100 books like Secrets of the Flesh

By Judith Thurman,

Here are 100 books that Secrets of the Flesh fans have personally recommended if you like Secrets of the Flesh. 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 All the Light We Cannot See

Martin Dugard Author Of Taking London: Winston Churchill and the Fight to Save Civilization

From my list on fighter pilots Winston Churchill Battle of Britain.

Why am I passionate about this?

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a young boy who made model airplanes and hung them on his bedroom ceiling with fishing lines and thumbtacks as if the planes were dogfighting. The aircraft were inspired by a movie called The Battle of Britain and were the same Messerschmitts, Spitfires, and Hurricanes. The boy grew up and began writing books for a living, making it his mission to help people love history as much as he did. One day, it dawned on him to write about his long-ago planes and their epic battle. I am that boy, and that's when I wrote my book. 

Martin's book list on fighter pilots Winston Churchill Battle of Britain

Martin Dugard Why did Martin love this book?

I love well-researched fiction that reads like history. I love this book enough that I’ve read it twice. I keep it in a special section of my library reserved for books that I will never give away or loan to friends for fear of never getting them back.

I love that this book inspires me to write fiction, something I ought to get cracking on now that I’ve written almost thirty history books. I love the characters, I love that I can’t put them down (even when I know what is next), and I love revisiting my time with the good guys and bad guys as the story reveals itself. 

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

42 authors picked All the Light We Cannot See as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2015 PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR FICTION

A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic…


Book cover of Giovanni's Room

Ali Fitzgerald Author Of Drawn to Berlin: Comics Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe

From my list on cities and exile.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an American artist and writer who has lived in European cities for the last decade and a half—first Berlin, now Paris—I often look for echoes of dislocation and longing in the books I read. My first published book explores the lives of people who fled other countries to arrive in a city filled with a complex and dark history. 

Ali's book list on cities and exile

Ali Fitzgerald Why did Ali love this book?

James Baldwin is one of my favorite authors, and this book is a short, masterful look at the mechanisms behind queer shame. Two lovers, David and Giovanni, hide in a darkened room in self-imposed exile in Paris until the narrator’s sense of shame breaks their love trance.

David, an American who is engaged to a woman, cannot bear to continue his gay affair and so leaves Giovanni, prompting a confrontation with a changed reality and a tragic reckoning with the guillotine. 

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Giovanni's Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend's return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened - while Giovanni's life descends into tragedy.

United by the theme of love, the writings in the Great Loves series span over two thousand years and vastly different worlds. Readers will be introduced to love's endlessly fascinating possibilities and extremities: romantic love, platonic love, erotic love, gay love, virginal love, adulterous love, parental love, filial love, nostalgic love, unrequited love, illicit love,…


Book cover of A Secret Kept

Jessica Stilling Author Of Between Before and After

From my list on a little Parisian flair.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author currently living in rural southern Vermont, though I’ve also lived in Chicago and New York City. When I was a child I wanted nothing more than to visit the city of lights and when I finally started going, I was awestruck by the beauty and the history of the city of Paris. It’s the little things about Paris, the crooked cobblestone, the myriad of bookstores, the flowers along the boulevards, and those steel metro signs that look like you’re about to enter a terrifying circus. It all comes together in the most lovely ways. My newest novel, Between Before and After, is in many ways a love letter to the city.

Jessica's book list on a little Parisian flair

Jessica Stilling Why did Jessica love this book?

This gripping mystery follows Antoine Rey, a recently divorced man navigating shared custody and raising teenagers who are stuck to their cellphones all day, as he and his sister begin to unravel secrets their mother took to her grave. At the heart of this novel is a mystery surrounding Antoine’s mother’s tragic death as a young woman and a burning question: Who is the woman in the video? Who was his mother, really? As the mystery unfolds Antoine and his sister Melanie learn that even the people we are closest to keep secrets. As revelations about the woman his mother really was, and insights into her untimely death unfold, Antoine is able to make better connections in his own life.

The city of Paris is teeming with life in this story. The novel unfolds with an even hand and we get a peek into what Parisian life is really like,…

By Tatiana De Rosnay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This stunning novel from Tatiana de Rosnay, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Sarah's Key, plumbs the depths of complex family relationships and the power of a past secret to change everything in the present.

A Secret Kept is now a major motion picture starring Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds), Laurent Lafitte (The Crimson Rivers), and Audrey Dana (Roman de Gare)!

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie's birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the…


Book cover of The Paris Wife

Patti Callahan Henry Author Of The Secret Book of Flora Lea

From my list on transporting you to another land.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author because I was a reader who loved to be transported to a world and land outside my own. My favorite books are the ones that introduce me to a place and time I’ve never been, an immersive read that brings me somewhere new. I believe in the power of story and the magic of its transport. Come along with me and discover a few books that do this very thing. 

