Paris in the Modern Mind: A Reading List

Paris is a symbol of so much that the free and enlightened world celebrates: beauty, literature, ideas. Here are a few books that I have read that have contributed to the picture of that symbolic, imagined Paris in my mind. Add yours.
  1. The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson
    The classic book by the defining photographer of the 20th century, capturing eternal fleeting moments of everyday life.
  2. How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are
    Four French women collaborated on this book, which is funny and interesting. It shares conventional wisdom from their social circle on things like fashion and food to How To Have an Affair.
  3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (graphic novel)
    Proust is an author I always wish I had read but found intimidating to dive into. This is a graphic novel version that I got as a gateway drug.
  4. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
    I don't know why I bought this book and read it but I did and think about it periodically. It's an American's account of raising a baby in Paris the Parisian way, i.e. making the child's life revolve around the parent rather than vice versa.
  5. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
    The gossipy, atmospheric classic.
  6. Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
    Essays on a real life experience of a common writer fantasy: a sabbatical in Paris
  7. The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
    Walking around Paris one day, a bookshop owner called Laurent comes across a handbag containing, among other things, a red notebook and a signed book by Patrick Modiano. He sets out to find its owner, who, as the reader knows, is a woman named Laure. Quirky and charming and romantic in a very French way.
    Suggested by   @bookishclaire
  8. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
    Fictionalized account of Hadley Richardson's marriage to Ernest Hemingway -- the other side of the love affair that's always told from papa's perspective.
    Suggested by   @sippey
  9. French Women Don't Get Fat
    Inspired me to walk a lot (before FitBit became a thing!), eat quality food, and enjoy the art of leisurely dining.
    Suggested by   @jacqanders
  10. The Discovery Of France by Graham Wood
    One of the most engaging works of history I've ever read, tells how weird, isolated mini-nations came together to become France. His sequel, Parisians, is a little too experimental for me but still describes the odd miracles and wild stories and strange geniuses that made the city what it is.
    Suggested by   @helytimes
  11. The Lady and the Unicorn
    By Tracy Chevalier. It's a beautiful book, and although it's much earlier history than most on this list, it connected me to France in a way the no other book had at the point in my life when I read it.
    Suggested by   @krissybell76
  12. Spirit of Place Paris; Pavilion Books, 1989
    This is a beautiful little book, with excerpts from other books facing full page beautifully reproduced paintings and photos.
    Suggested by   @Alphonse
  13. The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
    Incredibly funny story about a young American woman blundering her way through Paris in the 1950s. Many consider the heroine, Sally Jay, a precursor to Bridget Jones.
    Suggested by   @chantiburnette
  14. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
    A book and beloved character, which sparked an iconic franchise. According to the author's grandson, Madeline is not a actually French orphan, but rather, an American attending a French boarding school. Either way, Paris plays an incredible part in the series, which has served as the introduction to some of the city's greatest landmarks and its culture for many a child.
    Suggested by   @mlh
  15. Paris, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down by Rosecranz Baldwin
    American writer lives and works in Parisian ad agency for eighteen months even though he doesn't know anything about advertising and doesn't speak French. Very funny.
    Suggested by   @ChrisK