100 books like I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do)

By Mark Greenside,

Here are 100 books that I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do) fans have personally recommended if you like I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do). Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light

Janet Hulstrand Author Of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You

From my list on understanding and appreciating the French.

Who am I?

I became fascinated with France and the French as a child, and over the past 40 years I have spent as much time as I can here. I’ve been fortunate to be able to combine my dual passions—for France and for literature—in creating a series of classes for CUNY study abroad programs and for the Politics & Prose bookstore. Through this work, over the past 20+ years I have spent much of my time reading and teaching works of literature that explore France and the French people in depth. I now live in France, and I continue to find the French endlessly fascinating. I think I always will. 

Janet's book list on understanding and appreciating the French

Janet Hulstrand Why did Janet love this book?

People often ask me what is the best book to take with them to Paris if they can only take one, and this is the book I always recommend. This collection of essays, which can easily fit into a purse or a backpack, is brimming over with fascinating stories about “the people, places, and phenomena” of Paris. Downie’s encyclopedic knowledge of history, and the idiosyncratic curiosity that draws him (and his readers along with him) into a variety of offbeat situations make for fun as well as highly informative reading. It’s a great book to take with you to read in Paris, or sitting at home dreaming of or remembering Paris—and the selection of topics is varied enough that I believe there’s something in it to interest almost anyone

By David Downie, Alison Harris (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Beautifully written and refreshingly original . . . makes us see [Paris] in a different light.”—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
 
Swapping his native San Francisco for the City of Light, travel writer David Downie arrived in Paris in 1986 on a one-way ticket, his head full of romantic notions. Curiosity and the legs of a cross-country runner propelled him daily from an unheated, seventh-floor walk-up garret near the Champs-Elysées to the old Montmartre haunts of the doomed painter Modigliani, the tombs of Père-Lachaise cemetery, the luxuriant alleys of the Luxembourg Gardens and the aristocratic Île Saint-Louis midstream in the Seine.…


Book cover of French Spirits: A House, a Village, and a Love Affair in Burgundy

Janet Hulstrand Author Of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You

From my list on understanding and appreciating the French.

Who am I?

I became fascinated with France and the French as a child, and over the past 40 years I have spent as much time as I can here. I’ve been fortunate to be able to combine my dual passions—for France and for literature—in creating a series of classes for CUNY study abroad programs and for the Politics & Prose bookstore. Through this work, over the past 20+ years I have spent much of my time reading and teaching works of literature that explore France and the French people in depth. I now live in France, and I continue to find the French endlessly fascinating. I think I always will. 

Janet's book list on understanding and appreciating the French

Janet Hulstrand Why did Janet love this book?

The main reason I love this book is that Jeffrey Greene is a wonderful writer. The story of how he and his wife (and eventually his mother as well) made their home in an ancient, rundown presbytery in a village in Burgundy provides a vivid, real-life picture of life in a French village for a couple of Americans. Greene’s approach allows us to not only see the French as he sees them, but also how they must see him and his wife. His deep respect and affection for his wife, his mother, his neighbors, life in France, and the beauty of nature shine throughout, all rendered in beautiful prose. And the many funny little stories he tells make me laugh out loud every time I reread this book. 

By Jeffrey Greene,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked French Spirits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Jeffrey Greene, a prizewinning American poet, and Mary, his wife-to-be, a molecular biologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, discover a moss-covered stone presbytery in a lovely village in the Puisaye region of Burgundy, they know they have to live there. With an unabashed joie de vivre, they begin the arduous process of procuring their slice of paradise amid the wild beauty of the French countryside -- a place of gentle farmlands and dense forests, of rivers and lakes, of stunning fields bursting with the color and heady scent of wildflowers.

French Spirits is the magical tale of their…


Book cover of Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French

Janet Hulstrand Author Of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You

From my list on understanding and appreciating the French.

Who am I?

I became fascinated with France and the French as a child, and over the past 40 years I have spent as much time as I can here. I’ve been fortunate to be able to combine my dual passions—for France and for literature—in creating a series of classes for CUNY study abroad programs and for the Politics & Prose bookstore. Through this work, over the past 20+ years I have spent much of my time reading and teaching works of literature that explore France and the French people in depth. I now live in France, and I continue to find the French endlessly fascinating. I think I always will. 

Janet's book list on understanding and appreciating the French

Janet Hulstrand Why did Janet love this book?

