s Bonn bureau chief in the 1970s.
Kati’s other claim to fame is that she fell in love with and married two famous men, former ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings and diplomatic giant Richard Holbrooke, former U.S ambassador to the United Nations (and she talks about how she cheated on them both).
Passion For Provence by Gayle Smith Padgett
While reading this memoir, I felt like Gayle and her husband Ralph had become my new friends. Rather like I did when I read Peter Mayle’s books about living in Provence.
This American couple are just so real and down to earth, and we can certainly relate when they fall hard for France, bit by bit, year by year, renting here and there, and loving every minute of it.
You will love it too as Gayle decides Provence is the perfect retirement location for herself and hubby, as they also galavant into villages and towns, sampling wine and Provencal cuisine.
It will make your heart sing.
Gayle and Ralph— I am on my way over for an apero!
A Paris All Your Own – Best Selling Women Writers on the City of Light!
This book underlined for me the undeniable pull that Paris has on women. As I often say Paris is not just a place to visit, it’s a feeling, a state of mind, and for many women, it is a place that they often find themselves, or reconnect with themselves. This is a collection of personal essays about Paris by some of the biggest names in women’s fiction.
You will recognize many of them. New York Times–bestselling author Paula McLain (The Paris Wife) for instance. You will be inspired by their candor and find yourself comparing notes about your experience with Paris! I certainly did and gobbled up every word.
Lunch In Paris by Elizabeth Bard
This is a recipe for love if I have ever heard one — and it captures your attention with the very first line: “I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date!”
Elizabeth’s Bards first date was, in fact, lunch in a Paris café with a handsome stranger named Gwendal–and so begins Elizabeth’s love affair with this lovely man, French recipes and Paris in general. Her recipes are included which makes this book mouth-watering in every way.
Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
It is now ten years later since Elizabeth wrote Lunch in Paris and New York best-selling author and cook, Elizabeth Bard has followed her handsome Frenchman up a spiral staircase to a love nest in the heart of Paris. Now, with a baby on the way and the world’s flakiest croissant around the corner, Elizabeth is sure she’s found her “forever place.”
But life has other plans. If you ever wondered what it is like to suddenly be transplanted into French life with a ready-made family, you will want to explore this story.
Dinner Chez Moi by Elizabeth Bard
If you have ever wondered how the French really eat, look no further than Dinner Chez Moi. Following up on her last book, Picnic in Provence, Elizabeth has now gathered a treasure trove of culinary information that has radically changed her own eating habits for the better.
She realized that what most Americans call “dieting” — smaller portions, no snacking, a preference for seasonal fruits and vegetables, and limited sugar — the French simply call “eating.”
More lovely recipes accompany Elizabeth’s next tantalizing journey.
Almost French by Sarah Turnball
An adventurous and feisty Australian journalist meets a charming cravat-wearing French lawyer named Frédéric in Bucharest. Frédéric invites Sarah to visit him in Paris where he lives. Sarah takes a leap of faith governed either by pure instinct or folly, and fortunately, enters into a relationship that evolves into a grand love affair.
Things take an interesting turn, however, when Sarah recounts how she suddenly feels like a fish out of the water as she tries to fit in and make her new home in Paris, among real Parisians.
We Will Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn
Jennifer Coburn has always been terrified of dying young. So, she decides to save up and drop everything to travel with her daughter, Katie, on a whirlwind European adventure before it’s too late. Even though her husband can’t join them, even though she’s nervous about the journey, and even though she’s perfectly healthy, Jennifer is determined to jam her daughter’s mental photo album with memories—just in case. From the cafés of Paris to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Jennifer and Katie take on Europe one city at a time, united by their desire to see the world and spend precious time together. In this heartwarming generational love story, Jennifer reveals how their adventures helped vanquish her fear of dying…for the sake of living.
Finding Me In France by Bobbi French
Finding Me in France is a hoot! This is a laugh out loud memoir by someone who I cannot think of as a more unlikely candidate to go and live in France!
