100 books like Memoirs of a Breton Peasant

By Jean-Marie Déguignet,

Here are 100 books that Memoirs of a Breton Peasant fans have personally recommended if you like Memoirs of a Breton Peasant. 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 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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 A Gift from Brittany: A Memoir of Love and Loss in the French Countryside

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

From my list on the magic of Brittany France.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

A twenty year old American woman goes to Paris to paint, meets a French artist, marries, has a child, and together buy a farmhouse and make a summer home and art studios in rural Brittany: that story. A memoir. 

The book was published in 2008, but the story takes place in the early 1960s when rural Brittany was closer to the 19th century than the 21st. I was in Paris in 1967, and it was still possible to rent a hotel room for under five dollars a night, to travel in Europe for ten dollars a day. In 1967, you could not safely drink the water in France, including in Paris, and you had to have proof of a typhus vaccine to return to the U.S. It was still more Henry Miller’s Paris than Macron’s.

This was the time of the last of every day berets, blue…

By Marjorie Price,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The enchanting memoir of an artist?s liberating sojourn in France during the sixties?and the friendship that transformed her life

While in her late twenties, Marjorie Price leaves the comfort of her Chicago suburb to strike out on her own in Paris and hone her artistic talents. Dazzled by everything French, she falls in love with a volatile French painter and they purchase an old farmhouse in the Breton countryside. When Marjorie?s seemingly idyllic marriage begins to unravel, she forms a friendship with an elderly peasant woman, Jeanne, who is illiterate, has three cows to her name, and has never left…


Book cover of The Price of Water in Finistère

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

From my list on the magic of Brittany France.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

In 2000, angry at the state of the world, a fifty five year old acclaimed Swedish writer, sells her home and most of her belongings, leaves her homeland, and drives west with no destination in mind. She’s alone, but not lonely, searching for peace and freedom and a break with the past. She stops where the land ends, at the end of the world, Finistère, Brittany, where she buys a house, meets Madame C, and plants a garden. 

“It’s so wonderful here that one should write a book about it,” she tells Madame C, and spends the rest of the book refusing to write it, because to do so, she says, will diminish, simplify, and transform everything she loves about her new home. She’s like the banker who thinks money is filth and saves it; she’s the writer who distrusts words and writes—a memoir.

She writes about planting, tending, thinking,…

By Bodil Malmsten,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Price of Water in Finistère as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'In the same way as there's a partner for every person, there's a place. All you have to do is find the one that's yours among the billions that belong to someone else, you have to be awake, you have to choose.'

With this conviction in mind, acclaimed Swedish writer Bodil Malmsten abandons her native country at the age of fifty-five and settles in Brittany.

At the heart of this memoir is the conviction that the happiness to be found in Finistere will not allow itself to be, cannot be, expressed in writing. Embroidered around this seeming paradox are poignant,…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

Kerri Schlottman Author Of Tell Me One Thing

From my list on fierce female protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

My sister and I were raised by our single mother in Southeast Detroit, who worked hard to put herself through law school when we were kids. We had a lot of financial struggles growing up, and I had to overcome many obstacles to get where I am today. Because of that, I am drawn to fierce female protagonists who overcome challenges and don’t shy away from struggle. In my own creative writing, I tend to feature strong female characters who have faced some type of instability and have worked hard to better their circumstances. I love an underdog and think there’s a lot of unsung narratives to tell.

Kerri's book list on fierce female protagonists

Kerri Schlottman Why did Kerri love this book?

This is a book I think should be required reading as it delves into Sarah Smarsh’s upbringing in rural Kansas and her experiences breaking her family’s cycle of poverty. As a memoir, we get a deep look at Smarsh’s life, spanning multiple generations of financial, physical, and mental struggles.

I identified so much with this book and appreciated that Smarsh bares so much of herself in order to get readers to understand the challenges that rural communities are going through. She is truly a fierce female, and I want everyone to read this memoir!