Harriet Welty Rochefort was born and raised in small-town Iowa but she made her way to Paris right after graduating from college. Married to a Frenchman for more than 50 years, she is deeply integrated into French family life. This book offers, therefore, the dual perspective of an outsider who is now also an insider. Her interviews with experts ranging from patissiers and sommeliers to coiffeurs and sellers of lingerie and perfume provide a rich in-depth exploration of the details of daily French life. I love the sidebar conversations she has with her husband, who provides his invaluable perspective on how the French think; the many handy bits of practical advice she has gathered from her mother-in-law over the years; and her unabashed and enduring appreciation of her American roots. 

By Harriet Welty Rochefort,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Joie de Vivre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The French truly are singular in the way they live, act, and think - from the lightness of their pastries to the decadence of their Hermes scarves. They simply exude a certain je ne sais quoi that is a veritable art form. In "Joie de Vivre", Harriet Welty Rochefort, an American who married a Frenchman and has lived in Paris for more than thirty years, explores the secrets of the French - from romance and style to acting and flirting like a Parisienne to wining and dining a la francaise. With tips and tricks like how to diet like a…


A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

Book cover of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

Janet Hulstrand Author Of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Editor Francophile Minnesotan Once and forever Brooklynite

Janet's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This memoir chronicles the lives of three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel. The story begins in 1992 in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn as the author reads a notebook written by her grandmother nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year search to find her grandmother’s journals and uncover the hidden interior lives of her mother and grandmother.

Her adventures take her to a variety of locations, from a small town in Iowa to New York, Washington, London, and Paris—and finally to a little village in France, where she is finally able to write the book that will tell her own story, intertwined with the stories of her mother and grandmother.

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

What is this book about?

This story, about three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel, begins in 1992, in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn, as a young writer reads journals written by her grandmother as a schoolgirl nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year quest to uncover the hidden lives and unfulfilled dreams of her mother and grandmother. In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, the author comes to realize that the passion for travel and for literature that has fueled her life's journey is a gift that was passed down to her by the very role models she was…


Book cover of Culture Shock! France: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette

Janet Hulstrand Author Of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You

From my list on understanding and appreciating the French.

Who am I?

I became fascinated with France and the French as a child, and over the past 40 years I have spent as much time as I can here. I’ve been fortunate to be able to combine my dual passions—for France and for literature—in creating a series of classes for CUNY study abroad programs and for the Politics & Prose bookstore. Through this work, over the past 20+ years I have spent much of my time reading and teaching works of literature that explore France and the French people in depth. I now live in France, and I continue to find the French endlessly fascinating. I think I always will. 

Janet's book list on understanding and appreciating the French

Janet Hulstrand Why did Janet love this book?

This is one of the best books I know for covering a huge amount of material in a compact, reader-friendly, yet very thorough form. The author provides insightful perspective on French history, psychology, culture, cuisine, language, and habits, and offers particularly helpful advice about how to recover from the inevitable moments of cultural awkwardness. Although some of the practical information is outdated, the general insights into and analysis of French people and their culture will never go out of date. I think it’s well worth reading for anyone who has an interest in France and the French that goes beyond the surface; anyone who has a genuine interest in understanding this fascinating people and culture. 

By Sally Adamson Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Culture Shock! France as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

CultureShock! France peels away the layers of the French and their country to reveal the heart of the Gallic temperament. The book navigates through essential topics such as learning the French language, how best to work with the French, observing their body language and even how to choose wine in a restaurant. Glean practical advice on finding a home, getting the utilities running and putting the children into school. Find out more about the French, a complex people who maintain a cool composure on the outside yet are inwardly passionate about art, romance, cuisine and wine. Discover how easily the…


Book cover of The Ripening Seed

Rosalind Brackenbury Author Of The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier

From my list on set in France with themes to match.

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by these themes – love, France, mystery, women’s lives, war, and peace. My parents took me to France when I was 12 and I’ve spent years there in between and go back whenever I can. I started reading in French when sent to be an au pair in Switzerland when I was 17. My own novel, The Lost Love Letters Of Henri Fournier was absorbing to write as it contains all of the above. I found an unpublished novel of Fournier’s in a village in rural France a few years ago and decided I had to write about him and his lover, Pauline, who was a famous French actress. 

Rosalind's book list on set in France with themes to match

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did Rosalind love this book?

Anyone who wants to read a love story – all of us, surely – has to start with this story of young love set on the coast of the South of France in the early 20th century. Colette’s prose has been well matched by her translators and she’s simply a jewel of a writer and the first woman who really told the truth about love and sexuality.

