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CULTURE

GALLERY: The ten best books about France

Looking for a good book about France to read this summer? Look no further. The Local has asked authors who have written best-selling books about France and staff from Anglo bookshops in the country to name their favourite reads. See below if you agree with their choices.

GALLERY: The ten best books about France
France based authors tell us the best books about France. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Whether you’re looking for a page-turner to last you an afternoon on the beach, an epic read to see you through to the autumn or perhaps just a bit of Gallic inspiration for the kitchen, The Local has compiled a list of ten of the best books about France to keep you occupied this summer, as recommended by people who know a thing or two about France and books.

We asked seven renowned authors and writers who have all written about France themselves and staff at three English-language bookshops to pick their favourites.

Whether it's a crime thriller, a French classic or the memoirs of a famous writer, they have come up with 10 great reads to help you pass the summer away.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR GALLERY OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS ABOUT FRANCE.

The authors who have contributed to the list include Stephen Clarke, author of the best-selling 'In the Merde' series and columnist and TV producer Samantha Brick, who is also the author of Head Over Heels in France – Falling in love with the Lot.

Also on our literary panel is Helena Frith Powell who is the author of several books about France including Two Lipsticks and a Lover which explores the secrets behind French style and taste and best-selling author Pamela Druckerman, the author of Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

US Paris-based cookbook author and chef David Lebovitz, author of The Sweet Life in Paris also chooses his favourite culinary read about France.

British writer and journalist Peter Gumbel, whose latest book “France’s Got Talent: The Woeful Consequences of French Elitism is causing a stir and Matthew Fraser, whose recently published book Home Again in Paris, a personal memoir about his return to live in France after two decades, also name their picks for the best books.

And of course, we couldn't go without consulting staff at the world-famous Shakespeare & co. bookshop in Paris, founded in 1951 by American George Whitman. We also spoke to staff at the American-owned bookshops Brentano's, which has been running since 1895, and the Cannes English Bookshop.

Do you agree with the authors selections? What would you have picked? Let us know in the comments section below.

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FOOD & DRINK

Let them eat bread: the origins of the French baguette

More than six billion baguettes are baked each year in France and UNESCO has now inscribed the tradition in its “intangible cultural heritage” list.

Let them eat bread: the origins of the French baguette

The French baguette – one of the country’s most abiding images – was given world heritage status by UNESCO on Wednesday, the organisation announced.

READ ALSO French baguette gets UNESCO world heritage status

Here are some of the more popular theories:

Napoleon’s Bread of War
The oldest tale has the baguette being kneaded by bakers in Napoleon’s army. Less bulky than a traditional loaf, the long slim shape of the baguette made it faster to bake in brick ovens hastily erected on the battlefield.

France’s most famous man of war was preoccupied with getting his men their daily bread.

During his Russian campaign in 1812, he toured the ovens daily to sample the day’s offering and ensure the crusty batons were being distributed regularly, according to historian Philippe de Segur.

He also had portable bread mills sent to occupied Moscow, but the setbacks suffered by the Grande Armee in one of the deadliest military campaigns in history ended his bid to export the doughy staple.

Viennese connection
Another theory has the baguette starting out in a Viennese bakery in central Paris in the late 1830s.

Artillery officer and entrepreneur August Zang brought Austria’s culinary savoir-faire to Paris in the form of the oval-shaped bread that were standard in his country at the time.

According to the Compagnonnage des boulangers et des patissiers, the French bakers’ network, Zang decided to make the loaves longer to make them easier for the city’s breadwomen to pluck from the big carts they pushed through the city’s streets.

Breaking bread
Another theory has the baguette being born at the same time as the metro for the 1900 Paris Exposition.

People from across France came to work on the underground and fights would often break out on site between labourers armed with knives, which they used to slice big round loaves of bread for lunch.

According to the herodote.net history site, to avoid bloodshed, one engineer had the idea of ordering longer loaves that could be broken by hand.

Early rising
In 1919, a new law aimed to improve the lives of bakers by banning them from working from 10 pm to 4 am.

The reform gave them less time to prepare the traditional sourdough loaf for the morning, marked the widespread transition to what was called at the
time the yeast-based “flute”, which rose faster and was out of the oven in under half an hour.

Standardised at 80 centimeters (30 inches) and 250 grams (eight ounces) with a fixed price until 1986, the baguette was initially the mainstay of wealthy metropolitans, but after World War II became the emblem of all French people.

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