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18 Most INSPIRING Books Set in France You MUST Read

Last Updated on November 26, 2023 by Louisa

Are you thinking of a Parisian getaway but you’re unable to make a trip to France right now? Don’t worry, you can still be taken away to the land of berets and baguettes by engrossing yourself in a book set in France!

France is an incredible, gorgeous, and romantic destination, so it should come as no surprise that it’s the inspiration for authors around the world.

In fact, there are so many novels set in France, that you could fill a whole library.

It may be overwhelming to find French novels to add to your reading list, but don’t fret, because I’ve got the best list of books set in France for you here, so you can narrow down your search.

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

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through any of these links. 

Non-Fiction Books Set in France

There is no better way to understand the history, culture, and life of France than by reading French non-fiction.

Learn some French facts, learn to cook French meals, or simply learn about the sites from these non-fiction books about France!

1. A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

The first book about France on this list is by one of the most influential authors of all time.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is about poverty, art, and friendship.

In this memoir, Hemingway shares his views on the years he spent as a struggling ex-pat journalist and writer in the City of Love, Paris, set in the 1920s.

The term “movable feast” was used to preserve the memory of a place that will follow Hemingway for the rest of his life.

In this novel, the reader gets introduced to other world-acclaimed authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, both notable authors and Hemingway’s good friends.

This memoir is both a diary and book about travel and self-discovery, as he shares both his experiences and fondest memories of life in Paris.

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 book about life in Paris.

It contains an honest insight into Parisian culture along with their attitudes and ways of life.

David Lebovitz shares how he suffered from the unexpected loss of his partner and felt excruciating sorrow because of it. As such, he took a leap of faith and moved from his home in San Francisco to Paris. 

As you read about his life, you learn about how he settled into life in Paris on one epic French adventure.

From learning to live and cook in a Parisian apartment to mundane trips to markets and hospitals, you’ll experience the triumphs and tribulations of a man learning to live a new life in France.

3. A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle

A Year in Provence is a best-selling memoir that follows the true story of a pair of travelers during their first year in Provence.

This thrilling book about France is highly praised for its style, wit, and the author’s refreshing humor.

The plot follows Peter Mayle and his wife as they relocate to Provence.

They are soon met with a series of unfortunate events, such as unexpectedly fierce weather, underground truffle dealers, and unruly workers. 

Peter Mayle and his wife have one long-cherished dream, to live in a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in France with their two large dogs.

But it’s not as simple as packing up and moving, as A Year in Provence shows you.

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

If you’re looking for a French novel that’s a little different, then you might like to read this insightful parenting book.

Bringing Up Bébé is a 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 her baby in Paris. She was amazed at how French children slept through the nights, ate braised leaks, played by themselves, and much more. 

Bringing Up Bébé provides a fascinating insight into French sleep training, feeding schedules, family rituals, and more.

It’s a part guide and part funny travel book, narrated in a comical, self-deprecating way that will make your stomach ache from laughter.

View it on:

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 flirtation and glamor.

Many women have idolized French women and the way they embody beauty, strength, and power.

If you’re looking to channel your inner French lady, this book will give you all the essential ingredients of what it means to embody the look and feel of beauty.

British expatriate, Helena Frith Powell, shares the secrets of releasing one’s Frenchwoman with wits, whimsy, and wonder.

Learn about the mysterious realm of face creams, silk lingerie, and shopping as an exercise.

How are French women always so thin and irresistibly hot? You’ll know their secret in this book.

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

From a distance, France sure does look like a riddle, but up close, it makes sense.

Or at least that’s how Jean-Benoit Nadeau describes it in his French novel, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.

Jean- Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow showcase how the pieces of the puzzle of this spectacular country fit together.

You’ll learn about various French ideas, cuisine, love of privacy, and the language.

From centralization and the Napoleonic code, taking upon elite education alongside street protests, this book sums up all the intricacies that make up the France that is well adored by everyone around the world. 

Complete with anecdotes and observations, paired with history, political analysis, and humor – if you’re traveling 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

For a more modern look at French culture, consider learning about the life of a legendary fashion icon, Coco Chanel.

Not only do you learn about her life, but this insightful novel gives a lot of valuable life lessons for women of all ages.

You’ll learn about Chanel’s difficult childhood and triumphant adulthood, alongside intense love affairs and eccentricities. 

Chanel’s philosophies are what drive this book, down to style, passion, money, success, femininity, and living life on your own terms.

It’s a part memoir and part self-help book.

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 on the list of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century

View it on:

8. The Rough Guide to France – Rough Guides 

You may be on the hunt for the ultimate travel guide to France, and The Rough Guide to France is it.

With colorful maps, stunning photographs, and detailed coverage of all the best French attractions, this book about France is packed with essential and extensive information to help you plan what to see and do in France.