Patti's book list on transporting you to another land

Patti Callahan Henry Why did Patti love this book?

I’ve only been to Paris one time, but I feel as if I’ve been many times because I toured this city with Paula McLain and the story of Hadley Hemingway, Ernest’s first and most beloved wife. From the cafes to the cobbled streets to the parlors and apartments, I was engrossed. 

This is the wild story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. Hadley was a quiet twenty-eight-year-old woman who had given up on love until she met Ernest. Their whirlwind romance was ill-prepared for the fast living of Jazz Age Paris. It is a beautiful portrayal of love and loyalty, of art and heartbreak. 

By Paula McLain,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Paris Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A deeply evocative novel of ambition and betrayal that captures the love affair between two unforgettable people, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley—from the author of Love and Ruin and When the Stars Go Dark
 
“A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s—as a wife and as one’s own woman.”—Entertainment Weekly

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People • Chicago Tribune • NPR • The Philadelphia Inquirer • Kirkus Reviews • The Toronto Sun • BookPage

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but…


Book cover of Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

Sharon Farmer Author Of Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris: Gender, Ideology, and the Daily Lives of the Poor

From my list on the culture of France and medieval modern poverty.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started out as a religion major in college, but soon became frustrated with the abstract thoughts of privileged white males. I wanted to understand the passions and struggles of ordinary people, and soon became convinced that the examination of the distant past sheds important light on the present. It’s not that I don’t care about the world around me right now. Rather, I am convinced that those who look only at this decade, this century, or even the last century fail to recognize some of the most powerful cultural forces that have shaped our most fundamental understandings of gender, wealth, poverty, work, and so much more.

Sharon's book list on the culture of France and medieval modern poverty

Sharon Farmer Why did Sharon love this book?

If we want to understand medieval or modern Paris, we need to gain some familiarity with all of the stages along the way. Robb provides some episodic portraits of some of those stages, and the chapter on the eighteenth-century architect Charles-Axel Guillaumot is one of the most arresting discussions I’ve ever seen of how the actions of those living in one epoch can reverberate for generations to come. Guillaumot literally saved Paris from collapsing in on its medieval past by bracing up the swiss-cheese-like network of tunnels that had been left behind by its medieval quarry workers.

By Graham Robb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the Paris you never knew. From the Revolution to the present, Graham Robb has distilled a series of astonishing true narratives, all stranger than fiction, of the lives of the great, the near-great, and the forgotten.

A young artillery lieutenant, strolling through the Palais-Royal, observes disapprovingly the courtesans plying their trade. A particular woman catches his eye; nature takes its course. Later that night Napoleon Bonaparte writes a meticulous account of his first sexual encounter. A well-dressed woman, fleeing the Louvre, takes a wrong turn and loses her way in the nameless streets of the Left Bank. For…


Book cover of La Dame d'Esprit: A Biography of Marquise Du Châtelet

Karen Offen Author Of Debating the Woman Question in the French Third Republic, 1870-1920

From my list on remarkable French women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by France and things French. In graduate school, no women’s history was on our required reading lists. As a young woman, though, entering a professional field in which women were few on the ground, much less studied, I became an avid reader of biographies of achieving women – partly to learn how they were able to surmount (or not) the obstacles that confronted them in a male-dominated world. The five stellar biographies of French women I present here are products of the newer work in retrieving women’s histories. They are deeply researched and engagingly written. They confirm the saying that “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Karen's book list on remarkable French women

Karen Offen Why did Karen love this book?

This splendid biography traces the life and times of the Marquise Du Châtelet, born in Paris in December 1706, who became one of the most erudite women of her époque. For fifteen years she was the companion to Voltaire, the best-known of the French philosophes. She mastered calculus and translated Newton’s Principia, in addition to carrying on an active social life and raising several children. She died at the age of 42, following the birth of a daughter conceived with another lover. The author explains her subject’s life course as “from a life of frivolity to a life of the mind.” It’s a great read.

By Judith Zinsser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked La Dame d'Esprit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Documents the life of the French Enlightenment-era intellectual, from her aristocratic youth and controversial choice to become the mistress of Voltaire to her mathematical and scientific achievements and work as a translator of Newton.


Book cover of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Tyler R. Tichelaar Author Of Vampire Grooms and Spectre Brides: The Marriage of French and British Gothic Literature, 1789-1897

From my list on classic French gothic you probably never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been attracted to the Gothic before I even knew the term. From watching The Munsters as a child to wanting to live in a haunted house and devouring classic Gothic novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho and Dracula, I’ve never been able to get enough of the Gothic. After fully exploring British Gothic in my book The Gothic Wanderer, I discovered the French Gothic tradition, which made me realize how universal the genre is. Everyone can relate to its themes of fear, death, loss, guilt, forgiveness, and redemption. On some level, we are all Gothic wanderers, trying to find meaning in what is too often a nightmarish world.

