99 books like L'Assommoir

By Émile Zola, Brian Nelson (translator), Robert Lethbridge (editor)

Here are 99 books that L'Assommoir fans have personally recommended if you like L'Assommoir. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Les Misérables

Richard Goodman Author Of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

From my list on 19th century French novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a Francophile for as long as I can remember. Something about France and French literature grabbed me by the heart when I was a young man and continues to do so. I’ve lived in France twice–a year each time–and have written about those experiences in books and essays. It’s 19th-century French literature that especially draws me and has deeply influenced my own writing.  

Richard's book list on 19th century French novels

Richard Goodman Why did Richard love this book?

We all know the title. It’s become a record-breaking musical phenomenon. The book is a phenomenon in itself. It was a voyage I took for a few spellbound weeks, and I read it in a stone house in a small village in the South of France. It is a book of great sympathy and grace. 

Victor Hugo’s heart is large—at least measured by this story of an escaped prisoner who tries to do good with his life but is pursued relentlessly by a police officer, Javert. I found with this book, as the great writers always show me, that character is all. Hugo drew me into the struggles and losses of his people so ably and memorably that I still think of them years later. 

By Victor Hugo, Lee Fahnestock (translator), Norman Macafee (translator)

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Les Misérables as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A SIX-PART MINISERIES ON MASTERPIECE ON PBS

The only completely unabridged paperback edition of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece—a sweeping tale of love, loss, valor, and passion.

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story…


Book cover of The Red and the Black

Richard Goodman Author Of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

From my list on 19th century French novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a Francophile for as long as I can remember. Something about France and French literature grabbed me by the heart when I was a young man and continues to do so. I’ve lived in France twice–a year each time–and have written about those experiences in books and essays. It’s 19th-century French literature that especially draws me and has deeply influenced my own writing.  

Richard's book list on 19th century French novels

Richard Goodman Why did Richard love this book?

I read this book years ago in high school, and my eyes were opened. The hero, Julien Sorel, is—like I was when I read the novel—naïve, confused, trusting, inexperienced, and prone to awkwardness and error. In short, I could relate to someone in circumstances (boarding school!) where I desperately needed someone who was highly imperfect with whom I could identify.

It might have been the first time I read an adult book where I felt I might actually meet the main character one day, walking down the street or even in the hallway.

By Stendhal,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Red and the Black as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traces the ascent and descent of a young, aspirational social climber in a harsh, monarchical country.

Julien Sorel, a handsome and aspirational man, is determined to overcome his lowly provincial upbringing. He soon realises that the only way to succeed is to follow the sophisticated code of hypocrisy that governs society, so he starts to progress by lying and self-interest. His successful job leads him into the centre of glitzy Parisian society, where he triumphs over the proud Mathilde and the kind, married Madame de Rênal. Then, though, Julien commits a shocking, terrible crime—leading to his own demise. In The…


Book cover of Sentimental Education

Richard Goodman Author Of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

From my list on 19th century French novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a Francophile for as long as I can remember. Something about France and French literature grabbed me by the heart when I was a young man and continues to do so. I’ve lived in France twice–a year each time–and have written about those experiences in books and essays. It’s 19th-century French literature that especially draws me and has deeply influenced my own writing.  

Richard's book list on 19th century French novels

Richard Goodman Why did Richard love this book?

Most people declare Madame Bovary to be their favorite Flaubert novel. I don’t dispute its greatness, but I find this book, published in 1869, twelve years after Madame Bovary, to be the master at his most illuminating and embracing.

Set against the revolution of 1848, the hero, Frédéric Moreau, falls helplessly in love with a married woman. I identify—not with the love of a married woman—with Moreau’s life and times as a young artist living among others like him in Paris. He and his fellow artists live their bohemian lives with ardor and hope, and the passion of youth and creativity flows wonderfully through the book.

By Gustave Flaubert, Helen Constantine (translator), Patrick Coleman (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'For certain men the stronger their desire, the less likely they are to act.'

