10 books like Paris in the Fifties

By Stanley Karnow,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Paris in the Fifties. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Beautiful Fall

By Alicia Drake,

Book cover of The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

Meticulously researched by brilliant fashion journalist Alicia Drake, this book charts the bitchy, high octane rivalry of two mega egos of the industry, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. As a journalist working today in an era of horrendous consumerism known as ‘fast fashion’ this detailed account of how both men were instrumental in shifting the established codes of a refined haute couture system into a faster-paced ready-to-wear market in the 1970s is illuminating. It also documents the evolution of couturier as a celebrity, detailing how YSL used an image of himself to promote his aftershave in 1971, a revolutionary idea of self-promotion at the time, and now a very necessary part of the ‘selfie’ obsessed generation of creatives working in fashion.  

The Beautiful Fall

By Alicia Drake,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1950s Paris, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld were friends, the rising stars of the fashion world. But by the late sixties, the city was invaded by a new mood of liberation and hedonism, and dominated by intrigue, infidelities, addiction and parties. Each designer created his own mesmerizing world, so vivid and seductive that people were drawn to the power, charisma and fame, and it was to make them bitter rivals. "The Beautiful Fall" is a dazzling expose of an era and the story of the two men who were its essence and who remain its most singular survivors.


D.V.

By Diana Vreeland,

Book cover of D.V.

Vreeland begins by telling readers: “The first thing to do is to arrange to be born in Paris. After that, everything follows quite naturally.” And that declaration sets the tone for this delightful, witty monologue, as told to Paris Review editor George Plimpton and originally published in 1984. D.V. makes you laugh out loud, and long for Paris, beauty, and really, really good lingerie.

D.V.

By Diana Vreeland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“An evening with D.V. is almost as marvelous as an evening with D.V. herself—same magic, same spontaneity and, above all, never a boring moment. —Bill Blass

Brilliant, funny, charming, imperious, Diana Vreeland—the fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar and editor-in-chief of Vogue—was a woman whose passion and genius for style helped define the world of high fashion for fifty years. Among her eclectic circle of friends were some of the most renowned and famous figures of the twentieth century—artists and princes, movie stars and international legends, including Chanel, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Isak Dinesen, Clark Gable, and Swifty Lazar.…


In My Fashion

By Bettina Ballard,

Book cover of In My Fashion

Ballard was the Paris editor for American Vogue between the wars, before returning to New York to help run the glossy. In 1960, she published her memoir, In My Fashion, a wonderful snapshot not only of the fashion industry during the European Modernist era, but also of life as a young single American woman in Paris at its most Paris-y. You don’t have to be a fashion lover to love this book.

In My Fashion

By Bettina Ballard,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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.


Fashion Climbing

By Bill Cunningham,

Book cover of Fashion Climbing: A Memoir

When Bill (William John) Cunningham (1929-2016), son of an Irish Catholic family from Boston, moved to New York at the tender age of 19 in 1948, it became the life-defining step in his career as probably the most famous fashion photographer in the metropolis. He had been interested in fashion from an early age and sold his first hats. After returning from military service in Korea in 1953, he began photographing fashion and writing articles for Women's Wear Daily and the Chicago Tribune.

It is no exaggeration to say that Cunningham's fashion sense and photography quickly shaped a new style of fashion journalism. His "street style" brought fashion, no matter how expensive or luxurious, into the world of everyday life. Cunningham made fashion interesting again only through his point of view and photographs. The quiet, always curious and meticulous Cunningham also became known for his commitment to the gay…

Fashion Climbing

By Bill Cunningham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller

"[An] obscenely enjoyable romp." -The New York Times Book Review

The untold story of a New York City legend's education in creativity and style

For Bill Cunningham, New York City was the land of freedom, glamour, and, above all, style. Growing up in a lace-curtain Irish suburb of Boston, secretly trying on his sister's dresses and spending his evenings after school in the city's chicest boutiques, Bill dreamed of a life dedicated to fashion. But his desires were a source of shame for his family, and after dropping out of Harvard, he had to fight…


Paris to the Moon

By Adam Gopnick,

Book cover of Paris to the Moon

In grad school, Adam and I had the same advisor, McArthur ‘Genius’ Kirk Varnedoe, and as a lifelong New Yorker reader, I’ve avidly followed his career. Paris to the Moon is an engaging memoir of his family and professional life as an ex-pat New Yorker writer in Paris during the 1990s. I love his insider-outsider perspective and the fact that he lived in my favorite neighborhood, rive Gauche at the boundary between the 6th and 7th arrondissements. With a sociologist-anthropologist’s eye, Adam interrogates the quintessentially Parisian (why Café Flore has surpassed Deux Magots in fashionability, for instance), attends lectures by celebrity sociologist Jean Beaudrillard, muses about the public reception of labor strikes, negotiates toddler culture in Paris, and take us food exploring with the iconic Alice Waters.

Paris to the Moon

By Adam Gopnick,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Paris to the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The finest book on France in recent years.”—Alain de Botton, The New York Times Book Review
 
In 1995, Adam Gopnik, his wife, and their infant son left the familiar comforts and hassles of New York City for the urbane glamour of Paris. In the grand tradition of Stein, Hemingway, Baldwin, and Liebling, Gopnik set out to enjoy the storied existence of an American in Paris—walks down the paths of the Tuileries, philosophical discussions in cafés, and afternoon jaunts to the Musée d’Orsay. 
 
