A new travel tradition

After getting back from Paris (here’s details about our girls weekend in Paris), here are my favorite audiobooks set in that beautiful city.

Takeaway: Read books based in the country you’re visiting before you get there.

There was nothing in particular I was looking to read when I went to download some audiobooks for the long day of travel to Greece back in May. I had come across something in a podcast about reading book on your vacation set in your destination and decided to search for something to do with Athens for our trip. Listening to the adventures of mythological characters sailing across the Aegean while I was lounging next to the Aegean was it’s own kind of magic.

I find I have more of an appreciation for a place when I’ve learned it’s history and it’s culture and while I couldn’t bring myself to read an Atlas or a history book before this trip, I did spend the few weeks before our Paris trip diving into a few books set in that beautiful city. I set aside the parenting books and podcasts for awhile and tried an assortment of fiction and nonfiction based in Paris.

If you’re traveling to Paris, or just looking to get lost in the magic and history of the city, here’s what I read:

Books to Read Before Going to Paris:

  • Paris: A Novel by Edward Rutherford: This work of historical fiction is no small undertaking. At 36 hours of audio, even listening to it on double speed is quite a commitment. That said, this was my favorite of all the Paris books. Rutherford does a beautiful job spanning centuries of Parisian history and developing characters that drive the story forward. I really loved how he wove in so much history to the text. Reading the account of a worker on the Eiffel Tower was much more interesting that scanning the wikipedia page of the historic monument. The book was a great overview of the history of the city, as well as many of the major landmarks.
  • The Hotel on Place Vendome by Tilar J. Mazzeo: This collection of historical anecdotes centered around the Ritz hotel in Paris during the German occupation of WWII was less engaging but still something worth reading. I listened to this one in shorter increments and “met” some central characters to Paris in the 1940s.
  • How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Sophie Mas: This short book, written by a few modern French friends, was an entertaining collection of wisdom from French women. Take it with a grain of salt (especially advice on fighting with your husband) but it let me committed to getting dressed and loving myself.
  • Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton: This memoire account was not was I was anticipating AT ALL but it was an interesting look into the life of a working woman a generation above me who always came back to Paris.
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: The most disturbing and intriguing books that I read, this tells the story of Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife. While a historical fiction account, I found the glimpse into Hemingway’s life and psyche fascinating. There’s a few hard parts to get through, especially toward the end.


Didn’t come up on hold:

  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: After “The Paris Wife” I wanted to read more of Hemingway but neither this nor “The Sun Also Rises” came up off of my holds before we left. I loved reading a few of Hemingway’s excerpts about Paris though, beautiful words for a beautiful city.
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: This isn’t entirely set in Paris but tells the story of the Alice Network during the German occupation of France.

Already Read and recommend:


My top ten books to read before going to Paris. It is such a fun travel tradition to read books set in the place you are traveling! #travel #traveltips #books

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One Comment

  1. Thank you very much for your selection of books!:) In fact, it’s a great idea to read books about the city you are going to visit! So you can learn a lot of interesting facts or places that you want to visit. It also helps to understand the mood of the city, its temperament. It’s amazing, but I’ve also read Rutherford’s Paris. He is just a master, he perfectly describes the city from and to!:)
    Good day, Elizabeth!