10 Books to Read Before You Go to Paris

If you’re planning a trip to Paris, and you’re an avid reader, you might want to stock up on some books to get you through the flight over (and for reading in a Parisian café over a glass of wine!) What better way to get a feel of the city before arriving than through some of the fantastic literature that this city has inspired? Here are some of our favorites:

The Classics

Victor Hugo is considered one of the greatest French writers that ever lived. Among his most famous novels are Notre-Dame de Paris – that us anglophones know as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Les Misérables. Both are readily available in translation, and have some wonderful passages about the city. In particular, the Gothic novel Notre-Dame de Paris has a great description of the famous cathedral. A must-read before you climb the steps and hear the bells ringing out over the city.

Ernest Hemingway came from Illinois, but worked as a foreign correspondent in Paris, becoming part of the “Lost Generation” (a term he popularized) expatriate community after the First World War. His book A Moveable Feast is a wonderful glimpse into Paris during the 1920s. Take it with you on a walk around the Latin quarter, and follow Hemingway’s steps through the city, nearly 100 years later… Many of the addresses have not changed.

The Gritty Side

So Paris isn’t, and hasn’t always been, simply the beautiful City of Lights. She has a darker side.
George Orwell’s Down and out in Paris and London and Emile Zola’s Bubu de Montparnasse are full of debauchery, illegality and poverty. And yet somehow, after reading them, you feel closer to Paris, like a friend whose secrets are out. You’ll also feel more comfortable if you ever find yourself accidentally – or not – on the infamous Rue Saint Denis!

Crime and Conspiracy

Paris has a peculiar way of inspiring crime fiction novels. Perhaps the most well-known is the (relatively) recent and controversial The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. But if you prefer good old-fashioned crime to contemporary conspiracy, Fred Vargas has written a multitude of crime fiction stories, based in Paris, which are widely acclaimed and very enjoyable.

Have you got a favorite book set in Paris that we’ve missed out? Add it below!