But as readers of Gopnik’s beloved and award-winning “Paris Journal” in The New…


The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

By Thad Carhart,

Book cover of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier

Everyone knows that there are no “French people.” Each region has its particular culture, and Paris is a country unto itself. Focusing on one particular artisan, his clients, and his neighborhood, Carhart helps us to understand what it means to inhabit a single quartier of Paris. It’s one of the most beautiful memoirs I’ve ever read – and I don’t even play the piano!

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

By Thad Carhart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Piano Shop on the Left Bank as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Walking his two young children to school every morning, Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood. Intrigued by its simple sign—Desforges Pianos—he enters, only to have his way barred by the shop’s imperious owner. Unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction, and a world previously hidden is brought into view. Luc, the atelier’s master, proves an indispensable guide to the history and art of the piano. Intertwined with the story of a musical friendship are reflections on how pianos work, their glorious history, and stories of the people who care for them,…


A Moveable Feast

By Ernest Hemingway,

Book cover of A Moveable Feast

Although not inspired by Ernest Hemingway, I have always frequented the same neighborhoods: the Latin Quarter around place Contrescarpe, where EH lived with his first wife, Hadley, on rue Cardinal Lemoine, and on the other side of the Luxembourg Garden along boulevard Montparnasse, where he lived beside a lumber mill just behind the still-wonderful restaurant La Cloiserie des Lilas, situated across from the Port-Royal RER station. Paris in 1920s, when Hemingway lived there, was an exhilarating place inhabited by other influential expats: James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein. This memoir, written late in life, recounts the author’s adventures in Kerouac-like fashion during the years he was composing The Sun Also Rises.

A Moveable Feast

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked A Moveable Feast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. Since Hemingway's personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined and debated the changes made to the text before publication. Now this new special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.

Featuring a personal foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest's sole surviving son, and an introduction by the editor and grandson of the author, Sean Hemingway, this new edition also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-published Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son Jack and…


Napoleon

By Munro Price,

Book cover of Napoleon: The End of Glory

The accomplished historian of France across the years of Revolution, Empire and Restoration, Munro Price brings all his arsenal of erudition, archival acumen, and intellectual insight to bear on the last crisis of the empire. His attention to detail, his sensitivity to character and motivation make for one of the most penetrating, illuminating accounts of the implosion of support for Napoleon among the French elites ever written. No non-French scholar had picked through the complex politics of late Napoleonic France with as much skill or precision. Price delivers all this in elegant prose, the sign of a subtle historian.

Napoleon

By Munro Price,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On April 20, 1814, after a dizzying series of battles, campaigns, and diplomatic intrigues, a defeated Napoleon Bonaparte made his farewell speech to the Old Guard in the courtyard of the Chateau de Fontainebleau and set off for exile on the island of Elba. Napoleonic legend asserts that the Emperor was brought down by foreign powers determined to destroy him and discredit his achievements, with the aid of highly placed domestic traitors. Others argue that once Napoleon's military defeats began in 1812, his fall became inevitable. But in fact, as Munro Price shows in this brilliant new book, Napoleon's fall…


How Far From Austerlitz?

By Alistair Horne,

Book cover of How Far From Austerlitz?: Napoleon 1805-1815

As a St Helena Lullaby puts it, quoted by Horne at the start of his scholarly but eminently readable book, "How far is St Helena from the field of Austerlitz?" Horne is a brilliant historian and he crafts a compelling book tracing Napoleon’s career from its apogee on the field of his greatest victory to its nadir with his exile to St Helena, far out in the south Atlantic. But we don’t just get the events, we get to experience the slippery nature of success, as Spain swallows troops and Russia decimates the Grande Armée. We see this through Napoleon’s own words, and Horne’s relentless research, as he struggles to maintain his dominance. I loved the balanced assessment of this final decade in power. I marvelled at Bonaparte’s brilliance and achievements whilst learning to appreciate how much the odds were stacked against him.

How Far From Austerlitz?

By Alistair Horne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Far From Austerlitz? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A London Sunday Times Book of the Year
A Daily Telegraph Book of the Year


Portraits of the Queen Mother

By Catherine de Medicis, Leah L. Chang (translator), Katherine Kong (translator)

Book cover of Portraits of the Queen Mother: Polemics, Panegyrics, Letters

From her arrival as a fourteen-year-old bride to her death as queen mother fifty-five years later, Catherine de Medici was praised as a devoted wife and mother and able ruler but also condemned as a foreigner, a poisoner, and murderer of Protestants. This rare collection of primary sources translated into English allows readers to become familiar with the sources of such positive and negative assessments of this controversial queen. The letters included here, selected from her many volumes of correspondence, reveal her concerns as a mother and as a political figure.

Excerpts from Venetian ambassadors' gossipy reports bring to light principal figures of the French court--their character, their motives, and political interests. Other sources in the collection extravagantly praise the character and actions of the queen. The several polemical sources included in the collection offer a sharp contrast. The vehement charges leveled against Catherine allow readers to recognize and understand…

Portraits of the Queen Mother

By Catherine de Medicis, Leah L. Chang (translator), Katherine Kong (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Catherine de Medicis was portrayed in her day as foreign usurper, loving queen and queen mother, patron of the arts, and Machiavellian murderer of Protestants. Leah L. Chang and Katherine Kong assemble a diverse array of scathing polemic and lofty praise, diplomatic reports, and Catherine's own letters, which together show how one extraordinary woman's rule intersected with early modern conceptions of gender, maternity, and power.


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