17 Most INSPIRING Books Set in France You MUST Read

Looking for a new batch of novels to get lost in? Thinking of a Parisian getaway? Why not explore books set in France!

France is an incredible, gorgeous, and romantic destination, so it should come as no surprise that it’s the inspiration for many world-class authors, and there are so many French books to choose from that it could fill a whole library.

It may be overwhelming to start looking for French novels, but don’t fret, because I’ve got the best list of books set in France to help you narrow down your search.

So, when you’re ready, let’s explore the fiction and non-fiction novels set in Franch so you can take your imagination wandering through Le Grande Paris.

Written by Tracy Gorman

Non-Fiction Books Set in France

A great way to understand the history, culture, and life of this beloved land is through reading non-fiction. There’s no better way of enlightenment than French non-fiction novels.  

1. A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

Poverty, art, and friendship are what inspired this spectacular memoir by Ernest Hemingway.

The author talks about his years as a struggling ex-pat journalist and writer in the City of Love, Paris, set in the time of 1920.

The term “movable feast” was used by the author to preserve the memory of a splendid place that persists to go with the author for the rest of his life, even when the experience of it has gone away. 

This French novel allows you to see Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, both notable authors as well, as Hemingway is good friends with them. This endearing book about travel and self discovery shares both his experiences and fondest memories of the city of love.

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2. The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious and Perplexing City – David Lebovitz 

If you’re going to Paris anytime soon, make sure to grab this French book. It contains an honest insight into Parisian culture along with their attitude.

It follows the story of David Lebovitz suffering from the unexpected loss of his partner and feeling excruciating sorrow because of it, taking a leap of change from living in San Francisco to Paris. 

It is a novel of one story after another and is a very entertaining account of French adventure. From learning to live and cook in a Parisian apartment to mundane trips to markets and hospitals, you surely won’t be able to put your hands down once you commit to this book. 

3. A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle

This novel set in France is a best-selling memoir that follows the life of a first-year traveler in Provence. This thrilling book is highly praised amongst avid readers, as it is filled with style, wit, and refreshing humor.

The plot follows Peter Mayle alongside his wife as they relocate to Provence. Then, they are soon met with unexpectedly fierce weather, underground truffle dealers, in addition to unruly workers. 

This will play on your heartstrings as you’re moved by how the author realizes his long-cherished dream, in a 200-year-old stone farmhouse, with his wife and two large dogs. Simply delightful. 

4. Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting – Pamela Druckerman

This French novel is often a star on conversations of “best parenting books.” It is a runaway New York Times bestselling book that shows American parents and the secret behind France’s amazingly well-behaved children.

It follows an American journalist, Pamela Druckerman, who had a baby in Paris. She was amazed how French children slept through the nights, ate braised leaks, played by themselves, and much more. 

Bringing Up Bébé provides fascinating details about French sleep training, feeding schedules, and family rituals. You’ll never get bored with this funny travel book, as it is narrated in a comical, self-deprecating way that will make your stomach ache from laughter. Endearing and sweet. 

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5. All You Need to Be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation into the Lives, Lusts and Little Secrets of French Women – Helena Frith Powell

The attractiveness of a Frenchwoman – hot, sophisticated, with a balanced amount of flirting and glamor. This book set in France will give you all the essential ingredients of what is meant by embodying the look and feel of beauty.

British expatriate, Helena Frith Powell, with wits, whimsy, and wonder, unravels all the secrets of releasing one’s Frenchwoman. It goes on an adventure of discovering a mysterious realm of face creams, silk lingerie, and shopping as an exercise.

Are French women always so thin and irresistibly hot? You’ll know their secret in this book. What is delightful is all you’ll do is minimum effort, yet you are faced with maximum results. It is unfailing to give you a much-needed imagination of life in France. This one must definitely be on your next reading list. 

6. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong – Jean-Benoît Nadeau

From a distance, France sure does look like a riddle, but up close, it makes sense. In this French novel, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, Jean- Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow showcase how the pieces of the puzzle in this spectacular country fit together.