By Sarah Smarsh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Finalist for the National Book Award*
*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize*
*Instant New York Times Bestseller*
*Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, New York Post, BuzzFeed, Shelf Awareness, Bustle, and Publishers Weekly*

An essential read for our times: an eye-opening memoir of working-class poverty in America that will deepen our understanding of the ways in which class shapes our country and “a deeply humane memoir that crackles with clarifying insight”.*

Sarah Smarsh was born a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side, and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side. Through…


Book cover of Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

Lodewijk Smets Author Of Retooling Development Aid in the 21st Century: The Importance of Budget Support

From my list on economic growth and international development.

Why am I passionate about this?

As Nobel prize-winning economist Robert Lucas put it, "Once you start thinking about economic growth, it's hard to think about anything else." That's why I am eager to share the best books on economic development with you! I am a Senior Economist at the World Bank, the world's premier development institution. Over the years, I have developed a deep interest in what makes countries prosper, have published extensively on the topic in academic journals, and earned a PhD in Economics along the way. As a development practitioner, I have been supporting sustainable growth across the globe, with working experience in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific. 

Lodewijk's book list on economic growth and international development

Lodewijk Smets Why did Lodewijk love this book?

The book, written in a very accessible manner, helps to understand the constraints the poor face and how they make decisions on matters such as education, healthcare, savings, entrepreneurship, and a variety of other issues.

Duflo and Banerjee, recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics, advocate for the use of randomized controlled trials and, most importantly, to actually listen to what the poor have to say.

The book won the 2011 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award. To me, it was an eye-opener and a refreshing way to rethink poverty reduction.

By Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Poor Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do the poor borrow to save? Why do they miss out on free life-saving immunizations, but pay for unnecessary drugs? In Poor Economics , Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, two practical visionaries working toward ending world poverty, answer these questions from the ground. In a book the Wall Street Journal called marvellous, rewarding," the authors tell how the stress of living on less than 99 cents per day encourages the poor to make questionable decisions that feed,not fight,poverty. The result is a radical rethinking of the economics of poverty that offers a ringside view of the lives of…


Book cover of Patients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina

Ángela Vergara Author Of Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile

From my list on the history of the welfare state.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of Latin America and a professor at California State University, Los Angeles. I write about Chile’s labor and social history in the twentieth century. As a historian, I am especially interested in understanding how working people relate with public institutions and authorities, what they expect from the state, and how they have organized and expanded social and economic rights. While my research centers in Chile and Latin America, I also look to place regional debates in a transnational framework and see how ideas and people have moved across borders. I like books that bring working people’s diverse voices and experiences. 

Ángela's book list on the history of the welfare state

Ángela Vergara Why did Ángela love this book?

What does remain of the old welfare institutions of the mid-twentieth century? How has neoliberalism cut social infrastructure? Javier Auyero looks at welfare and public services in present-day Argentina, a system that, despite the crisis, continues to offer some form of protection to impoverished working families. The book is fascinating and demonstrates how “waiting” has come to define how poor people relate to the state and access rights and benefits.

By Javier Auyero,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Patients of the State is a sociological account of the extended waiting that poor people seeking state social and administrative services must endure. It is based on ethnographic research in the waiting area of the main welfare office in Buenos Aires, in the line leading into the Argentine registration office where legal aliens apply for identification cards, and among people who live in a polluted shantytown on the capital's outskirts, while waiting to be allocated better housing. Scrutinizing the mundane interactions between the poor and the state, as well as underprivileged people's confusion and uncertainty about the administrative processes that…


Book cover of The People of the Abyss

Mick Finlay Author Of Arrowood and the Thames Corpses

From my list on the lives of the poor in 19th century London.

Why am I passionate about this?

I didn’t know anything about Victorian history before I started writing the Arrowood books. The idea for the character of William Arrowood came as I was reading a Sherlock Holmes story. It occurred to me that if I was a private detective working in London at the same time, I’d probably be jealous, resentful, and perhaps a little bitter about his success and fame. That was the basis of Arrowood. I started to write a few pages and then realized I needed to learn a lot about the history. Since then, I’ve read hundreds of books on the topic, pored over newspapers in the British Library, and visited countless museums.

