The most recommended books on Provence France

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to Provence, and here are their favorite Provence books.
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Book cover of Toujours Provence

Lise McClendon Author Of Blackbird Fly

From my list on transporting you to France.

Who am I?

I’m American but I’ve been a Francophile for ages. I didn’t get a chance to visit France until well into adulthood. So much history lives in France and it’s been my joy to illuminate it for readers who tell me they feel transported. There is no higher compliment, in my mind. I’ve been writing novels for thirty years, set in the Rocky Mountains, America’s heartland, and the scenic villages of France. The Bennett Sisters Mysteries are now up 18 books in the series, featuring settings from Paris to Champagne to the Dordogne, with more in the works. I must go back to France to research, oui

Lise's book list on transporting you to France

Lise McClendon Why did Lise love this book?

Peter Mayle is credited with launching the French fever dream for English speakers when he decamped to Provence and wrote about his life there. All of his Provence memoirs or novels, such as ‘Hotel Pastis’ are delicious treats, full of quirky British wit and his eye for the absurd. It was a special treat for me to hike through his Luberon haunts one year and drink wine made at the vineyard where The Good Year was filmed.

By Peter Mayle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER 

Taking up where his beloved A Year in Provence leaves off, Peter Mayle offers us another funny, beautifully (and deliciously) evocative book about life in Provence. With tales only one who lives there could know—of finding gold coins while digging in the garden, of indulging in sumptuous feasts at truck stops—and with characters introduced with great affection and wit—the gendarme fallen from grace, the summer visitors ever trying the patience of even the most genial Provençaux, the straightforward dog "Boy"—Toujours Provence is a heart-warming portrait of a place where, if you can't quite "get away from it all,"…


Book cover of Mediterranean Seafood: A Comprehensive Guide With Recipes

Barbara Santich Author Of The Original Mediterranean Cuisine: Medieval Recipes for Today

From my list on gastronomic Provence.

Who am I?

Since first stepping off a train at Nice I've felt an affinity with southern France, but it was a chance encounter with the local shepherd who, speaking a version of the Provençal language, alerted me to the proud past of this region and its individual identity. (I've written about this time in my book Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries.) A serendipitous opportunity to study ancien Provençal led me down a meandering path to a PhD that eventually became The Original Mediterranean Cuisine, and on to a career researching and teaching culinary history. My next book looks at the roots of Provençal cuisine in the eighteenth century. 

Barbara's book list on gastronomic Provence

Barbara Santich Why did Barbara love this book?

Finally, a food book. But more than that, Mediterranean Seafood recounts a personal journey, as Alan Davidson learned to identify the diversity of Mediterranean catches and how best to use each species. It was an invaluable guide on my visits to the market at Sète, and as I pored over the displays I listened to conversations between sellers and buyers, exchanges of gossip and cooking tips, and marvelled at the ingenuity of these Mediterranean women in accommodating seafood in so many different ways when my palate knew only fried or grilled. Part catalogue and part cookbook, it combines the best of both. If only eighteenth-century travellers had the benefit of such a guide, they might have been more daring in their eating. 

By Alan Davidson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mediterranean seafood is a topic as vast as the riches of that fabled sea itself. Written by distinguished food historian Alan Davidson (author of The Oxford Companion to Food), MEDITERRANEAN SEAFOOD is a seminal work of culinary scholarship. The new edition catalogs edible marine life and provides identifications in a dozen languages and over 100 line drawings. Davidson puts knowledge into practice with 240 skillfully presented recipes, culled from cuisines throughout the region. Davidson'¬?s work possesses the quixotic charm of the true enthusiast; his practical discussions are enlivened by touches of witty erudition that will delight those new to the…


Book cover of The Man Who Planted Trees

Carol Drinkwater Author Of The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France

From my list on fiction and non-fiction about the South of France.

Who am I?

Thirty-five years ago, I bought a dilapidated olive farm overlooking the Bay of Cannes. I was well-known as an actress for such roles as Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small. Moving to Provence, living on the Mediterranean, transformed my life. I became passionate about the landscape, history, art, languages, literature of the region. I spent 17 months travelling solo round the Mediterranean basin, searching out the history and cultures of the olive tree, a mythical plant. I was invited to work with UNESCO to create a Mediterranean Olive Route. I make films, TV programmes, and write books. Almost all my work is set in the south of France.