With his first glimpse of Madame Arnoux, Frederic Moreau is convinced he has found his romantic destiny, but when he pursues her to Paris the young student is unable to translate his passion into decisive action. He also finds himself distracted by the equally romantic appeal of political action in the turbulent years leading up to the revolution of 1848, and by the attractions of three other women, each of whom seeks to make him her own: a haughty society lady, a capricious courtesan, and an…


Book cover of Père Goriot

Richard Goodman Author Of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

From my list on 19th century French novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a Francophile for as long as I can remember. Something about France and French literature grabbed me by the heart when I was a young man and continues to do so. I’ve lived in France twice–a year each time–and have written about those experiences in books and essays. It’s 19th-century French literature that especially draws me and has deeply influenced my own writing.  

Richard's book list on 19th century French novels

Richard Goodman Why did Richard love this book?

Balzac wrote some 90 novels in a fury of creativity, dying at only 51. I haven’t read all 90 or even close to them, but of those I have, this book is by far my favorite. (I’m not alone. It was Henry James’ favorite, as well.) 

Set in a seamy boarding house in Paris around 1820, it’s the story of a father’s love for his two social-climbing daughters who let their father see them rarely and then only for his money. I’ve never read anything like this depiction of a father’s love, desperate and ever-hopeful—a man who lives in reduced circumstances so he can save every penny to give his ungrateful daughters.  

By Honoré de Balzac, A. J. Krailsheimer (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the tragic story of a father whose obsessive love for his two daughters leads to his financial and personal ruin. It is set against the background of a whole society driven by social ambition and lust for money. The detailed descriptions of both affluence and squalor in the Paris of 1819 are an integral part of the drama played out by a wide range of characters, including the sinister but fascinating Vautrin. Unquestionably one of Balzac's finest novels, Pere Goriot still has the power to move the modern reader.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's…


Book cover of Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft

Jon Crabb Author Of Graven Images: The Art of the Woodcut

From my list on for any uber-hip, hard to impress bookworms.

Why am I passionate about this?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with cultural curiosities, extraordinary eccentrics, secret societies, decadent dandies, rebels, devils, and anything weird and wonderful. I parlayed a love of Word and Image into a career in the arts and worked for places including Tate, Thames & Hudson and the British Library. But to be honest with you, that was just a ruse so I could spend more time delving through interesting books and prints. Some people see the world a little differently; I think we all benefit by spending a bit of time in the company of their art. "It's the Ones Who've Cracked That the Light Shines Through."

Jon's book list on for any uber-hip, hard to impress bookworms

Jon Crabb Why did Jon love this book?

This is the first volume of a trilogy on psychoactive plants and synthetic drugs. While this is a well-worn path, I’ve never seen it traversed quite like this. Pendell weaves together science, alchemy, illustrations, poetry, and quotations to reveal the spirit behind each molecule he discusses. The sections on stimulants are the longest and most enthusiastic, while the hallucinogens are given the most whimsical prose. It’s a fascinating treatment of a fascinating subject. Some will hate it, but the right person will love it.

By Dale Pendell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

***This paperback edition has a new introduction by the author and updated content.

This is the first volume of North Atlantic Books’ updated paperback edition of Dale Pendell’s Pharmako trilogy, an encyclopedic study of the history and uses of psychoactive plants and related synthetics first published between 1995 and 2005. The books form an interrelated suite of works that provide the reader with a unique, reliable, and often personal immersion in this medically, culturally, and spiritually fascinating subject. All three books are beautifully designed and illustrated, and are written with unparalleled authority, erudition, playfulness, and range.

Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons,…


Book cover of Dreamers of Decadence

Nina Antonia Author Of Johnny Thunders: In Cold Blood

From my list on decadence & the supernatural.

Why am I passionate about this?

A cult author who has survived by the skin of her wits. Nina has spent her adult years in London though many believe she is from New York, which sounds like a lot of travelling for someone who has spent the majority of her life in the dream land of writing. What does being a cult author entail? It is to be a literary Will o’ the Wisp, possessing a gem like glimmering in a mist of obscurity, loved by the rarified few. After writing many critically acclaimed books on various nefarious rock n’ rollers, her ardor dimmed with the passing years as those she had loved were no more and so she returned to her first love, which is the strange and supernatural.