By Colette,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ripening Seed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author captures that precious, painful moment when childhood retreats at the onslaught of dawning knowledge and desire. Philippe and Venca are childhood friends. In the days and nights of late summer on the Brittany coast, their deep-rooted love for each other loses its childhood simplicity.


Book cover of The Horse of Pride: Life in a Breton Village

Mark Greenside Author Of (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living

From my list on the magic of Brittany France.

Who am I?

Mark Greenside has been a civil rights activist, Vietnam War protestor, anti-draft counselor, Vista Volunteer, union leader, and college professor. He holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin and his stories have appeared in numerous journals and magazines. He presently lives in Alameda, California, where he continues to teach and be politically active, and Brittany, France, where he still can’t do anything without asking for help.

Mark's book list on the magic of Brittany France

Mark Greenside Why did Mark love this book?

Pierre-Jakez picks up where Jean-Marie Déguignet left off. This book is essentially a continuation of the story, a 20th century account of peasant family life in an area not far from where Déguignet lived a century earlier—except this book celebrates and revels and respects Breton culture, life, people, music, food, history, etc. It was published in 1975 and is part of the world-wide movement of identity politics, when ethnic groups, genders, religions, and nationalities are discovering their roots, history, beauty, and genius.

This book is a paean to Breton life and culture, and Pierre-Jakez becomes a cultural icon and hero for writing it. By the end of his life (1914-95), he is honored throughout Brittany. I saw and heard (but couldn’t understand) him at the huge, (thousands of people) annual Festival de Cornouaille in Quimper, where he was the guest of honor. 

This book is a mirror image of…

By Pierre-Jakez Helias,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Horse of Pride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A marvelous chronicle of Breton lives and life, seen largely through the eyes of a child grown old, remembering how it used to be, in the years between the two world wars. The memoirs are magnificent. . . . The affectionate and touching portraits are not just of one family. . . . but of a whole people. . . . Like that faintly sweet, strong apple liqueur, this book should be savored slowly-set aside and picked up again, chapters read and re-read."-Neil Pickett, The New Republic
"A rich and moving memoir. . . . We can see why this…


Book cover of Fields of Glory: A Novel Fields of Glory

Mark Greenside Author Of (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living

From my list on the magic of Brittany France.

Who am I?

Mark Greenside has been a civil rights activist, Vietnam War protestor, anti-draft counselor, Vista Volunteer, union leader, and college professor. He holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin and his stories have appeared in numerous journals and magazines. He presently lives in Alameda, California, where he continues to teach and be politically active, and Brittany, France, where he still can’t do anything without asking for help.

Mark's book list on the magic of Brittany France

Mark Greenside Why did Mark love this book?

This is the first book of a fictionalized family history, starting with the omniscient narrator’s maternal grandparents and paternal aunt, who are all born in the late 1880s: the World War I generation. The story takes place near Nantes, which until 1956 was part of Brittany, but then was administratively moved to a new department, the Loire Atlantic—though most people in Nantes and Brittany continue to believe the Nantois are Breton. As with many things French, the issue is far from settled.

Rouaud creates character through vignettes—and they’re wonderful: grandpa smoking; grandpa driving; grandma complaining about grandpa smoking and driving; their car—the infamous, uncomfortable, 2CV, deux chevaux—in the rain, the wind, on hills, having to wipe the windshield by hand to see, clearing grandma’s side, not grandpa’s, whose vision is blocked by pouring rain, streaking mud, and cigarette smoke. The rain leaks through the windows, the vents, and canvas roof.…

By Jean Rouaud,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fields of Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through a family chronicle - some three generations of a middle-class family living on the French Atlantic coast - Rouaud evokes the lingering heartache of a whole nation: the period is the interval between the two wars, but the slaughter of World War I dominates. Winner of the Prix Goncourt.


Book cover of Anne and Charles

Jessica Russell Author Of Hot Winter Sun

From my list on character-driven historical suspense with romance.

Who am I?

My first experience with historical fiction was reading The Witch from the Sea by that iconic author, Victoria Holt. This sparked a 40-year-long love affair with that genre that’s still burning intensely. I’ve been immersed in such fiction for a lifetime and have read the works of virtually every great author in this genre. I started my own series in 2020 because I feared this type of no-fluff fiction was becoming obsolete. There were 17th Century English characters making noise in my head so I used my creative writing background to bring them to life on the pages of my books, under the pen name Jessica Russell. 