Carol's book list on fiction and non-fiction about the South of France

Carol Drinkwater Why did Carol love this book?

The American novelist Henry Miller who loved France described Giono as "one of if not the greatest writer of the twentieth century." This novel is set in deep Provence and tells the tale of a lone shepherd who dedicates his life to reforesting a desolate valley area at the foothills of the Alps. Over forty years he plants his saplings, right up until his death, by which time the valley has been transformed into a paradise for men, creatures, and plants. The writing is sublime, poetic, and inspirational. This story is as relevant today as it was when written seventy years ago.  A must-read.

By Jean Giono, Michael McCurdy (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Man Who Planted Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twenty years ago Chelsea Green published the first trade edition of The Man Who Planted Trees, a timeless eco-fable about what one person can do to restore the earth. The hero of the story, Elzeard Bouffier, spent his life planting one hundred acorns a day in a desolate, barren section of Provence in the south of France. The result was a total transformation of the landscape-from one devoid of life, with miserable, contentious inhabitants, to one filled with the scent of flowers, the songs of birds, and fresh, flowing water.

Since our first publication, the book has sold over a…


Book cover of The Promise of Provence

Lise McClendon Author Of Blackbird Fly

From my list on transporting you to France.

Who am I?

I’m American but I’ve been a Francophile for ages. I didn’t get a chance to visit France until well into adulthood. So much history lives in France and it’s been my joy to illuminate it for readers who tell me they feel transported. There is no higher compliment, in my mind. I’ve been writing novels for thirty years, set in the Rocky Mountains, America’s heartland, and the scenic villages of France. The Bennett Sisters Mysteries are now up 18 books in the series, featuring settings from Paris to Champagne to the Dordogne, with more in the works. I must go back to France to research, oui

Lise's book list on transporting you to France

Lise McClendon Why did Lise love this book?

A dream of many who live in cold climates is to live a second life (or first or third) in sunny France, and in particular Provence. Sands mainlines that dream in this book and especially the healing properties of sunshine and lavender. Her heroine recovers from a painful divorce and is reinvigorated, all the best qualities of a vacation, in reality or in reading. 

By Patricia Sands,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the evening of her twenty-second wedding anniversary, Katherine Price can't wait to celebrate. But instead of receiving an anniversary card from her husband, she finds a note asking for a divorce.

Fifty-five and suddenly alone, Katherine begins the daunting task of starting over. She has her friends, her aging mother, and her career to occupy her, but the future seems to hold little promise-until, after a winter of heartbreak, Katherine is persuaded to try a home exchange holiday in the South of France.

In Provence, bright fields of flowers bloom below medieval hilltop villages with winding cobblestone streets. Charmed…


Book cover of A Good Year

Melody Carlson Author Of Looking for Leroy

From my list on vineyards.

Who am I?

The first time I visited a vineyard was as a child with my mother and grandparents. Driving to San Francisco from Oregon, we stopped to tour a Sonoma vineyard and winery there. Later, as a young adult touring Western Europe, I became intrigued by the vineyards there. Something about the beauty of gently rolling slopes of green vines tugged on me. And I found the science and art of winemaking fascinating. Even the history of wine-making is noteworthy. And I love that Jesus’ first miracle was transforming ordinary water into extraordinary wine. So using the setting of a vineyard for my novel just felt right. And it was a fun adventure!

Melody's book list on vineyards

Melody Carlson Why did Melody love this book?

This story, primarily set in France, is about a guy who loses his job in Great Britain and inherits his uncle’s vineyard in Provence. There are quirky scenes in this book that make you laugh out loud, and scenes that tug at your heartstrings. Years ago, I spent a little time in France and remember looking longingly at French wine country—from the windows of a train, and wishing I could hop off and visit some of those beautiful places. Isn’t that why we love books? We can travel vicariously! 

By Peter Mayle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Max Skinner is a man at the heart of London's financial universe until his employers embark on a little asset-stripping of their own. Himself. Amid the grey London drizzle, there is one potential ray of sunshine: Max's Uncle Harry has left him his estate in his will - an eighteenth-century chateau and vineyard an hour's drive from Avignon. Out of a job, and encouraged by his friend Charlie about the money in modern wine, he heads for France.

What Max discovers is a beautiful house, wonderful weather and a bustling village. The downside is the quality of the wine in…


Book cover of The Illustrated Provence Letters of Van Gogh

Richard Goodman Author Of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

From my list on the South of France.

