With the summer and plenty of lazy sunny days on the horizon, it’s time to think about your summer reading list.
Your summer reading list 2017
We’ve put together a selection of must-reads for lovers of France and all things French. From fiction to real-life accounts via coffee table delights on French liqueurs and the City of Light, this list of French books for summer truly has something for everyone. So, grab yourself a glass of a little something French, sit back, relax and read on.
My Good Life in France
First on our list of must-reads this summer comes backed by something of an expat institution in France. Author Janine Marsh is also the inspiration and know-how behind ‘The Good Life in France’, whose website, magazine and newsletter contain literally everything you ever wanted to know about France.
Well, not quite everything because Janine has saved some of the best for her book, My Good Life in France. Recently published in paperback, this summer reading list page-turner takes you behind the scenes to discover how the author ended up in France. Her rollercoaster journey from buzzing urban London to the distinctly non-buzzing and non-urban Seven Valleys in Pas de Calais in northern France via a seriously challenging renovation takes you from laughter to tears and then back to laughter again.
Janine provides a real insight into rural life in France and most of all, the French. She describes their quirks, habits and manners, and how two (very) English expats adapted to them. She also paints a detailed picture of life in her chosen part of France, usually given no more than a brief glance as tourists rush past on their way to other better-known parts of the country.
Warning: after reading this you will probably feel an irresistible urge to pack up and move to France yourself.
My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh (pub. Michael O’Mara).
The New Paris
A list of French books for your summer reading list should, of course, include a nod to the capital. In this case, forget about the traditional Paris guidebook. Prepare yourself to greet an arty, hipster city. Written by long-time expat resident Lindsey Tramuta, The New Paris takes a brand new look at the City of Light and reveals its younger, designer vibe.
In the company of stunning photography (you can see why Lindsey has nearly 70k followers on Instagram) you wander on and off the beaten tourist trail and discover perfect spots for barista coffee, artisan beers, perfect pastries and seriously gourmet food. Lindsey also provides a list of small designer shops, a world apart from traditional French style but just as pleasing on the eye.
In among the gems waiting to be discovered, Lindsey has slotted in interviews with owners of small businesses in the city, Parisians and expats, who offer an interesting insight into the new Paris. Through their eyes you see there’s much more to Paris than the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysees. This book makes the perfect read for anyone who loves Paris and fancies discovering a side to the city that’s difficult to find in regular guidebooks. The New Paris was published in April so you know it’s bang up-to-date.
Warning: after reading this you will probably feel the irresistible urge to book a flight to Paris.
The New Paris by Lindsey Tramuta (pub. Abrams Books).
Our next choice of French books for your summer reading list couldn’t have a more appropriate setting or author. The Dragonfly mostly takes place on the beautiful rivers south of Paris and is written by Kate Dunn whose inspiration for the book comes directly from her experience on the canals and rivers of France.
Despite its real-life backdrop, The Dragonfly is a work of fiction describing the river road trip taken by a middle-aged Englishman and his 9-year old granddaughter. Colin and Delphine find themselves thrown together in the small confines of his boat, the Dragonfly, after the murder of Delphine’s mother. The two characters are very different – not only is Colin a solitary figure, he speaks no French and has to deal with the fact that his son is in prison awaiting trial for murder. Delphine, on the other hand, has attitude with a capital A and is dealing with the pain of losing her mother and possibly her father.
As this unlikely couple wind their way along the rivers, they gradually come to trust each other and discover complex emotions. But The Dragonfly isn’t just about relationships; this family drama comes with much darker undertones. You’ll find yourself turning the pages compulsively in your bid to get to the denouement of one of this year’s best thrillers set on the French waterways.
Warning: after reading Kate’s lovely descriptions of the French rivers you will probably feel the irresistible urge to take a tour on one yourself.
The Dragonfly by Kate Dunn (pub. Aurora Metro).
The World of Cognac
If your glass of a little something French isn’t cognac, it will be after you’ve read our next suggestion for good reads for summer. If you have chosen cognac as your tipple, read on to discover just what’s behind that amber-coloured nectar. Guides to drink don’t come much better than this one and The World of Cognac really does uncover the whole universe of the quintessentially French liqueur.
Author Michelle Brachet knows exactly what she’s talking about – not only has she written extensively about the king of French liqueurs, she has won awards for her expert knowledge. The latest edition of The World of Cognac was published in May so all the information comes with all the latest updates.
The glossy book contains lots of excellent photographs and just about everything you could possibly want to know about cognac. From its rich history and the distillery process to an overview of the principal brands. Michelle also includes a long list of anecdotes surrounding the liqueur, which adds a fun and interesting aspect to all the alcohol. And of course, no world would be complete without advice on how to drink cognac and recipes for the perfect cocktails.
Warning: after reading this you will probably feel the irresistible urge to treat yourself to a VSOP. À votre santé!
The World of Cognac by Michelle Brachet (pub. Quiller Publishing).
The Road that Runs
Our last suggestion for French books for summer returns to rural life in France. Very rural in fact, since The Road that Runs takes place deep in the fruit-growing countryside of Provence. On the face of it, the setting and characters are just ordinary French villagers going about their daily lives. Scratch a little deeper, however, and you’ll find that extraordinary makes a much better adjective to describe the goings-on in The Road that Runs. After all, it isn’t every day that a villager becomes an international pickle purveyor.
Like Chez Martin, the first book in the series, The Road that Runs takes the Martin family as its inspiration. And that’s the animal family as well as the human since the people are joined by a motley collection of ponies, cats and Clovis, the wolf dog. There’s a decent sprinkling of expats too. This account of contemporary life in southern France takes you on a fun ride through the everyday events and paints an excellent portrait of the French as they really are.
Lovers of France will recognise a few of the traits as they turn the pages and everyone will laugh a lot. However, it’s not all fun and games so prepare for a sad twist. Little is known about the author, Madame Verte, other than that she obviously knew the Martins and their village life first hand. According to Amazon, she’s now experiencing rural life in Dorset – perhaps she’ll complete the trilogy with an ‘At Home with the Smiths’…
Warning: after reading this you will probably feel the irresistible urge to head for Provence.
The Road that Runs by Madame Verte (pub. CreateSpace).