what to read before heading to paris


Paris' long history has inspired countless works of art, literature, movies and music. The city's beauty, rich culture and storied past runs deep--there's no shortage of material out there. Books are a great way to learn about a new culture before travel and to continue the excitement upon return. Here are 3 books I used to inspire and inform my recent trip to Paris.

1. Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart

William Alexander humorously chronicles his trials and tribulations learning the French language. Light and fun, it's an easy read that will leave you with the desire to start brushing up on your French. 

2. The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs

New York Times writer Elaine Sciolino has been a resident for years of this bustling street in Paris that stretches from Pigalle to Montmartre. A lively storyteller, she writes about her daily life and the residents and business owners that call the Rue des Martyrs home. Sciolino chronicles the history of the street's past, as well as the rapid gentrification that is transforming its future. You'll want to hop on a plane immediately and take up residence--or at least add it as a must-see on your visit. 

3. Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London

Coined by the frenchman Baudelaire, a flaneur is a term used to describe a man of leisure, one who lounges, strolls and observes life on the street. Flanerie (the act of strolling or wandering) has historically been limited to the privilege of being male. Lauren Elkin turns this theory on its head in her exploration of women who have found inspiration and freedom in walking cities on foot. Virginia Woolfe, Jean Rhys and Sophie Calle are some of the women she follows as they wander through the some of the most celebrated cities in the world. You'll be inspired to walk your own path in Paris, a city designed for wandering and discovery.