Who am I?

I’m a writer and a teacher of writing who fell in love with France after my first visit fifty years ago. I was lucky enough once to spend a year in a small village about thirty miles west of Avignon in the south where I was able to observe, and eventually participate in, the daily life of this village. I wrote my book, French Dirt, about that experience. I have read intently about the South of France ever since with an eye for those books that truly capture the spirit and character of these people who are the heart of this storied part of France.

Richard's book list on the South of France

Richard Goodman Why did Richard love this book?

Most everyone knows Vincent van Gogh spent time in the South of France. Most of us know he was a tortured soul and that he spent time in an asylum in Saint Rémy. And most of us know his wonderful painting, The Starry Night, which was painted in Saint Rémy. Since so much of the exquisite joy of the South of France is visual, who better to represent that visual beauty than Vincent van Gogh, one of the greatest painters to ever put brush to canvas? But what you may not know is that Vincent was one of our greatest letter writers as well. He wrote many to his brother, Theo, and reading these letters you cannot help but see Provence through Van Gogh’s remarkable eyes.   

By Martin Bailey (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Illustrated Provence Letters of Van Gogh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I cannot help that my pictures do not sell. Nevertheless, the time will come when people will see that they are worth more than the price of the paint ...' Vincent van Gogh

Discover the moving story of Vincent van Gogh, with his artistic genius and emotional torment told through personal letters, sketches and paintings in this beautiful reissue of a previous bestseller.

Vincent van Gogh's letters are a written testimony to the artist's struggle to survive and work. This fascinating book's combination of deeply personal letters alongside rough sketches and finished paintings gives an intimate insight into the painter's…


Book cover of Caesar's Vast Ghost: Aspects of Provence

Barbara Santich Author Of The Original Mediterranean Cuisine: Medieval Recipes for Today

From my list on gastronomic Provence.

Who am I?

Since first stepping off a train at Nice I've felt an affinity with southern France, but it was a chance encounter with the local shepherd who, speaking a version of the Provençal language, alerted me to the proud past of this region and its individual identity. (I've written about this time in my book Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries.) A serendipitous opportunity to study ancien Provençal led me down a meandering path to a PhD that eventually became The Original Mediterranean Cuisine, and on to a career researching and teaching culinary history. My next book looks at the roots of Provençal cuisine in the eighteenth century. 

Barbara's book list on gastronomic Provence

Barbara Santich Why did Barbara love this book?

Provence has inspired hundreds of books, but Lawrence Durrell captures better than most what he calls its 'real nature'. His book is both personal response (he lived for many years at Sommières, north of Nimes) and historical reflection, particularly on the Roman legacy – a legacy that includes wine and olive oil, perennial staples of the Provençal table. Although Caesar occupied the whole of France, nowhere is the Roman imprint more omnipresent than in Provence; living near Carpentras, we daily dreamed of finding our fortune in an ancient Roman coin, shining through the dust of a lonely track. Durrell's language is poetic, his imagery evocative: the 'Socratic austerity' of a game of boules, the 'felicity and eloquence' of Provençal skies. As a companion to Provence, Durrell is my pick.

By Lawrence Durrell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lose yourself in this classic travelogue evoking the idyllic South of France by the king of travel writing and real-life family member of The Durrells in Corfu.

'Full of stories, landscapes, comedy, history, heresies, animals, food, drink, and songs of the Midi.' Patrick Leigh Fermor

'A richly characteristic bouillabaisse by our last great garlicky master of the vanishing Mediterranean, our old Prospero of the south.' Richard Holmes

Provence, Southern France. Celebrated writer and poet Lawrence Durrell made the Midi his home for more than thirty years: and in his final book, he shares his most evocative, dazzling memories of life…


Book cover of Two Towns in Provence: Map of Another Town and a Considerable Town, a Celebration of Aix-en-Provence & Marseille

Richard Goodman Author Of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

From my list on the South of France.

Who am I?

I’m a writer and a teacher of writing who fell in love with France after my first visit fifty years ago. I was lucky enough once to spend a year in a small village about thirty miles west of Avignon in the south where I was able to observe, and eventually participate in, the daily life of this village. I wrote my book, French Dirt, about that experience. I have read intently about the South of France ever since with an eye for those books that truly capture the spirit and character of these people who are the heart of this storied part of France.

