My favorite books with a little Parisian flair

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author currently living in rural southern Vermont, though I’ve also lived in Chicago and New York City. When I was a child I wanted nothing more than to visit the city of lights and when I finally started going, I was awestruck by the beauty and the history of the city of Paris. It’s the little things about Paris, the crooked cobblestone, the myriad of bookstores, the flowers along the boulevards, and those steel metro signs that look like you’re about to enter a terrifying circus. It all comes together in the most lovely ways. My newest novel, Between Before and After, is in many ways a love letter to the city.

I wrote...

Between Before and After

By Jessica Stilling,

Book cover of Between Before and After

What is my book about?

Indie movie director Sebastian Foster has found his niche making movies based on the award-winning novels written by his estranged mother. However, his latest film, based loosely on the tragic death of his sister as a child, opens up old wounds best left under bandages. Told in two concurrent timelines, now and when Sebastian was a teen, some twenty years ago in the mid-1990s, this story of learning unknown truths unwinds in the streets of Paris, where Sebastian lived as a teen and where he has returned to make his picture.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Secret Kept

Jessica Stilling Why did I love this book?

This gripping mystery follows Antoine Rey, a recently divorced man navigating shared custody and raising teenagers who are stuck to their cellphones all day, as he and his sister begin to unravel secrets their mother took to her grave. At the heart of this novel is a mystery surrounding Antoine’s mother’s tragic death as a young woman and a burning question: Who is the woman in the video? Who was his mother, really? As the mystery unfolds Antoine and his sister Melanie learn that even the people we are closest to keep secrets. As revelations about the woman his mother really was, and insights into her untimely death unfold, Antoine is able to make better connections in his own life.

The city of Paris is teeming with life in this story. The novel unfolds with an even hand and we get a peek into what Parisian life is really like, not the idealized version. Antoine, his sister Melanie and the other characters live in a Paris of running off to work and scheduling playdates. The city is a city that is lived in, not simply gazed at from a touristy afar, which is why this is one of my favorite novels that takes place in Paris.

By Tatiana De Rosnay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Secret Kept as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This stunning novel from Tatiana de Rosnay, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Sarah's Key, plumbs the depths of complex family relationships and the power of a past secret to change everything in the present.

A Secret Kept is now a major motion picture starring Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds), Laurent Lafitte (The Crimson Rivers), and Audrey Dana (Roman de Gare)!

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie's birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the…

Book cover of The Paris Wife

Jessica Stilling Why did I love this book?

This novel is about Americans in Paris, actually many of them…and most of them are famous. The Paris Wife follows Hadley (Richardson) Hemmingway and her time in Paris with her husband Ernest, the famous writer. Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald pay calls on the Hemmingway household, along with Fitzgerald’s wild wife, Zelda. This novel is a celebration of Americans in Paris and touches on themes such as the artist's calling and how motherhood can change a marriage. Hadley is a compelling and sympathetic character and seeing Paris in the 1920s through her eyes is a magical experience.

By Paula McLain,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Paris Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A deeply evocative novel of ambition and betrayal that captures the love affair between two unforgettable people, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley—from the author of Love and Ruin and When the Stars Go Dark
“A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s—as a wife and as one’s own woman.”—Entertainment Weekly

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People • Chicago Tribune • NPR • The Philadelphia Inquirer • Kirkus Reviews • The Toronto Sun • BookPage

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but…

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Jessica Stilling Why did I love this book?

Though I sometimes dub this novel the book with a million endings, I loved seeing WWII Paris (and the French seaside) through the eyes of a brilliant blind girl and a sympathetic German with a knack for working with radio equipment. This story is told through the eyes of two narrators, Marie, a blind French girl and Werner, a poor German soldier trying to survive the war. As the two get closer and closer their fates entwine, and the down-and-out Paris of the WWII years truly shines as a beacon of strength for both children.

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

38 authors picked All the Light We Cannot See as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic…

Book cover of Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette

Jessica Stilling Why did I love this book?

This biography of the famous French authoress Collette explores the sensuously Parisian life of the famed and inflammatory author. It explores many of her sensuous love affairs along with her fabulous accomplishments. This biography marches through time in Paris, from the Belle Epoch to the lean years of the World Wars, to the shining beacon Paris became in the later half of the twentieth century. Through the life of the indomitable authoress Collette, the city of Paris truly sparkles as we see that her history is so entwined with the city’s history.

By Judith Thurman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Secrets of the Flesh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who, from her first appearance in Paris salons as a child bride in 1900, scandalised and enraptured all of France.

Book cover of Giovanni's Room

Jessica Stilling Why did I love this book?

David is an expatriate American living in Paris as he wrestles with dislocation. David attempts to free himself of the shame of being a gay man in America in the 1950s by living very far away, in a city that feels more tolerant. The novel follows David as he laments his relationships with other men, especially an Italian bartender named Giovanni that he’s partial to. The city of Paris is seen as a new start in the old world, an accepting place where he can finally be himself. It explores issues of race, sexual orientation, and social class. Baldwin always gets to me and this book shows that sometimes running away from home doesn’t fix all your problems.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Giovanni's Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend's return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened - while Giovanni's life descends into tragedy.

United by the theme of love, the writings in the Great Loves series span over two thousand years and vastly different worlds. Readers will be introduced to love's endlessly fascinating possibilities and extremities: romantic love, platonic love, erotic love, gay love, virginal love, adulterous love, parental love, filial love, nostalgic love, unrequited love, illicit love,…

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Crossing: A Chinese Family Railroad Novel

By Lisa Redfern,

Book cover of Crossing: A Chinese Family Railroad Novel

Lisa Redfern Author Of Phases of Gage: After the Accident Years

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author DNA genealogy researcher California history storyteller & media maker Cartophile Close-call kefir exploder A philomath with too many books

Lisa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Crossing is a vividly human re-imagining of the love, sacrifices, and accomplishments that two Chinese brothers - American Immigrants - experience as they travel to California to build the Transcontinental Railroad. 

Crossing: A Chinese Family Railroad Novel

By Lisa Redfern,

What is this book about?

Crossing is a vividly human re-imagining of the love, sacrifices, and history that laid tracks for the North America of today.

Leaving behind ancestral Chinese homelands and their family, brothers Yang and Lee face harrowing challenges as they join countless immigrants seeking a better life in the 1860s.

This story follows their remarkable journey across the ocean to San Francisco, then into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where they'll labor to build the Transcontinental Railroad. Surrounded by California's new marvels, and carrying their cultural traditions in their hearts, Yang and Lee find themselves in precarious situations. Their passions, struggles, dreams, and…

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