Both envied and praised, French culture is emulated in various ways across the globe. With its uniqueness and complexity, this strong national identity encompasses excellence in gastronomy, perspective-changing artistic movements, a politically-engaged and passionate nation, and much more.
But how can we truly understand the essence of this national fabric? Apart from packing our bags and spending time in France, the best way to delve into French culture is through reading. Books have the power to uncover the soul of French culture, whether through fiction or non-fiction spanning several centuries of history. In this article, we have carefully selected contemporary books about French culture that are sure to fascinate ardent Francophiles.
My Twenty-five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now in Provence by Peter Mayle
After inspiring thousands of foreigners to experience the Provençal life with his seminal novel A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle returns with another memoir-style book that reflects on his time in his adoptive home and how things have changed since. Part diary, part travel guide, Mayle’s life in Provence authentically narrates French culture in a way that will charm and delight. Twenty-five years on, his storytelling is as captivating as ever!
Ze French Do It Better by Frédérique Veysset and Valérie de Saint-Pierre
If you’re seeking to infuse some “Frenchness” into your own life, then this is the book for you. Ze French Do It Better breaks down the long-standing enigma of French culture into various tribes, such as Classic Frenchy, Aristo Chic, Vintage Bourgeois, Eco-warrior, and more. With a lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek approach, this book offers insights on how to fully embrace the French way of life, à la française!
Older but Better, but Older: The Parisian Art of Growing Up by Caroline de Maigret, Audrey Diwan, and Sophie Mas
Written by Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas, bestselling authors and Parisian fashion icons, this entertaining and slightly mocking read reveals what it means to be Parisian. From seduction to pastimes to cooking, these authors provide a palpable image of the nonchalant, care-free esprit that defines the Parisian woman. Their sequel, Older but Better, but Older, dives further into aging the French way, offering bohemian and mischievous lifestyle guidance.
The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed by Julie Barlow
One of the most significant cultural differences between nations lies in their conversational styles. The Bonjour Effect, by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, explores how the French approach conversation. Drawing from their experiences as a bicultural couple, the authors decode the intricacies of French communication. From politics to education to money, this fascinating book provides valuable insights into French culture and how to navigate conversations in a uniquely French way.
Puligny-Montrachet: Journal of a Village in Burgundy by Simon Loftus
No discussion of French culture would be complete without mentioning wine and its essential role. While Puligny-Montrachet is renowned for its world-class wines, little is known about the village itself. In this book, Simon Loftus, a vinophile, restaurateur, and author, offers a unique snapshot of life in rural France. From the rituals surrounding winemaking to the colorful people that shape the village, this book captures the honest and simple aspects of French culture.
Monsieur Mediocre: One American Learns the High Art of Being Everyday French by John von Sothen
John von Sothen, a GQ and Vanity Fair writer, fell in love with Paris through his mother’s recollections. After moving to the City of Light and experiencing its absurdities and mind-boggling rituals, he recites the amusing reality of everyday life in hilarious essays. In Monsieur Mediocre, he crafts his own love letter to Paris, celebrating both its charm and quirks. This book is a must-read for any Francophile curious about French culture.
My Life in France by Julia Child
Julia Child’s journey into French culture began when she arrived in Le Havre port in 1948. Tasting real French food for the first time ignited a passion within her, leading her to enroll in the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. From learning age-old kitchen techniques to immersing herself in the vibrant culinary scene of France, this memoir showcases how Julia Child became an icon of French food heritage. This heartwarming read is a testament to the power of embracing a new culture.
Do you have any other books on French culture that we should include? Let us know in the comments below!