100 books like Père Goriot

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

Here are 100 books that Père Goriot fans have personally recommended if you like Père Goriot. 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 L'Assommoir

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 many years ago, and it’s never left me. This was my first exposure in literature to the harsh lives some people must live. It seems a bit strange to me that it was a French novel published in 1877 that opened my eyes, but there you are.

You can feel the sweat, exhaustion, and desperation of this fated Parisian laundress, Gervaise, as she tries to rise above her situation, only to be tragically brought down by the men in her life. Zola’s writing is often categorized as naturalism, but I think "truth" is more accurate.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

b 'in this life, even if you don't ask for much you still end up with bugger all!' /b

In a run-down quarter of Paris, Gervaise Macquart struggles to earn a living and support her family. She earns a pittance washing other people's dirty clothes in the local washhouse, and dreams of having her own laundry. But in order to start her business she must incur debt, and her feckless husband cannot resist the lure of the Assommoir, the local bar that supplies all the working men with cheap spirits and absinthe. As her money troubles grow, so Gervaise's life…


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 The Lost Domain: Le Grand Meaulnes

Rosalind Brackenbury Author Of The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

The story of a boy growing up in France before World War 1, of friendship and love and a mysterious house to which the hero finds it hard to return, I have been mesmerized for a lifetime by this short novel, and it’s the basis for my own novel about Fournier’s life and loves.  

By Hermione Lee, Alain-Fournier, Frank Davison (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The arrival of Augustin Meaulnes at a small provincial secondary school sets in train a series of events that will have a profound effect on his life, and that of his new friend Francois Seurel. It is Seurel who recalls the impact of le grand Meaulnes, disruptive and charismatic, on his schoolmates, and the encounter that is to haunt them both. Lost, and alone, Meaulnes stumbles upon an isolated house, mysterious revels, and a beautiful
girl. When he returns to Seurel it is with the fixed determination to find the house again, and the girl with whom he has fallen…


Book cover of Sentimental Education: The Story of a Young Man

Jonathan Beecher Author Of Writers and Revolution: Intellectuals and the French Revolution of 1848

From my list on writers and artists in 1848 and the Paris commune.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the failed revolutions of the 19th century and by the romantic socialists, democrats, and nationalists who made these revolutions. I think I have a better understanding of their world and the forces that brought them down than I have of the world I live in. But I do find in their writings remarkable echoes of my own fears and hopes about the future of democracy today.

Jonathan's book list on writers and artists in 1848 and the Paris commune

Jonathan Beecher Why did Jonathan love this book?

This novel is both the story of an unconsummated love affair and an account of the experience and imaginative life of the generation of young people who came to maturity around 1840 and whose lives were either broken or redirected by the revolution of 1848.

Flaubert takes great care to establish a counterpoint between the collapse of political ideals in 1848 and the collapse of the dreams of the individual characters. But Sentimental Education can also be considered as a work of history that brings the past to life and, in the end, offers a deep and, in some ways, sympathetic picture of the inability of individuals to shape history or their own lives, in a world ruled by elemental forces that elude understanding.


By Gustave Flaubert, Raymond N. MacKenzie (translator),

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?

A fresh and vivid translation of Flaubert's influential bildungsroman


Gustave Flaubert conceived Sentimental Education, his final complete novel, as the history of his own generation, one that failed to fulfill the promise of the Revolution of 1848. Published a few months before the start of the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, it offers both a sweeping panorama of French society over three decades and an intimate bildungsroman of a young man from a small town who arrives in Paris when protests against the monarchy are increasing.

The novel's protagonist, Frederic Moreau, alternates between aimlessness and ambition as he searches for a meaningful…


Book cover of Lie with Me

Arnold Miles Author Of Special Delivery

From my list on exploring sexuality and intimacy in and between men.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for the themes and moods of this list because they explore so many parts of my emotions. They rile me, they work me up into a hot frenzy, they turn me on, they fascinate me, they bruise me, they heal me. I see myself in these books, and I feel that I understand other people. I’ve enjoyed (and still enjoy) reading these books published for free on blogs online, but now I want to write more and read more than I’ve done before. This list is a starting point, and I hope you enjoy them!

Arnold's book list on exploring sexuality and intimacy in and between men

Arnold Miles Why did Arnold love this book?

I love this book because it is raw. For those who dismiss erotic writing, because they think there are only a finite number of ways to write about sex and sexuality, I recommend this book. The raw and transformative way it writes about the attraction, longing, and pain of sex is joyous and agonising to read.

I love it because I don’t actually like either of the main characters, and liking the characters can often rescue a book from otherwise poor writing. I loved this book despite disliking the main characters. 

