You can always watch the movie version or sitcom or miniseries later; just read the book now. These books. Other books. Read books!
Okay, end of Mommy-Vous Français lecture.
For starters, two books about France in general.
The first one is totally delicious. So delicious it makes me drool with envy. Gastronomie! is the result of a couple's pilgrimage across France visiting food museums and food heritage sites in all regions of the Hexagon. Tom Hughes and Meredith Sayles Hughes traipsed across the French countryside, from the Hotel-Restaurant Tatin in Lamotte Beuvron, birthplace of the tarte tatin, to the Maison de la Chicoree in Orchies, to the Musee du Tire-Bouchon in Menerbes. They recount their travels (and those meals!) in easy-to-follow itineraries that will get you itching to pack your suitcase and forswearing that diet.
Next is a book that you might pass over, assuming it's just another photograph coffee-table book of Paris. Au contraire. Historic Photos of Paris is not a mere compendium of excellent antique photos, dating from the earliest days of photography in Paris. Author Rebecca Schall has written a compelling social history of Paris and France using the photos as a springboard. These are not merely captions, but rich text, clearly written, that gives a better understanding of the whys and hows of Paris today through the lens of history. I learned a lot. It's the kind of coffee table book that I will actually read and re-read.
The next books fall under the veni, vidi, vici category.
Petite Anglaise needs no introduction to francophile blog readers the world over. The subtitle is "In Paris. In Love. In Trouble." But first and foremost this book is a blook (a term I just learned; I think I got it right.) And a blook worth reading not because it primarily features Catherine in Paris or love or trouble so much as her "blogging in Paris, in love with blogging, and in trouble with blogging." Many tomes have already been written about life journeys in Paris; and to me the great merit of Catherine's book -- what kept me eagerly turning the pages -- is that it lets you into the mind of a blogger. The life of a blogger. Paris is the mere backdrop. When does a blogger reveal the details she chooses, and why? And how does she handle interactions with readers? It's gripping. So whether you are a blogger or a reader of blogs, this blook is for you.
I haven't yet read Laurel Zuckerman's Sorbonne Confidential, but from the reviews I've read and some excerpts, it's a witty and trenchant view of an American's experience inside the most famous French educational institution. The French translation was published by Fayard, and this month her original English version will be launched. To hear more and to meet Laurel herself, you can attend a reading at WH Smith on October 14 at 7:30 pm.
Adam Shepard's book has nothing to do with Paris but everything to do with starting all over and making a new life for yourself. Scratch Beginnings recounts Adam's journey as a recent college grad who decided to see if he could start from scratch in a new town, with just a duffel bag and $25 and no connections, and have a functioning car, a place to live , and $2500 savings by then end of a year. No small feat. Harper Collins will have the book on the shelves October 14 as well. Bless that boy, he told me, "I've been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Fox News, NPR, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Post…blah, blah, blah." Nothing blah about that!
So I think there is still room for another Paris veni-vidi-vici book, one with a twist at the end. Yet to be written or published. A divorced woman starts a new life in Paris, plans to stay "until I've seen all there is to see," i.e. forever. She has innovative, creative ideas for making a permanent life here, starts a kind of funny blog, writes half a manuscript with a French woman, gets filmed in a documentary, writes some articles, edits a book, discovers the daily joys and frustrations and indelible infatuation with the most beautiful city on the planet, and re-discovers herself in the process. Gradually the economy erodes her ability to make the Paris present continue into the Paris future, and she realizes her time in the City of Light has come to an end. She has still conquered, though, because she'll always have Paris in her heart, her soul, and her bones, when she says au revoir and moves back to the States in November. The book's title, of course, will be Polly-Vous Français.
I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.