Richard's book list on the South of France

Richard Goodman Why did Richard love this book?

M.F.K. Fisher was not only one of our greatest food writers, she was one of our greatest writers, period. Fisher lived for long periods in France, and the result of two of these sojourns is Two Towns in Provence, which is about Marseille and Aix-en-Provence. These two iconic towns are a mere forty miles apart in distance but worlds apart in temperament, character, and spirit. Fisher captures both of their personalities with her exquisite prose, guided by her sympathy and love for these cities and their people. She is especially wonderful at capturing Marseille, a city that has been called mysterious, even unknowable. You cannot have a better guide to two of France’s most renowned and remarkable cities.

By M.F.K. Fisher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Two Towns in Provence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume brings together two delightful books—Map of Another Town and A Considerable Town—by one of our most beloved food and travel writers. In her inimitable style, here M.F.K. Fisher tells the stories—and reveals the secrets—of two quintessential French cities.

Map of Another Town, Fisher’s memoir of the French provincial capital of Aix-en-Provence is, as the author tells us, “my picture, my map, of a place and therefore of myself,” and a vibrant and perceptive profile of the kinship between a person and a place. Then, in A Considerable Town, she scans the centuries to reveal the ancient sources that…


Book cover of Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste

Barbara Santich Author Of The Original Mediterranean Cuisine: Medieval Recipes for Today

From my list on gastronomic Provence.

Who am I?

Since first stepping off a train at Nice I've felt an affinity with southern France, but it was a chance encounter with the local shepherd who, speaking a version of the Provençal language, alerted me to the proud past of this region and its individual identity. (I've written about this time in my book Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries.) A serendipitous opportunity to study ancien Provençal led me down a meandering path to a PhD that eventually became The Original Mediterranean Cuisine, and on to a career researching and teaching culinary history. My next book looks at the roots of Provençal cuisine in the eighteenth century. 

Barbara's book list on gastronomic Provence

Barbara Santich Why did Barbara love this book?

In December 1970, a group of acclaimed American culinary experts met in Provence, where Julia Child had a holiday house, planning to celebrate Christmas together. Joining them were food writer Richard Olney and novelists Sybille Bedford and Eda Lord, all living relatively close. Barr, Fisher's grandnephew relies on her journal and letters to recreate their sumptuous tables in delectable detail. Alas, hopes for a joyous gathering of friends soured as egos clashed and petty rivalries intervened; MFK left abruptly and spent Christmas alone in Avignon. What interests me is how these authorities on French cuisine engaged with the French, the relationship between the 'French' cooking they portrayed and the food of the French, and their response to the changes creeping into France post-1968.

By Luke Barr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Provence, 1970 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment. In the winter of that year, more or less coincidentally, the iconic culinary figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate, talked and argued, about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery. Without quite realizing it, they were shaping today’s tastes and culture, the way we eat now. The conversations among this group were chronicled by M.F.K. Fisher in journals and letters—some of which were later…


Book cover of The Passion of Dolssa

Chris Tebbetts Author Of Me Myself & Him

From my list on you’d never think were so compulsively readable, but are.

Who am I?

When I was pitching my then novel-in-progress, Me, Myself, and Him to editors and agents, I usually got one of two responses: either “That sounds like a tough sell” or “That sounds great, and not like anything I’ve seen before.” Of course, I preferred to hear the latter, but I also enjoyed winning over skeptics by giving them something much more accessible than they might have expected, based on my pitch. It all speaks to the special place I have in my heart for the books you never expect to love…and then love anyway.

Chris' book list on you’d never think were so compulsively readable, but are

Chris Tebbetts Why did Chris love this book?

A healer and a matchmaker cross paths in 12th century France, and….zzzzzzz, right? Or so I thought, until I tried this Printz honor book, a piece of gorgeously written historical fiction that turned out to be a complete page-turner and attention-grabbing thriller. I’m a big TV watcher, so when I say that I was turning off the TV at night to spend more time with this book, you can take that as a 5+ star review. It’s one of my favorite YAs, and for what it’s worth, could just as easily have been shelved as an adult title. 

By Julie Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Passion of Dolssa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The Printz Honor winner that garnered five starred reviews and was hailed by the New York Times as "magnificent"!

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl who's been branded a heretic, on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire and wants Dolssa executed, too. Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town. When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by…