By Philippe Besson, Molly Ringwald (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“I remember the movement of his hips pressing against the pinball machine. This one sentence had me in its grip until the end. Two young men find each other, always fearing that life itself might be the villain standing in their way. A stunning and heart-gripping tale.” —André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name

A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

The critically acclaimed, internationally beloved novel by Philippe Besson—“this year’s Call Me By Your Name” (Vulture) with raves in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal,NPR, Vanity Fair, Vogue, O, The Oprah…


Book cover of Tropic of Violence

Catherine Cusset Author Of Life of David Hockney

From my list on by French women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a French novelist, the author of fifteen novels, many of which are memoirs, so I am considered a specialist of "autofiction" in France, of fiction written about oneself. But I also love writing about others, as you can see in my novel on David Hockney. Beauvoir, Sarraute and Ernaux were my models, Laurens and Appanah are my colleagues. Three of the books I picked would be called memoirs in the States, and the other two novels. In France, they are in the same category. All these women write beautifully about childhood and womanhood. I love their writing because it is both intimate and universal, full of emotion, but in a very sober and precise style. 

Catherine's book list on by French women

Catherine Cusset Why did Catherine love this book?

I was immediately engaged in the story of a nurse who follows a man to Mayotte and, unable to conceive, adopts a child whom she brings up by herself after the man abandons her. She dies abruptly, however, and the story changes completely, turning into an intense, violent novel about children in the slums. The orphan who fled after his mother's death is horribly abused by another young teenager who is a gang leader, and can free himself only by killing him in the end. I am in awe of Nathacha Appanah for her ability to capture the voice of street children. This is a poignant, powerful, and beautifully written novel about harassment, cruelty, and possession. 

By Nathacha Appanah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marie, a nurse on the island of Mayotte, adopts an abandoned baby and names him Moise, raising him as a French boy. As he grows up, Moise struggles with his status as an "outsider" and to understand why he was abandoned as a baby. When Marie dies, he is left alone, plunged into uncertainty and turmoil, ending up in the largest and most infamous slum on Mayotte, nicknamed "Gaza".

Narrated by five different characters, Tropic of Violence is an exploration of lost youth on the French island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean. Shining a powerful light on problems of…


Book cover of The Arcades Project

Massimiliano Tomba Author Of Marx's Temporalities

From my list on a Marxist’s conception of time, history, and politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by the relationship between the concept of time, history, and politics. My first publications were in the philosophy of history. I started by translating some Left Hegelians. Then I moved toward Kant and Benjamin. My research background was constituted by the attempt to liberate Marxism from any kind of teleological philosophy of history. Recently, I began digging into concrete historical cases to extract political and legal categories. I’m interested in the reactivation of past possibilities to reconfigure the present and open alternative futures. I am now fortunate to teach courses on Temporalities and History in the History of Consciousness Department at UCSC.

Massimiliano's book list on a Marxist’s conception of time, history, and politics

Massimiliano Tomba Why did Massimiliano love this book?

There are numerous reasons why this text should be read. Personally, Benjamin's reflections on progress and history are crucial to a critique of capitalist modernity.

From a methodological perspective, this text allows the reader to enter Benjamin's laboratory and grasp the essential aspects of his groundbreaking methodology that merged cultural analysis, historical research, and philosophical reflection. Benjamin's unique approach combined elements of sociology, anthropology, and literary critique, creating a multidisciplinary work that defied conventional boundaries.

By Walter Benjamin, Howard Eiland (translator), Kevin McLaughlin (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"To great writers," Walter Benjamin once wrote, "finished works weigh lighter than those fragments on which they labor their entire lives." Conceived in Paris in 1927 and still in progress when Benjamin fled the Occupation in 1940, The Arcades Project (in German, Das Passagen-Werk) is a monumental ruin, meticulously constructed over the course of thirteen years--"the theater," as Benjamin called it, "of all my struggles and all my ideas."

Focusing on the arcades of nineteenth-century Paris-glass-roofed rows of shops that were early centers of consumerism--Benjamin presents a montage of quotations from, and reflections on, hundreds of published sources, arranging them…


Book cover of Almost French: Love and a New Life In Paris

Jessica Mudditt Author Of Our Home in Myanmar: Four years in Yangon

From my list on living abroad.

Why am I passionate about this?

I left home in Melbourne to spend a year travelling in Asia when I was in my mid-twenties. I ended up living abroad for a decade in London, Bangladesh, and Myanmar before returning to Sydney in 2016. My first book is about the four years I lived in Myanmar and I’m currently writing my second, which is about the year I spent backpacking from Cambodia to Pakistan. My third book will be about the three years I worked as a journalist in Bangladesh. My plan is to write a ‘trilogy’ of memoirs. Living abroad has enriched my life and travel memoirs are one of my favourite genres, both as a reader and a writer.

Jessica's book list on living abroad

Jessica Mudditt Why did Jessica love this book?

What’s not to love about a book set in Paris about a journalist who falls in love with a Frenchman? This book is a delight. Turnbull writes beautifully, and with modesty and humour about making every faux pas imaginable in Paris. It’s light and insightful at the time. The pages practically turned themselves.

By Sarah Turnbull,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Almost French takes readers on a tour fraught with culture clashes but rife with insight and deadpan humour - a charming true story of what happens when a strong-willed Aussie girl meets a very French Frenchman.

Backpacking around Europe, twenty-something Sarah Turnbull meets Frederic and impulsively accepts his invitation to visit him for a week in Paris. Eight years later, she is still there - and married to him. The feisty journalist swaps vegemite for vichyssoise and all things French, but commits the fatal errors of bowling up to strangers at classy receptions, helping herself to champagne, laughing too loudly…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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