Mick's book list on the lives of the poor in 19th century London

Mick Finlay Why did Mick love this book?

Published in 1903, this classic piece of investigative journalism describes novelist/journalist Jack London’s visit to London in 1902, during which he tried to understand how the poor live by living himself as a pauper. Full of vivid descriptions of the people he met as he stayed in doss-houses, walked across the city to find work, and scraped for food, this experience made a profound impression on him. He later said "No other book of mine took so much of my young heart and tears as that study of the economic degradation of the poor." The characters you meet in this book, and their stories, just burst off the page.

By Jack London,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The People of the Abyss (1903) is a work of nonfiction by American writer Jack London. Written after the author spent three months living in London's poverty-stricken East End, The People of the Abyss bears witness to the difficulties faced by hundreds and thousands of people every day in one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Inspired by Friedrich Engels's The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845) and Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives, London hoped to expose the indignities faced by those left behind by industrialization. In 1902, Jack London traveled to England to live in…


Book cover of Tyrell

Paul Volponi Author Of The Great G.O.A.T. Debate: The Best of the Best in Everything from Sports to Science

From my list on for fearless readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent 16 years teaching in NYC public schools, six of them on Rikers Island the world's biggest jail where I helped incarcerated teens improve their reading and writing skills. That experience helped to launch me on my own writing career. The job of the author? To hold up a mirror to society and reflect upon the page what the reader may not have experienced yet or missed seeing in the world outside the borders of a book.

Paul's book list on for fearless readers

Paul Volponi Why did Paul love this book?

Booth is an extraordinary writer and Tyrell is her signature story. Tyrell is a young man living under incredible pressure with a family that needs him to have both feet on the ground. But he's always on the verge of going the wrong way. Will the need for fast money put him in prison like his father? Booth is in complete command of her characters, story and pacing here. A marvelous book that will make you grateful for your own choices in life.

By Coe Booth,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tyrell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

An astonishing new voice in teen literature, writing what is sure to be one of the most talked-about debuts of the year.

Tyrell is a young African-American teen who can't get a break. He's living (for now) with his spaced-out mother and little brother in a homeless shelter. His father's in jail. His girlfriend supports him, but he doesn't feel good enough for her -- and seems to be always on the verge of doing the wrong thing around her. There's another girl at the homeless shelter who is also after him, although the desires there are complicated. Tyrell feels…


Book cover of Poverty, by America

Dennis W. Johnson Author Of American Public Policy: Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022

From my list on understanding public policy challenges and failures.

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of my academic work has been focused on American domestic public policy. Previously, I wrote a ground-breaking book called The Laws that Shaped America, which focused on 15 key laws in American history. My latest book, American Public Policy: Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022, focuses on what we have accomplished, but even more importantly on what we have failed to do. And, boy, do we have work to do: inequality, climate change, immigration, racial injustice, gun violence, drug addiction, and more. I’m passionate about what good government can accomplish, and, like so many, sadden by what we have failed to accomplish.

Dennis' book list on understanding public policy challenges and failures

Dennis W. Johnson Why did Dennis love this book?

Why do we have so much poverty in America? Matthew Desmond writes that we have such poverty because the rest of American society benefits from having poor people.

This is a tough pill to swallow, but Desmond certainly convinced me. We live in the richest country in the world—with our gated communities, our tax savings and incentives, our private schools, and our ability to weather the economic storms of life.

We needn’t have such high rates of poverty; policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels could make life more bearable for the poor—through schooling, decent wages, health care, and a whole host of other programs. But tragically, what is missing is the political will. Truly an eye-opener.

By Matthew Desmond,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Poverty, by America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted reimagines the debate on poverty, making a “provocative and compelling” (NPR) argument about why it persists in America: because the rest of us benefit from it.

“Urgent and accessible . . . Its moral force is a gut punch.”—The New Yorker
 
ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2023: The Washington Post, Time, Esquire, Newsweek, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Elle, Salon, Lit Hub, Kirkus Reviews

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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