Tyler's book list on classic French gothic you probably never heard of

Tyler R. Tichelaar Why did Tyler love this book?

You may know this book as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but you probably don’t really know it. Films, most notably the Disney cartoon, have grossly distorted this novel, often having Esmeralda ride off into the sunset with Phoebus. But the novel is really a very dark, Gothic story of love and lust, and one of the first existential novels. Frollo and Quasimodo both love Esmeralda, but she loves Phoebus, and he only loves himself. In the end, everyone dies, allowing their lust to destroy their common sense. Hugo wrote it to help popularize and save Notre-Dame Cathedral from falling into further disrepair. It influenced British author William Harrison Ainsworth to write The Tower of London, thus revitalizing British Gothic in a new way just as it did French Gothic.

By Victor Hugo, Lucy Corvino (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Victor Hugo's great story of Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame and his unrequited love for the dancer, Esmeralda. Classics Illustrated tells this wonderful tale in colourful comic strip form, offering an excellent introduction for younger readers. This edition also includes theme discussions and study questions, which can be used both in the classroom and at home to further engage the reader in the story.


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 Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris

Hilary Bradt Author Of A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

From my list on travel with animals.

Why am I passionate about this?

Until I did my own animal-accompanied journey with Mollie and Peggy in 1984, my only association with animals on the trail was inadvertently with a collection of cockroaches in my backpack. It was when Bradt decided to add to their anthologies with a collection of stories about travelling with animals in 2018, Beastly Journeys, that I was able to read a wide variety of books on the topic. A delightful exercise!

Hilary's book list on travel with animals

Hilary Bradt Why did Hilary love this book?

I discovered this fascinating and extraordinary story when I was researching tales about travelling with animals for Beastly Journeys. Unlike the other four books in my list, this one has the animal as the central character. And what an animal! Zarafa was captured as a calf in what is now Ethiopia in a plan to cement relationships between the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt and Charles V of France. The year was 1826 and a giraffe had never before been seen in France. Zarafa did the first part of her journey strapped to the back on a camel, and then – surely more comfortably – down the Nile and across the Mediterranean on a brigantine.

A hole was cut in the deck which allowed Zarafa to travel with her body in the hold, while her head and neck enjoyed the human company on deck. From Marseille she was walked, with…

By Michael Allin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In October 1826, a ship arrived at Marseille carrying the first giraffe ever seen in France. A royal offering from Muhammad Ali, Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt, to King Charles X, she had already traveled 2,000 miles down the Nile to Alexandria, from where she had sailed across the Mediterranean standing in the hold, her long neck and head protruding through a hole cut in the deck. In the spring of 1827, after wintering in Marseille, she was carefully walked 550 miles to Paris to the delight of thousands of onlookers.

The viceroy's tribute was politically motivated: He commanded the Turkish…


Book cover of Kiki's Memoirs

Jim Fergus Author Of The Memory of Love

From my list on 1920’s Paris les années folles - the “crazy years”.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a young boy, I dreamed of becoming a novelist. I was fascinated and inspired by Les Années Folles, The Crazy Years of 1920’s Paris, when artists of all disciplines, from countries all around the world came together electrifying the City of Lights with an artistic passion. My mother was French. France is my 2nd country, where I spend a portion of each year. While researching my novel, The Memory of Love, I stayed in the actual atelier of my protagonist Chrysis Jungbluth, a young, largely unknown painter of that era. I visited, too, the addresses of dozens of the artists who bring the era alive again in our imagination. 

Jim's book list on 1920’s Paris les années folles - the “crazy years”

Jim Fergus Why did Jim love this book?

This is an intimate, first-person account of 1920’s Paris, and the life of one of the most central characters of the period—the model, singer, and artist, Kiki of Montparnasse as she was known by all. Born in Burgundy in 1901, christened Alice Prin, and raised by her grandmother in abject poverty, at age twelve she was shipped off to Paris to live with the mother she had never known.

The young Alice’s fierce survival instincts immediately translated into a precocious thirst for experience. At fourteen she had her “first contact with art” when she began posing nude for a sculptor. Thereafter, she assumed the name and embraced life as the irrepressible Kiki. Lover of Man Ray, beloved friend of Soutine, Jean Cocteau, and many other artists of the period, she became the toast of Montparnasse, one of the century’s first truly independent women. Man Ray, Foujita, Kisling, and others immortalized…

By Billy Klüver (editor), Julie Martin (editor), Man Ray (photographer)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Featuring an introduction by Ernest Hemingway and published for the first time in America, the unexpurgated memoirs of a model who reigned over Montparnasse in the twenties created a sensation when they first appeared in France in 1929.


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Interested in Paris, France, and presidential biography?

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