Search This Blog

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Couple extra Paris books to mention

How could I have forgotten: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I have not read it, but as Pierre Bayard says in How to Talk about Books You Haven't Read (see prior post on this), I know the important things: the author, the setting of the French Revolution, the famous opening lines ("It was the best of times..."). A trip to Paris would be the PERFECT time to read the real thing. I guess this is the moment to mention Les Misérables by Victor Hugo as well.

Also, I did not mention Iréne Némirovsky's books, because I have not read them, but I would maybe try to get my hands on Suite Française to read for a trip.

I debated but did not include The Many Lives and Secret Stories of Josephine B, about Napoleon's creole empress, by Sandra Gulland, but I have decided to mention it after all - it is a reasonable piece of historical fiction about Paris.

PS I have written a post about what to see or read for a trip to New York with kids, and maybe I'll add a "travel reading" tag to make such lists easy to search.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reading on the way to Paris

Recently, tons of requests poured in for me to a recommend a book to read on a trip to Paris. Well…one request really, but what a great assignment.

I love to rummage around in the reading relating to a place I am visiting. I am very slowly working my way through The Aeneid during my summers in Italy. I have read Tacitus, the classic I, Claudius by Robert Graves, and lots of Roman history fiction. I will think up a Rome reading list for myself this summer and write it up separately.

For Paris, there are the French classics –
I would take a stab at reading more Proust and/or Balzac.

I would think about the period of the Impressionists, and these are books I liked:
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Stone Chessman
I am Madame X by Gioa Diliberto, about the artist John Singer Sargent in Paris
In the Land of Pain by Alphonse Daudet (one of my favourite books – a memoir by a syphilitic contemporary of the great writers and artists of the 19th C - too grim for some, but I think it is exquisite)

A Canadian novel I enjoyed was Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen by Kate Taylor

Iain Pear's serious novel The Dream of Scipio covers a lot of French history as does
Perfume by Patrick Suskind and
GG Kay's Ysabel, in fantasy format

For a more modern France (and for a non-fiction reader) these could be good
Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France (I could only get through about half)
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik (still on my to read pile)
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle (I read it. People love it but it was not my cup of vin)

For a laugh, I loved
Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile and other plays and
David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day

For a kid:
Eloise in Paris by Kay Thompson is perfect.

Now the marigold is wondering nervously:
Have I forgotten anything? and
Should I have mentioned The Da Vinci Code?