The best books about ups and downs in Paris: C'est La Vie

Janet Skeslien Charles Author Of The Paris Library
By Janet Skeslien Charles

Who am I?

I am the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library and Moonlight in Odessa. Like the authors on the list I selected for Shepherd, I'm skilled at turning experiences at minimum-wage jobs into novels. I earned $25 a month teaching full-time at a high school in Odessa, which is the setting for my first novel. My second book takes place at the American Library in Paris, where I was the programs manager. Setting is the start of my fiction, because I believe that where we are from has a lot to do with who we are. I hope that you’ll enjoy these selections.


I wrote...

The Paris Library

By Janet Skeslien Charles,

Book cover of The Paris Library

What is my book about?

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet seems to have the perfect life with her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into the city, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor's mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The New Parisienne: The Women & Ideas Shaping Paris

By Lindsey Tramuta, Joann Pai (photographer),

Book cover of The New Parisienne: The Women & Ideas Shaping Paris

Why this book?

The book is an insider guide to Paris and features interviews with amazing women who are making the city better and more interesting, one action, one thought, one sentence at a time. I finished the book wishing I could meet the Parisiennes over coffee to discuss the different challenges that they faced. 


The Caretakers: A Novel

By Amanda Bestor-Siegal,

Book cover of The Caretakers: A Novel

Why this book?

I love this gorgeously-written novel and the way it shows the fine line that young American au pairs working for wealthy French families have to walk. Paris is a dream for many people, but the reality is quite different, especially when seen through the lens of a nanny cam. Though the book takes place in Paris, the ups and downs of navigating work and family relationships are universal.


Let Them Eat Pancakes: One Man's Personal Revolution in the City of Light

By Craig Carlson,

Book cover of Let Them Eat Pancakes: One Man's Personal Revolution in the City of Light

Why this book?

Craig Carlson shares his passion for food and France in this charming, thought-provoking collection of essays. With heart and humor, he shows us the best of America and France, and how we can learn from one another. Whether delving into cultural differences or the challenges and rewards of running a business, Craig is the perfect guide. Let Them Eat Pancakes is a delicious, satisfying dish about following your dreams and dealing with any challenge that arises.


Good Morning, Midnight

By Jean Rhys,

Book cover of Good Morning, Midnight

Why this book?

“I want a long, calm book about people with large incomes – a book like a flat green meadow and the sheep feeding in it… I read most of the time and I am happy.” First published in1939, this novel is a portrait of a woman who struggles in Paris. She is on her own and has no job or money.


Notes of a Native Son

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of Notes of a Native Son

Why this book?

In his striking essay “Equal in Paris,” James Baldwin relates his experience of being arrested and spending eight days in a Paris jail. His crime? Possession of a stolen bed sheet given to him by an acquaintance. His essay Notes of a Native Son is brilliant and I wish everyone would read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, Paris, and civil rights?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, Paris, and civil rights.

France Explore 537 books about France
Paris Explore 188 books about Paris
Civil Rights Explore 91 books about civil rights

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Paris 1919-1939: Art, Life & Culture, The Women of Paris and Their French Revolution, and The Mad Women's Ball if you like this list.