You’ll learn all about France’s remarkable landscapes, from the snowy slopes of the Alps and the watery plains of the Camargue, down to the vibrant metropolis of Paris and the wonderful glamour of the glitzy Côte d’Azur.

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 the true story of how he survived taking on casual labor positions and living feebly in each city.

George Orwell is from a 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.

10. Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Julia Child

Julia Child is an American cook who was well-known for her French-style cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

For more than 60 years, this New York Times bestselling cookbook has been beloved by cooks from across the world.

With 524 delicious recipes, complete with over 100 instructive illustrations, you can master your kitchen in traditional French fashion.

From historic meals to seasonal dishes, this is the number one book to read if you want to learn to cook French food.

Fiction Books Set in France

Well, now you’ve got some non-fiction novels about France to educate you on life, landscape, and culture, it’s time to show you some works of fiction that were inspired by France.

From historical fiction novels set during the world war to lustful romance novels, you’ll fall in love with these fictional tales…

11. Les Misérables – Victor Hugo 

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is a highly loved and successful historical fiction novel set in France and also one of the greatest plays of the 19th century.

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 classic.

12. Someday in Paris – Olivia Lara

Another incredible book set in Paris is Someday in Paris, which is all about pursuing your dreams and taking chances, tackling missed opportunities alongside human mistakes.

It also centers around loss and sacrifice, but above all, it’s about love – and a 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 will restore your faith.

View it on:

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

The New York Times has described The Hundred-Foot Journey as a “slumdog millionaire meets Ratatouille”, but also “delicious fairytale-like”. 

Now I’m intrigued.

This novel follows the life of Hassan Haji, who was born in Mumbai where he works for his grandfather’s modest restaurant.

He has experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to local markets, and gourmet outings with his beloved mother.

After tragedy strikes, and his family is pushed out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world and eventually find themselves 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 share a love of food. 

14. All The Light We Cannot See –  Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See is an astonishing slow-burning novel set in Paris and an epic work of historical fiction and fine literature.

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

When she is 12, the second world war broke out and the Nazis occupied Paris, causing the two to 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 expensive and dangerous jewel.

Meanwhile, in a mining town in Germany, an orphan named Werner Pfennig grows up with his younger sister.

They are enchanted by a crude radio they find, which shares with them news from places they have never been to.

Through the radio, Werner utilizes his talent to track down the resistance.

The novel follows the interweaving lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, and how they try against all odds try to be good people in a world full of hate.

15. Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow – Faïza Guène

If you fancy gritty streets to rolling hills, this humorous novel set in France will surely fit the bill. 

The story follows 15-year-old Dorai, whose father 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.

The novel explores themes of finding one’s own identity, growth, and maturity, as well as sharing insight into Algerian society, Islam, and the implications of French colonialism. 

16. The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery

Next on the list of the best books set in France is The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a moving, humorous, and triumphant French novel about 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 the rich and famous people of 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.

This is both comical and enjoyable to read.

17. The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George 

The Little Paris Bookshop is an international best-selling novel filled with warmth and adventure and is known as a love letter to books.

This tale is for those who are firm believers in stories that shape other people’s lives.  

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

As he sails his barge past some of the iconic sites, from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, Perdu means to heal readers’ hearts and souls with books.

And yet the only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself.

Finally, he decides to take on a journey to mend and find peace with himself.

This novel is beautifully and poetically written and will have your heart aching before the end.  

View it on:

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

If you’re looking for a horror, mystery, and magic realism book set in France, then Perfume will be sure to tantalize your senses.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is an intriguing novel that follows the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an unloved orphan in 18th-century France.

He was born with an exceptional sense of smell and is highly capable of determining a vast range of scents across the world.

As he grows older, he becomes more obsessive and more and more terrifying, as he strives to create the ultimate perfume – one of which is the scent of a beautiful young virgin. 

The book is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity and a must-read for anyone looking for a mysterious thriller to get stuck into.

View it on:

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books set in france

Final Word on Best Books Set in France

That concludes this list of my top books set in France, both fiction and non-Fiction.

As you can see, each of these books has something special and unique about them; all of which have the power to take you on an imaginary trip to Paris or through a literary journey through the vineyards of Bordeaux.

Whatever you’re looking for, I hope you found what you were looking for on this list.

Did I miss anything off my list? Let me know in the comments. 

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About Louisa Smith

Editor/Founder - Epic Book Society

Louisa is the Founder, Editor, and Head Honcho of Epic Book Society. She was born and raised in the United Kingdom and graduated from the University for the Creative Arts with a degree in Journalism. Louisa began her writing career at the age of 7 when her poetry was published in an anthology of poems to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee. Upon graduating university, she spent several years working as a journalist writing about books before transitioning to become a Primary School Teacher. Louisa loves all genres of books, but her favorites are Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, and Young Adult Fiction. Read more Louisa's story here.

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