Nina's book list on decadence & the supernatural

Nina Antonia Why did Nina love this book?

This bejeweled guide to Fin de Siècle art and aesthetics is like a moonlit walk in one of King Ludwig II fairytale castles, populated by androgynous chimeras, drowned princes, and erotic vampires carrying John the Baptist’s head on a platter designed by Moreau. As fabulous and tragic as the author, whose drag mode was that of a convincing English Spinster, Philipe Jullian was born to write this book which has influenced my work since I bought it aged 18, with not a clue about life. For over 40 years I have endeavored to keep a torch burning for the extraordinary decorative aesthetics of the author. Few books are as complete as Dreamers of Decadence for not only does Jullian explore the artists of that curious oeuvre, he also introduces the best of the literature as well as the movement’s strange obsessions and themes, each chapter revealing new facets of the…

By Philippe Jullian, Robert Baldick (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

There have been few movements in the history of Western art as strange as that of the Decadents of the last quarter of the 19th Century. While public attention was preoccupied with the Impressionists, many painters were reacting in a totally different...and more imaginative way...to the grim horrors of the new industrial society around them. The roots of the Decadents, as these artists came to call themselves, were to be found in the poetic visions of the English Pre-Raphaelites of the 1850s. Their first great Continental exponent was a brilliant and neglected painter of the fantastic, Gustave Moreau; their most…


Book cover of Notre-Dame de Paris

Kathy Borrus Author Of Five Hundred Buildings of Paris

From my list on capturing the magic and history of Paris.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Paris for six months when I researched and wrote my first Paris book, One Thousand Buildings of Paris, walking every quarter of Paris including some rather dicey areas. I discovered most Parisians don’t wander very far from their own neighborhoods, and casual tourists tend to stay in the center. The first time my boyfriend and I went to Paris together, I planned daily excursions to all the neighborhoods where he had never been. We became flaneurs (wanderers) at outdoor markets, small museums, parks, and we ventured into unknown spaces. There is always something fascinating to discover in Paris and new ways to gain a sense of history. 

Kathy's book list on capturing the magic and history of Paris

Kathy Borrus Why did Kathy love this book?

If you are a fan of Medieval history and Paris, Hugo’s novel is for you. Hollywood, of course, turned it into The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Before I wrote the text for my book published after the fire, in 2019, I read this story and discovered Hugo was a great fan of Medieval architecture, incorporating chapters on the construction of Notre Dame throughout his book. This was invaluable research for me, but it also saved Notre Dame in the 1830s which had been in terrible condition after the Revolution and was almost sold.

Thanks to his novel, which the public loved but the critics dismissed, an arts competition was established to repair Notre Dame to its former glory.

By Victor Hugo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the mad archdeacon Claude Frollo plans to abduct the gypsy dancer Esmeralda, he employs Quasimodo, the hunchback bell ringer to Notre Dame Cathedral, to do the job for him. But the plan goes horribly wrong, and Esmeralda finds herself charged with the murder of Phoebus, the man she loved. In all its glory, medieval Paris comes to bustling life in this abridgement of Hugo's wonderful romance.


Book cover of An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris

Mikael Colville-Andersen Author Of Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism

From my list on unexpected books about cities & urbanism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an urban designer, author, and host of The Life-Sized City urbanism series - as well as its podcast and YouTube channel. I’ve worked in over 100 cities, trying to improve urban life and bring back bikes as transport. I came at this career out of left field and am happily unburdened by the baggage of academia. I've famously refrained from reading most of the (probably excellent) books venerated by the urbanism tribe, in order to keep my own urban thinking clear and pure. My expertise stems instead from human observation and I find far more inspiration in photography, literature, cinema, science, and especially talking to and working with the true experts: the citizens.

Mikael's book list on unexpected books about cities & urbanism

Mikael Colville-Andersen Why did Mikael love this book?

We are coded as homo sapiens to look at each other. To observe, study, analyse our fellow creatures. One of the reasons I’ll never live in the country is that I’ll miss observing urban life. 

