100 books like The Red and the Black

By Stendhal,

Here are 100 books that The Red and the Black fans have personally recommended if you like The Red and the Black. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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 Vanity Fair

Cinda Gault Author Of A Small Compass

From my list on going on the road.

Why am I passionate about this?

Historical fiction meets the picaresque in many novels about going on the road. As a fiction writer, my narrative tools are not forged in a vacuum. I stand on the shoulders of centuries of writers who invented the novel form and developed it through its beginnings in romance and all its permutations since. In my new book, I am following innovations in two genres. In historical romance, romance “fell” into history. What was lost in the historical world could be made up in the romance of heroic characters. In the picaresque, characters belonging to the lower echelons of society “go on the road” for all sorts of reasons, mostly to survive.

Cinda's book list on going on the road

Cinda Gault Why did Cinda love this book?

Becky Sharpe is a character impossible to forget.

Through all the twists and turns of this plot, Becky shows herself to be both conniving and resilient in her quest to use those around her for her own gain. While not an attractive rendition of human nature, she forever has a wolf at her door and does what she thinks she must to stay one step ahead.

One gets whiplash from sympathizing with her one minute and being appalled by her lack of scruples the next, but, like all the characters she hoodwinks, we are captivated by her as someone who is never boring. She hops from one doomed circumstance to the next, and we are along for the ride.

By William Makepeace Thackeray,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Vanity Fair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair depicts the anarchic anti-heroine Beky Sharpe cutting a swathe through the eligible young men of Europe, set against a lucid backdrop of war and international chaos. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by John Carey.

No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia Sedley, however, longs only for the caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour…


Book cover of The Night Before Christmas

Susan Grossey Author Of The Man in the Canary Waistcoat

From my list on the 1820s (officially the best decade ever).

Why am I passionate about this?

If you ask people to name a book set in the Regency period, your money is safe if you bet on them picking a Jane Austen. But the Regency was about much more than manners and matrimony. In my own areas of interest – justice, money, and financial crime – everything was changing, with the widespread introduction of paper money and cheques, the recognition that those on trial should have a defence as well as a prosecution, and the creation of modern police in the form of the Metropolitan Police. Dickens made the Victorian era famous, but the decades before good Queen V ascended the throne are equally fascinating.

Susan's book list on the 1820s (officially the best decade ever)

Susan Grossey Why did Susan love this book?

This poem was published anonymously in 1823. It’s such a Christmas staple that it’s hard to imagine how ground-breaking it was, but the simple plot – a family sleeps on Christmas Eve while the father hears a noise outside and sees Santa Claus in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer – was the first to set that quintessential Christmas scene. A friend of the author was charmed by the poem and sent it anonymously to a New York newspaper. The author finally owned up to it in 1837, confessing that as a Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, he had been uneasy about being associated with “unscholarly verse” that he had written only to amuse his children. But this “unscholarly verse” made his name and charms us still.

By Clement C. Moore, Christine Brallier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's late night visit has a man and his curious kitty investigating. Did you know that Santa can play the guitar? Well, he can! Each page is filled with thoughtful details, luscious color, and a joyful whimsy. Mosaic artist Christine Brallier has created fifteen stained glass mosaic illustrations in her unique rendition of the classic The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. Reading the book with her family nearly five years ago, Christine was inspired to create her own version of the story and to put her family and their cat in it.…


Book cover of The Pickwick Papers

Noel Anenberg Author Of The Karma Kaper

From my list on majestic stories that lift our spirits.

Why am I passionate about this?

I enjoyed writing The Karma Kaper. Just as there's tragedy and comedy in every aspect of our lives there's humor in crime. It's fun bringing that humor to my audience. I also believe in justice for all. Sadly, as American courts are currently more concerned with criminals' rights than victims' rights there are no guarantees victims will receive the justice they deserve. No one can predict if a jury of 12 will find a defendant who has committed a crime guilty. Then, there's the highest court of appeal - fiction! Between the covers of a novel, a crafty writer can ensure just verdicts and devise macabre punishments for the bad guys! It doesn't get any better! 

Noel's book list on majestic stories that lift our spirits

Noel Anenberg Why did Noel love this book?

Samuel Pickwick Esq., G.C.M.P.C., is just one of Charles Dicken's delightful retinue of characters.

He was a portly little man shaped like a bowling pin with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge who was nominated to lead three bumbling Pickwickians (members of Pickwick's eponymous Pickwick Club in London) on a tour of the English countryside to learn about life outside of London then report back to a full meeting of the Club post haste.

Through their ineptitude, Pickwick and his retinue manage to tumble into a series of unimaginable yet hilarious intrigues.

No matter their travails, Dickens through his alter-ego Samuel Pickwick always sides with what is just and fair. If you believe in Providence you'll find all of Dickens' novels a joy to read. 

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Pickwick Papers we are introduced not just to one of the greatest writers in the English language, but to some of fiction's most endearing and memorable characters, starting with the 'illustrious, immortal and colossal-minded' Samuel Pickwick himself. It is a rollicking tour de force through an England on the brink of the Victorian era. Reform of government, justice and commercial life are imminent, as are rail travel, social convulsion and the death of deference, but Pickwick sails through on a tide of delirious adventure, fortifying us for the future - whatever it might throw at us.