Here, you’ll learn various French ideas circulating around its land, cuisine, privacy, and language. From centralization and the Napoleonic code, taking upon elite education alongside street protests, the author will explain all the intricacies that make up the France that is well adored by everyone around the world. 

Anecdotes and observation paired with history, political analysis, and humor will surely make you love this book. If you’re travelling to France and want to know what to expect, this would be a great introduction to French culture.

7. Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons From The World’s Most Elegant Woman – Karen Karbo

This French novel takes a modern look at the life of a legendary fashion icon, Coco Chanel, and gives a lot of valuable life lessons for women of all ages. It is captivating and holds an offbeat look at style, celebrity lives, and self-invention.

All come together to experience Chanel’s difficult childhood and triumphant adulthood, alongside intense love affairs and eccentricities. 

Chanel’s philosophies are what drives this book, down to style, passion, money, success, femininity, and the meaning of living life by your own terms.

It is a new breath of fresh air, in the self-help books industry, all it takes is the elegant, opinionated, passionate, and fashion icon, Coco Chanel, to make sense of the world. It is no wonder Coco Chanel is among the list of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century

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8. The Rough Guide to France – Rough Guides 

This French non-fiction book is the ultimate travel guide to this incredible and overly gorgeous country. You will never ask for more if you read this. 

With clean, full-color maps, flashed with stunning photographs, and detailed coverage of all the best French attractions, this French book is packed with essential and extensive, practical advice on what to do and see in France.

This is helpful for you to enjoy your next physical journey to France.

You’ll have a great reading experience exploring France’s remarkable landscapes, from the snowy slopes of the Alps and the watery plains of the Camargue, down to trips to the vibrant metropolis of Paris and the wonderful glamour of the glitzy Côte d’Azur. Exciting! 

If you’re a fan of travel books, you might also enjoy these books set in Canada!

9. Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell

Most known for his dystopian novels, Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell is one of the greatest writers of his time.

Down and Out in Paris and London is a 1933 memoir of the time spent in Paris (and London) living amongst poverty. It tells a tale of how he survived taking on casual labor positions and living feebly in each city.

George Orwell is from high-class society and had a great education, so much of his experience is what is considered poverty in high society – which really captures an interesting perspective.

If you haven’t read this classic book set in France, you should definitely add it to your reading list.

Fiction Books Set in France

Well, how about we get ourselves to actually live in somebody else’s character? See France in an entirely different light? Makes our impressions of it richer, fuller, livelier? Fiction books are the key to all these

10. Les Misérables – Victor Hugo 

This highly loved and successful novel set in France is also one of the greatest novels of the 19th century and a definite must-read. Les Misérables is a story of the French revolution, following the character of Jean Valjean who is an ex-convict trying to make his way in the world.

The story covers many years after Jean’s release from prison and reformation as an industrialist, all of these years while being constantly pursued by morally strict inspector Javert. 

It is a book that will inspire and ignite you, teaching you about the struggles of the revolution and how poverty was the norm in those years. It has multiple life lessons that stood the test of time, such as needing to learn from your mistakes and reconcile with people who hurt you, the power of forgiveness, the undying mother’s love, and much more.

This is why it is, and always will be, a timeless class.

11. Someday in Paris – Olivia Lara

This is another book set in France that is all about pursuing your dreams and taking chances, tackling missed opportunities alongside human mistakes. It also centres around loss, and sacrifice, but above all, the French novel is all about love – the love that defeats all.

It follows the story of Zara and Eve, who meet each other in a French museum in the dark after the electricity went out.

They never saw each other’s faces, but from the moment they met, they searched for each other. They keep getting drawn to one another through their magical foreshadowing pursuits in life. 

If you are feeling lost or have given up on the concept of love, this book can restore your faith. If you feel like giving up on your dreams, this will inspire you to keep pushing on. An inciteful read with a heart-warming message. 

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12. The Hundred-Foot Journey – Richard C. Morais 

Charming, endearing, and one you absolutely must read, is what most people say after reading this French novel.

According to The New York Times Book Review, the Hundred-Foot Journey is a “slumdog millionaire meets Ratatouille”, and it is a “delicious fairytale-like”. 