This is such a simple book with a simple premise. Perec recorded everything he saw while sitting at a café on a Parisian square over three days. When I lived in Paris in the 1990s, I had a dog-eared French version of this book and I dutifully went to the same place. Not to record my own observations but to try and see things that Perec might have seen twenty years prior.

A city-dweller regards their city. This book is at once nothing and yet it is everything about urban life. I found in Perec a comrade in arms. The romantic in me insists on believing that the seeds for my later urban observations lie…

By Georges Perec, Marc Lowenthal (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Take it with you to any cafe in any city, and Perec will be both your drinking partner and your tour guide, drawing your attention to each little detail coming and going.” –Ian Klaus, CityLab

One overcast weekend in October 1974, Georges Perec set out in quest of the "infraordinary": the humdrum, the non-event, the everyday--"what happens," as he put it, "when nothing happens." His choice of locale was Place Saint-Sulpice, where, ensconced behind first one café window, then another, he spent three days recording everything to pass through his field of vision: the people walking by; the buses and…


Book cover of In My Fashion

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a journalist for years, and to write my first book, I ended up doing a ton of original research and reporting about photography, fashion, the art world, and the magazine industry in midcentury New York. But certain passages in the twins’ interviews reminded me strongly of many books I’d read growing up, that address the challenges young women face as they confront choices in life. And their story, with its wild and colorful characters, begged to be structured like a novel. It also took place when American society was changing dramatically for women, as it is today. So, I kept books like these in mind while writing.

Carol's book list on best books about young women figuring out their lives while society is changing around them

Carol Kino Why did Carol love this book?

I find midcentury fashion memoirs inspiring because they’re filled with stories of strong, self-realized women who really managed to have it all. This one by Bettina Ballard, French editor for American Vogue in prewar Paris, goes one better because it also offers heartbreaking commentary on the war.

Alongside observations about great designers like Chanel and Dior, Ballard writes stirringly of the tragic, gruesome fates that befell many in her world and the courageous way some resisted the Germans to save their art form, couture. Vogue tries to bring her back to New York, but she swiftly returns to Europe as a Red Cross volunteer—albeit one who sneaks non-regulation eveningwear into her trunk. When she finally goes home to marry (for the second time), she mentions it in an aside.  

By Bettina Ballard,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In My Fashion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bettina Ballard, Paris-based correspondent and later Fashion Editor for US Vogue, was at the centre of the fashion world from the 1930s to the ’50s and an intimate of Coco Chanel, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Elsa Schiaparelli. With journalistic flair, she captures the spirit of pre-war Paris, the working methods of the fashion greats and the transformation of the post-war fashion industry with the arrival of Dior.


Book cover of The Paris Winter

Lise McClendon Author Of Blackbird Fly

From my list on transporting you to France.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m American but I’ve been a Francophile for ages. I didn’t get a chance to visit France until well into adulthood. So much history lives in France and it’s been my joy to illuminate it for readers who tell me they feel transported. There is no higher compliment, in my mind. I’ve been writing novels for thirty years, set in the Rocky Mountains, America’s heartland, and the scenic villages of France. The Bennett Sisters Mysteries are now up 18 books in the series, featuring settings from Paris to Champagne to the Dordogne, with more in the works. I must go back to France to research, oui

Lise's book list on transporting you to France

Lise McClendon Why did Lise love this book?

I love weaving history into my mysteries so I was drawn to this dark tale of Paris in the Belle Époque. An English girl goes to Paris to study art but, desperately poor, throws her fate into the hands of some shady characters. The atmosphere and scene-setting of Paris during a terrible rainy winter are unforgettable. 

By Imogen Robertson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Extra material includes a deleted scene and a Q&A with Imogen Robertson

Maud Heighton came to Lafond's famous Academy to paint, and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris eats money. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling joys of the Belle Epoque, Maud slips into poverty. Quietly starving, and dreading another cold Paris winter, Maud takes a job as companion to young, beautiful Sylvie Morel. But Sylvie has a secret: an addiction to opium. As Maud is drawn into the Morels' world of elegant luxury, their secrets become…


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