This Macmillan…


Book cover of The Last Man

Susan Grossey Author Of The Man in the Canary Waistcoat

From my list on the 1820s (officially the best decade ever).

Why am I passionate about this?

If you ask people to name a book set in the Regency period, your money is safe if you bet on them picking a Jane Austen. But the Regency was about much more than manners and matrimony. In my own areas of interest – justice, money, and financial crime – everything was changing, with the widespread introduction of paper money and cheques, the recognition that those on trial should have a defence as well as a prosecution, and the creation of modern police in the form of the Metropolitan Police. Dickens made the Victorian era famous, but the decades before good Queen V ascended the throne are equally fascinating.

Susan's book list on the 1820s (officially the best decade ever)

Susan Grossey Why did Susan love this book?

And this choice is a sneaky one: it was published in 1826, but it’s actually set in the late 21st century. I couldn’t resist including it for three reasons: it’s a product of the 1820s (and deals with several social concerns of the time, such as republicanism), it’s written by a woman (and my other four choices aren’t), and its rather apposite storyline concerns a mysterious pandemic that rapidly sweeps across the entire globe, ultimately resulting in the near-extinction of humanity (leaving just the last man)… It wasn’t popular at the time – widely considered to be Shelley’s weakest work – but to be fair to her, she was simply ahead of the game and had invented the genre of dystopian fiction. Read in that light, it’s a brave and fascinating work.  

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With an Introduction and Notes by Dr Pamela Bickley, The Godolphin and Latymer School, formerly of Royal Holloway, University of London.

The Last Man is Mary Shelley's apocalyptic fantasy of the end of human civilisation. Set in the late twenty-first century, the novel unfolds a sombre and pessimistic vision of mankind confronting inevitable destruction. Interwoven with her futuristic theme, Mary Shelley incorporates idealised portraits of Shelley and Byron, yet rejects Romanticism and its faith in art and nature.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was the only daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and the radical…


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 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 To Kidnap a Pope: Napoleon and Pius VII

Munro Price Author Of Napoleon: The End of Glory

From my list on the French Revolution and Napoleon.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian who has been researching and writing on the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars for thirty-five years now. Since the age of ten I have been fascinated by these years, partly through childhood holidays in France, but also because of their sheer drama. British history in the same period has nothing to compare with the storming of the Bastille or Napoleon’s meteoric career. Specializing in this turbulent era has made me particularly interested in how regimes fall, and whether under different circumstances they could have survived.

Munro's book list on the French Revolution and Napoleon

Munro Price Why did Munro love this book?

Well over 200,000 books have been written about Napoleon, but this recent work actually manages to say something new by focusing on an aspect of his reign that has been oddly neglected – at least in the English-speaking world – his tense and turbulent relations with the Pope, Pius VII, which ended with the Pope’s kidnapping from Rome by French forces in 1809 and imprisonment in France. Though bullied, browbeaten, and even once physically manhandled by Napoleon, the elderly Pontiff steadfastly refused to make the concessions to the secular power that his captor demanded from him. Ambrogio Caiani not only brings vividly to life an extraordinary clash of personalities, but also a key episode in one of the great conflicts that has shaped the modern world: the rivalry between church and state.

By Ambrogio A. Caiani,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked To Kidnap a Pope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking account of Napoleon Bonaparte, Pope Pius VII, and the kidnapping that would forever divide church and state

"In gripping, vivid prose, Caiani brings to life the struggle for power that would shape modern Europe. It all makes for a historical read which is both original and enjoyable."-Antonia Fraser, author of Marie Antoinette

"The story of the struggle, fought with cunning, not force, between the forgotten Roman nobleman Barnaba Chiaramonti, who became Pope Pius VII, and the all-too-well-remembered Napoleon."-Jonathan Sumption, The Spectator, "Books of the Year"

In the wake of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of France,…


Book cover of Memoirs of a Breton Peasant

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?

Jean-Marie Déguignet is not your typical Breton peasant. He’s small and puny—and these people aren’t built that way. At nine, a bee caused him to fall and hit his head, leaving an ugly wound that oozed for years and left a deep indentation in his skull when it finally healed. The result was a lifetime interest in bees and a lonely life, as no one wanted to be near him.  

A curious and isolated lad, he becomes an auto-diktat, and like many auto-diktats has lots of disparaging things to say about those who are less educated and more successful and powerful than he—especially church and government officials, monarchists, and landlords: ignorant bastards he constantly fought (and lost) who controlled and ruined his life. He’s an anti-cleric in this most Catholic of lands. He’s a Republican in a time and place of monarchists. He understands the world as a scientist, through…

By Jean-Marie Déguignet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoirs of a Breton Peasant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating document of an extraordinary life, Memoirs of A Breton Peasant reads with the liveliness of a novel and bristles with the vigor of an opinionated autodidact from the very lowest level of peasant society. Brittany during the nineteenth century was a place seemingly frozen in the Middle Ages, backwards by most French standards; formal education among rural society was either unavailable or dismissed as unnecessary, while the church and local myth defined most people's reasoning and motivation. Jean-Marie Déguignet is unique not only as a literate Breton peasant, but in his skepticism for the church, his interest in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in church and state, France, and Paris?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about church and state, France, and Paris.

Church And State Explore 15 books about church and state
France Explore 903 books about France
Paris Explore 365 books about Paris