Out of everywhere you could travel by book, France might be one of the most popular places. Wine, bread, cheese, love, art — these books set in France and about France have them all! These books will transport you not just to Paris, but to the French countryside, through history, social examinations, and, of course, into the kitchens and cafes.
So turn on some French music, grab a glass of wine, and take a trip to France from your couch with a good book!
Novels Set in France
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
This fictionalized version of the marriage between Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson is poetic and heartbreaking. We know how the story ends for them: not well despite their deep love for each other. But this is a book whose journey you’ll still want to go on. For fans of historical fiction and beautiful writing.
Suite Française by Irène Némirovksy, Translated by Sandra Smith
This book tells the story of French citizens beginning in 1940, just as the Nazi occupation begins and the characters’ lives are falling apart. But perhaps the most fascinating part of this book is the backstory: Irène Némirovksy was a Jew living in Paris, a successful writer who died in Auschwitz. This manuscript was only recently uncovered after over 60 years. For fans of historical fiction.
The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks
This fictionalized telling of the life of composer Erik Satie flings you into la Belle Époque as Satie composers music and lives in the aftermath of his tragic childhood. But it also tells the story of his siblings and friends and the bohemian Parisian world they inhabited. For fans of literary historical fiction.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This award-winning and bestselling novel tells two parallel stories: Marie-Laure a blind girl living in Nazi occupied France, and Werner, an orphan in Germany who has been enlisted in the army. This is a beautiful book, and if you haven’t already made the time to read it, definitely bump it up on your TBR list. For fans of literary and historical fiction.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, Translated by Alison Anderson
In this book we see the unlikely relationship of a hotel concierge in Paris and a twelve year old girl who lives at the hotel. They each have their own secret interior lives and discover the ways they are connected when a guest from Japan arrives. Content warning for talk of suicide. For fans of contemporary novels with a philosophical bent.
Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye
A novel examining the lives of West African immigrants in France, Three Strong Women tells the story of Norah, a French-born lawyer traveling to Senegal; Fanta, who follows her boyfriend to France; and Khady, who is kicked out of her husband’s family. These women’s stories overlap, but really this is about their resilience and how they uncover their own strength. Ndiaye won the Prix Goncourt for this book, the first Black woman to do so. For fans of literary fiction.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
You may know Chocolat as a movie, but first it was a book. When Vianne Rocher arrives in a small town in France, her chocolate shop (and the otherworldly powers that comes with it) upends life in the village. For fans of contemporary novels and books with food.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Of course we have to include Les Miserables in any list of books set in France. This classic novel about injustice and love has been a cultural touchstone around the world. And if you want to read it but are feeling intimidated by the length, try tackling just a chapter a day. There are 365 short chapters, most just a few pages long, so one chapter a day will have you completing the book in a year. For fans of classics.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Described as a “love letter to books” The Little Paris Bookshop tells the story of Monsieur Perdu who operates a bookstore on a barge that floats along the Seine. When he reads a letter from a lost love though, he sets out on a journey to mend his broken heart. For fans of contemporary novels, easy reading, and heart warming stories.
The Nightingale by Kirstin Hannah
This wildly popular novel tells the story of women in WWII, particularly two sisters who must use their strength to survive. Vianne must learn to live with the enemy and stay alive, while her sister Isabelle joins the Resistance to fight. For fans of historical fiction.
Take a trip with a book! Check out our list of books set in England!
Non-Fiction Books About France
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
You can’t have a list of books set in France without including Hemingway’s classic A Moveable Feast. Here he recalls his days in France, holed up in his writing room, sharing meals and conversation with other writers, and walking through the beautiful streets of Paris. This book will make you want to go to Paris as soon as possible. For fans of memoirs (and don’t let the fact that it’s Hemingway intimidate you).
My Life in France by Julia Child
When Julia Child arrived in France in 1948 she knew nothing about the country or French food. But then a dish of Sole Meurnière changed her perspective and spurred her onto culinary school at the Cordon Bleu, which changed her life. This memoir is delightful and will have you running to your own kitchen. For fans of foodie memoirs (and just good memoirs in general).
Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
I think you can learn a lot about a culture by learning about their parenting theories, and that is certainly the case here. From sleeping to eating to childcare, I found this book about French parenting both fascinating and helpful. For fans of narrative driven parenting books.
Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrère, Translated by Linda Coverdale
This somewhat unusual book doesn’t start in France, but rather in Sri Lanka as the 2006 tsunami strikes. Two families (including the writer’s own) become linked together in loss. Back in France though, there is more loss — a family member dying of cancer, a judge who has tried to make a different in the lives of French citizens. This books examines loss and grief and the kind of impact we make on the world. Plus you’ll unexpectedly learn a lot about the French credit system. For fans of really amazing writing.
Dirt – Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking by Bill Buford
This book about France takes you to the modern culinary world. Determined to master French cooking, Bill Buford moves his family to Lyon, France. He becomes obsessed with understanding what makes French cooking so loved and tells the story in an accessible and often funny way. For fans of food memoirs.
The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City by David Lebovitz
Of course books set in France have to include pastries. Here, after years of a professional pastry chef career, David Lebovitz fulfills his lifelong dream of moving to Paris. But the city isn’t quite what he expects, and here we read about his adventures in understanding – and cooking in – his new city. For lovers of ex-pat memoirs and books with recipes.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
While the first part of Me Talk Pretty One Day consists of stories from Sedaris’s childhood in the States, the second part concerns his move to the north of France. In his classic wry humor, he talks about French society and especially about learning the language. For fans of humor collections.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
When Peter Mayle and his family move to a stone farmhouse in Provence, they learn to live a little more slowly. From the humorous village happenings to needing patience as they try to get work done on their house, you’ll be transported to France as Mayle and his family learn to live by the seasons. For fans of ex-pat memoirs.
Children’s Books Set in France
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Perhaps one of the most quintessential children’s books set in France, here is the story of Madeline, a little girl living in an orphanage in Paris who is not afraid of anything (until something truly does go wrong). Bonus for adults reading children’s books: I still think all the time about Emily St. John Mandel discussing the timing of this book and how the story takes place right before the Nazis invaded France. Recommended ages: 3 and up.
Everybody Bonjours! by Leslie Kimmelman, Illustrated by Sarah McMenemy
In this colorful picture book you’ll visit French landmarks and sights, learning how everyone says hello! This book is adorable and a great introduction to the country of France. Recommended ages: 3-7 years.
This is Paris by Miroslav Sasek
Walk through the streets of Paris with this classic children’s book. From museums to cafes to gardens, get to know Paris — and its cats! Recommended ages 4 and up.
The Cat Who Walked Across France by Kate Banks, Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
Take a tour across France with a cat who is trying to find his way back home after the death of his owner sends him off to a new city. Recommended ages: 4-7 years.
Adèle & Simon by Barbara McClintock
In early twentieth-century Paris, Adèle picks her little brother Simon up from school and makes him promise not to loose any of his belonging. But as they make their way home, his possessions are gradually left throughout Paris. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
Anatole by Eve Titus, Illustrated by Paul Galdone
In this classic book, French mouse Anatole becomes a cheese connoisseur and unknowingly helps a local factory improve their cheese. Recommended ages: 5-8 years.
Different Like Coco by Elizabeth Matthews
Ever since childhood, Coco Chanel was always different. In this picture book about her life, we see how her uniqueness and creativity led her to become a fashion icon. Recommended ages: 5-9 years.
Middle Grade and Young Adult Books Set in France
The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
In this adorable chapter book for young readers, you meet Diva, a prissy dog, and Flea, a stray cat from the streets of Paris. Diva thinks she understands the world, but Flea is going to show her just how amazing Paris really is. Recommended ages: 5-8 years.
Night of the New Magicians by Mary Pope Osborne
The popular Magic Treehouse series gives us a book set in France with a Merlin Mission book (a spin-off for slightly older children.) Here, Jack and Annie travel to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris to find four magicians they must deliver a message to. Recommended ages: 7-10 years.
The Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
When eleven-year-old Isabelle delivers lace to the Palace of Versailles, she finds herself with a job — companion to the princess. But rumors of revolution are starting to swirl, and Isabelle isn’t sure what side to believe. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, Illustrated by Garth Williams
Armand is an old man living under a Paris bridge. But when he finds three young children there one day, he knows he has to find them a family. This books is set at Christmas, making it a good holiday read. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Hugo is an orphan who lives in the walls of a Paris train station and spends his time keeping clocks. He stays safe by staying secret, but this is about to be upended. This is a thick book, but that’s no cause for intimidation — the story is largely told in beautiful illustrations. Recommended ages: 9-12 years.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
This books has quickly become a classic young adult romance, popular with teens and adults alike. Anna is not happy about being sent to boarding school in France, especially because she’ll miss out on the opportunity of a relationship with her crush at home. But then she meets Étienne. Recommended ages: 12 and up.
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