Jessica's book list on character-driven historical suspense with romance

Jessica Russell Why did Jessica love this book?

This book pulled me in from page one and I could not stop reading. I have rarely found Historical fiction written in a way that makes you feel as if you are truly there. The era did not seem abstract and far away, but instead, I felt like I was in the room with the characters in every single scene. It was vivid, colorful, realistic, entertaining, and I could have never predicted all the things that would happen. Rarely can I find authors who write about Anne of Brittany or that time period, let alone do it well, but this one was a winner! 

By Rozsa Gaston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anne and Charles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A historically sharp and dramatically stirring love story."—Kirkus Reviews"

Gaston's blend of royalty, young love, and the French Renaissance is enchanting."—Publishers Weekly


When Anne of Brittany's father dies in 1488, she becomes Duchess of Brittany, her country's ruler at age eleven. For the next three years, the unmarried, orphaned duchess is pursued by suitors while Brittany is invaded by its larger, more powerful neighbor of France. With no other way out, at age fourteen she agrees to marry Charles VIII, King of France, to save her country. Better to be a queen than a prisoner...

Unexpectedly, a passionate relationship ensues.…


Book cover of Secret Flotillas: Vol. I: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany, 1940-1944

Anne-Marie Walters Author Of Moondrop to Gascony

From my list on escaping from occupied France during WW2.

Who am I?

Anne-Marie Walters was born in 1923 in Geneva to a British father and French mother. At the outbreak of war in 1940, the family escaped to Britain, where Anne-Marie volunteered for the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). Having been approached by SOE in 1943, she was accepted for training and in January the following year dropped into France by parachute to work as a courier with George Starr, head of the Wheelwright circuit of the SOE in SW France. This she did until August 1944, when Starr sent her back to Britain under somewhat controversial  circumstances. Anne-Marrie was awarded the OBE in 1945 in recognition of her “personal courage and willingness to undergo danger.” 

Anne-Marie's book list on escaping from occupied France during WW2

Anne-Marie Walters Why did Anne-Marie love this book?

A detailed and authoritative account of the vitally important secret naval operations mounted to rescue Allied service personnel and also ferry secret agents to and from occupied France. Recognised as the official historian of the ‘secret flotillas’, as a Royal Navy officer Brooks Richards took part in many of these operations and thus vividly describes the hazardous voyages, often in small fishing vessels under cover of darkness and well before the days of GPS and other modern navigation tools. In addition to his own wartime experiences, Brooks Richards’ account is informed by extensive personal research, including access to what were then (and some still are) closed government archives.

By Brooks Richards,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With the fall of France, almost the entire coastline of Western Europe was in German hands. Clandestine sea transport operations provided lines of vital intelligence for wartime Britain. These 'secret flotillas' landed and picked up agents in and from France, and ferried Allied evaders and escapees. This activity was crucial to the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) and the SOE (Special Operations Executive).

This authoritative publication by the official historian, the late Sir Brooks Richards, vividly describes and analyses the clandestine naval operations that took place during World War Two.


Book cover of Ninety-Three

Joy Sheridan Author Of Charity Amour

From my list on the French Revolution.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by the Regency Period, and because of this fascination, I explored its historical context in full. That includes, of course, the French Revolution and its repercussions in England and globally. I am also obsessed with the literary concept of the heroine, and wanted to create characters who in some ways synthesized Moll Flanders and Jane Eyre, bridging the gap between 18th and 19th Century expression.

Joy's book list on the French Revolution

Joy Sheridan Why did Joy love this book?

A total feeling for the pulse of the Revolution, and a focus on its core in that fatal year – the end of the Monarchy, the ushering-in of the Reign of terror. Its reverberations spread everywhere. It gave me such a strong sense of the decadence of the ancien régime, and the fury of the populace that aroused.  

By Victor Hugo,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ninety-Three as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ninety-Three (1874) is the final novel of Victor Hugo. As a work of historical fiction, the story is set during the period of conflict between the newly formed French Republic and the Royalists who sought to reverse the gains of the revolution. Praised for its morality and honest depiction of the horrors of war, Ninety-Three influenced such wide-ranging political thinkers as Joseph Stalin and Ayn Rand. "The soldiers forced cautiously. Everything was in full bloom; they were surrounded by a quivering wall of branches, whose leaves diffused a delicious freshness. Here and there sunbeams pierced these green shades." Advancing through…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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