Bobbi French (yes indeed that is her last name) leaves her fulfilling yet draining career as a psychiatrist (and as you grow to love her you are thinking she might need one!) and lands in a small village in Burgundy with only her expectations of adventure to guide her. In this engaging account of adapting to life in France, Bobbi details a very funny and perceptive account of her experience of a lifetime.
Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
This bestselling memoir inspired Julie & Julia, the major motion picture directed by Nora Ephron, starring Amy Adams as Julie and Meryl Streep as Julia.
Nearing 30 and trapped in a dead-end secretarial job, Julie Powell reclaims her life by cooking every single recipe in Julia Child’s legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the span of one year. It’s a hysterical, inconceivable redemptive journey — life rediscovered through aspics, calves’ brains and oh lord, even boning a duck!
If you saw the movie but haven’t read the book — you will not be disappointed.
My Life In France by Julia Child
This is Julia Child’s beguiling story in her own words. Step back with Julia as a young wife following her husband to France who has a new posting at the U.S. Embassy. Julia struggles to find her own sense of purpose, and finally stumbles into a passion for cooking and teaching that transforms culinary history.
As a woman in a foreign land and a man’s domain, Julia barrels through a mountain of roadblocks. But she prevails in her determination in bringing French cuisine to the American home cook with her tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
An inspiring read and we get a lovely view of Paris life in the late 1940s and 50s from Julia’s perspective.
A Letter From Paris by Louisa Deasey
This is the true story of Louisa Deasey who receives a message from a French woman called Coralie, who has found a cachet of letters in an attic, written by Louisa’s father.
Neither woman can imagine the events this will set in motion.
The letters, dated 1949, detail a passionate affair between Louisa’s father, Denison, and Coralie’s grandmother, Michelle, in post-war London. They spark Louisa to find out more about her father, who died when she was six.
What follows is a trail of discovery that leads Louisa to the libraries of Melbourne and the streets of London, to the cafes and restaurants of Paris and a poet’s villa in the south of France.
Paris Dreaming by Katrina Lawrence
If you want to explore what is really behind our obsession with Paris, this is the book for you. Katrina is Australian, and a journalist specializing in beauty and fashion.
Musing on everything Parisian, from femininity to feminism, politics to perfume, and of course, those stylish Parisiennes who captivate us, from Brigitte Bardot and Madame de Pompadour to Simone de Beauvoir and Catherine de Medici, Katrina shares the essential life lessons that Paris has taught her and can teach of all us.
C’est La Vie by Suzy Gershman
Suzy Gershman’s journey just grabs you.
Suzy is well known for authoring her around-the-world “Born To Shop” guidebooks. In her memoir, she moves to Paris hoping to revive herself from the grief of losing her husband. With all the trials and tribulations Suzy experiences and there are plenty of them, you wonder how she maintained her enthusiasm, but sleeping with a French count may have helped!
Oh yes, this memoir is so yummy that I hoped Suzy would churn out more books about her life in France, but sadly she passed away in 2012.
Dreaming in French Edited by Alice Kaplan
The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis
I couldn’t resist adding this book where these three extraordinary iconic American women share their first impressions of Paris.
A year in Paris . . . since World War II, countless American students were lured by that vision—and been transformed by their sojourn in the City of Light. Dreaming in French tells three stories of that experience, and how it changed the lives of Jackie, Susan, and Angela, key figures in American cultural, intellectual, and political life.
When they embarked for France, they were young, little-known, uncertain about their future, and drawn to the culture, sophistication, and drama that only Paris could offer.
Paris or Die by Jane Tuttle
The city of light, it seems, has its own plans for Jayne Tuttle.
Drawn there in an entirely unforeseen way, she finds herself in a vibrant and dizzying neighbourhood, living in a former monastery, studying at a famous theatre school, falling in love with a Frenchman too beautiful to be real. She will forget her past and disappear into the culture if it kills her.
And one strange night, it nearly does.
Sharp, funny and unflinchingly honest (and a little raunchy in places) Jayne Tuttle’s writing lifts you off the page and into a Paris far beyond the postcards.
Paris or Die is a headlong plunge into not just life in Paris, but life itself.
(This is only available in Kindle form and in Australia and Canada it seems!)