Monday, December 1, 2014

Reading and Diversity: 10 Ways to Read Your Way to France by Emma of Words and Peace

Thank you, Emma, for joining us today for our final guest post on diversity in books!

Reading and diversity:
10 ways to read your way to France

While talking recently about diversity in books, a blogger told me: “all the books I've read from French writers or that take place in France are pretty much historical fiction.  I would love to be able to diversify that.”

Following this wish, I propose you 10 ways to read your way to France, either through French authors, French topics, or books set in France. The following are recent books I have personally thoroughly enjoyed or about which I heard a lot of very good things.

And as November is nonfiction month for many book bloggers, I will start with nonfiction:

1.      History/Socio-economics:
France on the Brink: A Great Civilization in the New Century, by Jonathan Fenby (Skyhorse Publishing, August 2014): awesome analysis of the last 50 years in France, perfect to understand what’s going on right now there and go beyond touristy clichés.

For pure history/biography:
I highly recommend Marie-Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, And The Revolution, by Will Bashor (Lyons Press, October 2013): through the biography of Léonard Autié, Marie-Antoinette’s personal hairdresser, the author presents the panorama around the French Revolution from an original perspective.

2.      Travel essays:
If you feel travel guides always lack this je ne sais quoi, here is an amazing volume with great descriptions of places in France you may not even have heard of. The author adds her own personal experience and recommendations. You will learn a lot about the history, geography, and culture of the country as well: 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, by Marcia DeSanctis (Travelers’ Tales, October 2014)

3.      Memoirs:
I could recommend you tons of books here, it seems these past months everyone has moved to France and is writing about their experience!
You have the hilarious and right on stories relating Vicki’s experience as an expat in France: Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, followed by Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer by Vicki Lesage (both books self-published in 2014).
In We’ll Always Have Paris (Sourcebooks, April 2014), Jennifer Coburn visits Paris with her teenage daughter.
And Samantha Vérant shares her amazing story of falling in love with a French man, ignoring his letters for decades, and finally reconnecting and ending up marrying him: Seven Letters from Paris (Sourcebooks, October 2014).
I can’t but talk to you about how this couple struggled to purchase and renovate their house of their dream on a tiny paradise-like island off the Western Coast of France. Their story of courage and perseverance, or call it foolishness and stubbornness if you wish is presented in The French House, by Don Wallace (Sourcebooks, June 2014).

4.      Literary fiction:
Comes to mind a book written by Grégoire Delacourt, a French author, quite present in the media right now: My Wish List (Penguin, March 2014): on what would you do if you won the lottery?
And one written by an American author, Adria J. Cimino: Paris, Rue des Martyrs (Agency Editions, Fenruary 2014): a beautiful narrative connecting different people living in the same street in the Montmartre neighborhood.

5.      Historical novel:
As the blogger I quoted above hinted at, no lack of choice here. One of the most recent I read is A Paris Apartment (St Martin’s Press, April 2014). Michelle Gable based her novel on the true story of an apartment in the 9th arrondisssement that had been abandoned just before WWII and never opened for 7o years.
Historical romance:
It’s really a historical novel, but the story told was a romance in real life. Heloise and Abelard are probably THE most famous French couple, even though they lived back in the 12th century. Unfortunately, they are no longer well known on this side of the ocean. So you really don’t want to miss this phenomenal opportunity to read about them, through A Sharp Hook of Love (Simon & Schuster, October 2014) written by Sherry Jones.

6.      Paranormal:
If you enjoy the mix historical fiction and paranormal, I have one name for you: M. J. Rose. Her last two books, Seduction - where you will meet Victor Hugo (Atria Books, May 2013) and The Collector of Dying Breaths - with Catherine de Medici and her perfumer (Atria Books, April 2014) are set in France as well as her upcoming novel: The Witch of Painted Sorrows, set in 1890 Belle Époque Paris (to be published in March 2015 by Atria Books).

7.      Romance:
If you prefer contemporary romance, Juliette Sobanet is THE author to follow, with her Paris series: Sleeping With Paris, Honeymoon in Paris, Kissed in Paris, Midnight Train to Paris, Dancing With Paris, One Night in Paris. Are you dreaming yet?

8.      LGBT:
I also have an author to recommend for this genre: Alyssa Linn Palmer and her series Le Chat Rouge. In which she invites you to take a walk on the darker side of Paris, and enter a jazz club on the Left Bank… See The Paris Game, and Moonlight & Love Songs.

9.      Mystery:
A very popular series in France, even adapted on T.V. is fortunately available in English translation, thanks to Le French Book. If you like the combo mystery + French wine, and really, who would not, you will love each of the volumes in the Winemaker Detective Stories by the duo Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen. The title says it all: Benjamin cooker is both a master winemaker and an astute detective. A few of the titles already available may inspire you, and not just to go open a bottle for yourself: Treachery in Bordeaux, Grand Cru Heist, Nightmare in Burgundy, and Cognac Conspiracies.

10.   Thriller:
Book Bloggers International recently published my post on The French Thrill, where I explained how French crime fiction is now making top of the list in front of Scandinavian authors. So I would like to end this list with a woman who really blew my mind, Frédérique Molay. She has received several awards in France. Her latest Crossing The Line starts with the super original idea of a message hidden in the tooth filling of a dead man. As a teaser, do you want to know what was written there? “I was murdered!” If this does not grab you…
The good news is that her next one, The City of Blood, comes out in January!

If you feel stuck in your reading program in the same old same old, this list should help you insert some fine diversity in your TBR, while making you travel to France and stroll in the City of Lights.

Thank you, Emma, for joining us today!  Leave a comment for Emma below!


  1. thanks so much for posting. It's a nice bonus to the November month of diversity, lol. And today I just posted my French Bingo Reading Challenge for 2015!:

  2. I love this list because I added most of them to my TBR! :)

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