The book details the life of Hassan Haji, who was born in his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai. He has experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to local markets, and gourmet outings with his beloved mother.

A tragedy struck, and it pushed his family out of India, and they consoled themselves by eating their way around the world and found themselves eventually residing in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps.

It is a testament to destiny and a great fable for the ages who long for adventures and the love of food. 

13. All The Lights We Cannot See –  Anthony Doerr

This astonishing French novel is an epitome of a slow-burn read that turns out to be so worth it as every piece of it will come together in the end. It is an epic work of historical fiction and fine literature – literature that must be savoured, not devoured. 

It details the life of Marie-Laure, who lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works.

When she is 12, the Nazis occupy Paris and the two flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle resides in a tall house by the sea.

With them, they hold what might be the museum’s most worthful and dangerous jewel. On the other hand, the story also portrays a mining town in Germany, where an orphan named Werner Pfennig grows up with his younger sister.

They are enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news from places they have never been to, nor have they imagined. Werner turned out to be an expert at building and fixing crucial new instruments, and enlisted to utilize his talent to track down the resistance.

In the interweaving lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doer illuminates the ways in which people against all odds try to be good to one another. A deeply moving novel indeed. 

14. Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow – Faïza Guène

If you fancy gritty streets to rolling hills, this humorous french book will surely fit the bill. 

The story follows 15-year-old Dorai, who has a father that heads back to their hometown in Morocco, leaving her and her mom to cope with their mektoub, their destiny alone.

It seems like fate’s dealt them an impossible hand, but Dora is optimistic about building a new life. It talks about finding one’s own identity, growth, and maturity, and follows themes such as Algerian society, Islam, and the implications of French colonialism. 

15. The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery

Next on the list of the books set in France is The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a moving, humorous and triumphant French novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us. 

The story follows a woman, known as Renée, who works as a concierge in a building flashed with very rich people in Paris.

Renée conforms to every stereotype of the palace she resides in, being fat, cantankerous, and addicted to television, but in reality, she is a cultured autodidact who loves art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture.

With her lovely humor and intelligence, she scrutinizes the lives of the building tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence. A truly inquisitive read! 

16. The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George 

This internationally best-selling French novel is filled with warmth and adventure and is known as a love letter to books. This tale is for those who are firm believers of stories that shape other people’s lives.  

It follows the story of Monsieur Perdu who anoints himself as a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore on a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the tribulations of life.

Perdu means to heal his readers’ heart and soul yet the only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself. With this, comes his interest to take on a journey to finally mend and find peace with himself. An absolute gem that is beautifully and poetically written.  

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17. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Patrick Süskind

My final recommendation for books set in France is a horror, mystery, and magic realism French novel. No other book can portray these genres as well as Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind. 

It follows the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an unloved orphan in 18-century France who is born with an exceptional sense of smell and is highly capable of determining a vast range of scents existing in his world.

However, he becomes obsessive and more and more terrifying, as he then aims to create the ultimate perfume, which is the scent of a beautiful young virgin. 

The book was expressed with dazzling narrative brilliance, making it a must-read for being a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity. 

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books set in france

Final Words on Books Set in France

And that’s my top favourite books set in France, both fiction and non-Fiction. All of which have the power to take you on an imaginary trip to France.

While all of these books have something unique and ultimately desirable about them, if  I could pick one ride or die favorite, it would definitely be Someday in Paris, which is my ultimate favourite French novel.

I am a fan of romance and art, and these two concepts present themselves in this book in the most perfect, hauntingly beautiful way. I strongly suggest you get a hold of this book, amazing does not even come close to describing it! 

I hope you found what you were looking for. Did I miss anything off my list? Let me know in the comments. 

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About Louisa

Editor/Founder - Epic Book Society

Louisa is the founder, editor, and head honcho of Epic Book Society. Once a published poet at the age of 7, she aspired to become a journalist, but that career hit a wall so here she is writing about books instead. When she's not writing about books, she's teaching English to primary school kids around the world.

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