Summer is here and with it a host of new books starring France. From style to fashion to novels to murder mystery to history to social commentary to gardens to things culinary, there are plenty of offerings to add to your summer reading pleasure. Check out these latest additions to the French book scene—and bonne lecture (happy reading)!

93641507small“You don’t need to be born in Paris to have Parisian style. Parisian style is an attitude, a state of mind…” Author, former face of Chanel, ex-runway model, designer, illustrator and business woman, Inès de la Fressange describes the secrets of the chic Parisian woman in Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange. She shares her best advice and tips on how to dress and develop one’s own beauty—French-style. She also includes her favorite resources in Paris for shopping, hotels, restaurants, excursions and more. This is our French Bookclub pick for June–we’ll have a great discussion of it over French wine, cheese & chocolates at the French-inspired Dallas boutique Paper & Chocolate. Click here for more details on this event. 

100056044smallOlivier Magny, the genius behind the O Château  wine tasting company in Paris, has pulled together some of his best blog entries on Paris and Parisians and published them in his upcoming book Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in ‘Je ne sais quoi’. The French original came out last fall in France under the title of “Dessine-moi un Parisien” and was the runaway book hit of the French Christmas season. Magny has just opened the first “high end” wine bar in Paris where you can get top, top wines by the glass. This guy is just full of great ideas. His book will be available in July in the U.S.–I can’t wait to pick up this witty and entertaining take on the French in Paris! 

 

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 The Paris Wife: A Novel  by Paula McLain is a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage to his first wife Hadley and their life in Paris in the heady 1920’s. Written in Hadley’s voice, the story recounts the whirlwind courtship of the 28-year old Hadley and the 21-year old (as yet unpublished) Hemingway and their expat life in Paris surrounded by the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Though their marriage slowly dissolves, this is a poignant portrayal of love at remarkable time in France.

 

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Move over Agatha Christie! France had its own 1930’s murder mystery–a true tale to boot. The new book, Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930’s Paris, is a captivating account of a young French woman who poisoned and killed her parents in 1933. The crime and subsequent trial caused a huge sensation in France–particularly when Violette’s reason for killing her parents became known. She was condemned to death but then freed in 1945. Word has it that this is a well-written book and an enlightening portrayal of France between the Wars.

 

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France has been shaken to the core by the recent scandal involving Frenchman and former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the allegations of sexual assault against him during a recent trip to New York City. So former NY Times journalist Elaine Sciolino’s new book La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life is especially timely. Extensively researched, her book explores the ways in which France runs off of sexual energy–whether in social settings, in intellectual debate, in the workplace or in politics. This is a fascinating read and a key to understanding the French mindset. And given the DSK affair, it will be mesmerizing to see if French society changes its ways and attitudes towards women in the next few years.

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Historian David McCullough has come out with another fascinating book–this one on Americans in Paris in the 1800’s. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris is fabulously researched and speaks to the influence of France on multiple aspects of American life in the 19th century. Of course, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson spent a great deal of time in France in the late 1700’s and their stories there are more widely known. But in this book, McCullough tracks the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Samuel Morse, and Harriet Beecher Stowe who migrated to Paris and then brought back ideas  and experiences that helped shape American history. A must read!

 

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 Not many Americans know that Paris was devastated by a massive flood in January of 1910. Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910 is an informative account of the catastrophic flooding of the Seine River and the coming together of Parisians from all walks of life survive the destruction. For those of you who love history, you won’t want to miss this true story of French courage and community in the face of natural disaster. (And next time you are walking around Paris, keep your eyes open for markers on buildings that note the height of the floodwaters–the cru de la Seine–in 1910. There was one in my Left Bank Paris neighborhood that I used to pass all the time–you can look for it on the rue de Bellechasse near the Musée d’Orsay…)

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 Ina Caro’s The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History in France is one of my favorite travel / history / memoire books on France. And she has created a new gem with her book Paris to the Past: Traveling Through French History by Train. The author chronicles 700 years of French history through the lens of 25 day trips by train from Paris. Caro makes the various epochs of French history come alive–a delightful way to (re)discover Paris and the Paris region.

   

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 Julia Child was an amazing  cook, culinary spirit and downright fun person. As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis Devoto shows the personal side of Julia in her letter exchanges with Avis Devoto, Julia’s unofficial literary agent who was instrumental in getting the culinary icon “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” published. A tribute to a deep friendship as well as a lively conversation about all things culinary, this book is a rich read and a must for those who love cooking and Julia Child.

  

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 French Classics Made Easy: More Than 250 Great French Recipes Updated and Simplified for the American Kitchen by Richard Grausman has been updated and revised for the 21st century. First printed in 1988, this book instantly became a classic–and known for its sure-fire ways of making even complex French dishes come out right. Newly updated, this cookbook makes nice addition to the French department of your cooking wardrobe.

 

 

The Provencal Cookbook

First printed under the title of Cooking School Provence: Shop, Cook and Eat Like a Local, this cookbook by Guy Gedda and Marie-Pierre Moine has now been reissued with the more user-friendly title of The Provençal Cookbook: Shop, Cook & Eat Like a Local. This volume is a marvelous journey through southern French cuisine and how to prepare it at home. If cookbooks could smell, we would be transported to small villages in Provence by just reading the recipes. For a rich Provence cooking immersion experience, French Affaires is partnering with Central Market Dallas Cooking School and SMU’s Continuing Studies to offer a combined Provence cooking and culture class in August. Click here for the course details. 

51nnJiG-HWL__SS500_smallElizabeth David is arguably the best food writer of the 20th century. British-born, David brought the lush flavors, colors and tastes of southern French cooking to drab post-war Britain. At Elizabeth David’s Table: Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom is a compilation of the best of David’s recipes and prose (done by Jill Norman–David died in 1992). What makes this book worth buying is that it’s the first David volume to include photographs of her timeless dishes. Still, David’s original books without photos such as “French Provincial Cooking” or “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine” are essentials for any French foodie’s library. 

Worth mentioning:  Another cooking title is also a new reissue–The French Menu Cookbook by Richard Olney is a must-have for the French gourmet cook. The recipes as well as the menu recommendations are outstanding. And Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire has been reprinted — this new volume is a translation of the 1903 original book’s 4th edition. It contains over 5000 recipes and is a classic of French cookery.

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And finally, a garden with a view is our last recommendation for French book summer reading. Nicole de Vesian-Gardens; Modern Design in Provence by French garden guru Louisa Jones is the latest addition to the French garden scene. Nicole de Vésian, the retired fashion stylist at house of Hermès, has spent the last 10 years renovating her garden in the south of France. Owning this book is like having your own small piece of garden in Provence. All that’s missing is the scent of southern France!