Expatica countries
editor's choice

Lost in Cheeseland: How to become an expat in France

Top myths about Paris

Is an international MBA the right degree for you?

Childcare in France

Relocation programmes remain small, focused and consistent

Index Last Var.(%)
BEL 20 3083.51 0.32
DAX 9605.08 0.17
IBEX 30 10058.5 -1.04
CAC 40 4387.61 -0.20
FTSE 100 6806.86 -0.05
AEX 397.5 -0.20
DJIA 16272.65 0.46
Nasdaq 4318.933 0.63
FTSE MIB 20298.33 -0.11
TSX Composite 14214.35 0.18
ASX 5415.4 -0.10
Hang seng 22836.96 0.04
Straits Times 3110.78 0.45
ISEQ 20 836.3 0.23
EUR / USD 1.37976 0.67
EUR / GBP 0.82571 0.59
USD / GBP 0.598544 -0.10
Gold 1329.6 -0.13
Oil 108.9 -0.76
Silver 21.28 0.08
You are here: Home Life in Blogs & photos Rick Steves: Vive la France - films and books about France
Enlarge font Decrease font Text size

06/11/2012Rick Steves: Vive la France - films and books about France

Rick Steves: Vive la France - films and books about France Interested in learning about French culture? From history to comedy, books and films set in France are a great way to start.

Books: Non-Fiction
For a good introduction to the French culture and people, read Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong (Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow), Culture Shock: France (Sally Adamson Taylor) and/or French or Foe (Polly Platt).

For a readable history of the country, try The Course of French History (Pierre Goubert). Portraits of France (Robert Daley) is an interesting travelogue that roams from Paris to the Pyrénées. A mix of writers explore French culture in Travelers Tales: France (edited by James O'Reilly, Larry Habegger, and Sean O'Reilly).

Many great memoirs take place in Paris. Consider reading Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Art Buchwald's I'll Always Have Paris, and/or Paris to the Moon, by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, who takes his young son for a carousel ride in the Luxembourg Garden.

If you'll be visiting Provence, pick up Peter Mayle's memoirs, A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence. Ina Caro's Road from the Past is filled with enjoyable essays on her travels through France, with an accent on history. The Da Vinci Code fans will enjoy reading the book that inspired that book — Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln) — which takes place mostly in southern France. Labyrinth (Kate Mosse) is an intriguing tale, much of which takes place in medieval southern France during the Cathar crusade.

Flickr: Webjoy. France: Recommended Reading and ViewingWar buffs may want to read these classics before visiting the D-Day Beaches: The Longest Day (Cornelius Ryan) and Wine & War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure (Donald and Petie Kladstrup). Is Paris Burning?, set in the last days of the Nazi occupation, tells the story of the French resistance and how a German general disobeyed Hitler's order to destroy Paris (Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre).

If you'll be enjoying an extended stay in France, consider reading Living Abroad in France (Terry Link). Gourmands appreciate the Marling Menu-Master for France (William E. Marling). Travelers seeking green and vegetarian options in France could consider Traveling Naturally in France (Dorian Yates).

Books: Fiction
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," begins Charles Dickens' gripping tale of the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities. In Les Misérables (Victor Hugo), a Frenchman tries to escape his criminal past, fleeing from a determined police captain and becoming wrapped up in the Revolutionary battles between the rich and the starving. Another recommended book set during this time is City of Darkness, City of Light, by Marge Piercy.

Ernest Hemingway was a fan of Georges Simenon, a Belgian who wrote mysteries based in Paris, including The Hotel Majestic. Other mysteries using Paris as the backdrop are Murder in Montparnasse (Howard Engel), Murder in the Marais (Cara Black), and Sandman (J. Robert Janes).

A Very Long Engagement (Sebastien Japrisot) is a love story set during the bleak years when World War I raged. Using a similar timeframe, Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks) follows a 20-year-old Englishman into France, and into the romance that follows.

Chocolat (Joanne Harris) — a book and a 2000 movie with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche — charms readers with its story of magic and romance.

Suite Française (Irène Némirovsky) plunges readers into the chaos of the evacuation of Paris during World War II, as well as daily life in a small, rural town during the ensuing German Occupation. The author, a Russian Jew living in France, wrote her account within weeks of the actual events and died at Auschwitz in 1942. 

France: Recommended Reading and ViewingFilms

In The Grand Illusion (1937, directed by Jean Renoir), WWI prisoners of war hatch an escape plan. Considered a masterpiece of French film, the movie was later banned by the Nazis for its anti-fascism message.

Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957) is a WWI story about the futility and irony of war. François Truffaut, a filmmaker of the French New Wave school, shows the Parisian streets in Jules and Jim (1962). Wander the streets of Paris with a small boy as he chases The Red Balloon (1956).

Jean de Florette (1986), a marvelous tale of greed and intolerance, follows a hunchback as he fights for the property he inherited. Its sequel, Manon of the Spring (1986), continues with his daughter's story. Blue/White/Red (1990s) is a stylish trilogy of films by Krzystof Kieslowski, based on France's national motto — "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity."

Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) is about a homely, romantic poet who woos his love with the help of another, better-looking man. Fans of crime films — and Robert De Niro — will like Ronin (1998), with multiple scenes shot in France. Saving Private Ryan (1998) is Steven Spielberg's intense and brilliant story of the D-Day landings.

The Gleaners & I (2000) — a quiet, meditative film by Agnès Varda — follows a few working-class men and women as they gather sustenance from what's been thrown away. In Amélie (2001), a charming young waitress in Paris searches for love. If you'll be heading to Versailles, consider seeing Marie Antoinette (2006), which stars Kirsten Dunst as the infamous French queen (with a California accent).



Rick Steves / Expatica
Photo credit 1: webjoy (photo 1), M.Markus (photo 2)

Rick Steves
Rick Steves ( writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at 


0 reactions to this article

0 reactions to this article

Inside Expatica
Management culture in France

Management culture in France

This handy guide from Expertise in Labour Mobility includes information on business hierarchy, negotiations, and etiquette.

American associations and clubs in Paris

American associations and clubs in Paris

A listing of organizations in the Paris area that cater primarily to Americans living in France. Updated April 2011.

British associations and clubs in Paris

British associations and clubs in Paris

Our handy guide to the British community in Paris, from cricket clubs to Scottish country dancing lessons to where to find a jar of Marmite.

Anglophone services in France

Anglophone services in France

Here's a short introduction to our Banking section for those living in France, from how to open a bank account to Islamic banking and investments.

0lifestyle_leisure 1blogs_photos 2France-Recommended-Reading-and-Viewing-00_18049