Especially for those like me who aren’t often easily pulled into reading.
Growing up, I was a picky leisure reader. I had to read so many books for school that selecting books of my own to read meant that I didn’t really get into literature or fantasy. My interests even then were pretty niche. I started reading mostly biographies about people I admired, like Audrey Hepburn, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Eleanor Roosevelt, and then of course as a French major in college, my love of anthropology, society, and history meant I was constantly reading academic essays on what it means to be French today – and beyond. Yet, it wasn’t until I fell in love with a literary agent that I truly rediscovered the joy of reading, and when I did, I was greeted with a wave of recently published books on wine, food, French culture, and the intersections of them all.
Let’s just say these seven great books got me into reading for fun again. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did!
The New Paris, Lindsey Tramuta ($35)
The Paris of today is simply not the Paris that Hollywood’s duped us into believing – and that’s a great thing. Tramuta’s acclaimed book takes the reader all over Paris to meet the people, businesses, and philosophies that have shaped the city over the past thirty or so years of revival. One of Europe’s most diverse cities and a crossroad to all kinds of different cultures, Paris can no longer be distilled into a one-dimensional post war fantasy where only French food and 19th century European traditions take center stage. Instead, she’s alive, evolving, and adapting with the Parisiens of today, who don’t look or act much like their predecessors. Worth a read – whether or not you have a Paris trip planned!
The New Parisienne, Lindsey Tramuta ($26)
Lindsey’s second book acts as a sort of companion to the first, specifically focusing on one particular archetype of global fantasy: The Parisienne (or, female Parisian). Long worshipped as a striped-shirt wearing, lipstick loving, je ne sais quoi type white woman who only wears the latest Chanel, it’s a stereotype that was created to entice Americans in particular to visit Paris and discover these picture-perfect French women for themselves (whether to become one, or to fall in love with one). Lindsey breaks down this harmful stereotype in her book but also introduces us to the magnificent women of Paris today, the true Parisiennes. Turns out they’re diverse, multilingual activists and entrepreneurs who have better things to do than pout by the Seine. Easily my favorite book on this list.
Big Macs & Burgundy, Vanessa Lenore Price ($22)
Probably the most popular content series I’ve produced on Instagram to date, this book is a must read for anyone who loves food and wine – but also isn’t afraid to be honest with themselves about what they’re eating on a daily basis. While the following book from Julia Child is a classic ode to traditional French cuisine and wine pairing, this one spins all of that on its head and normalizes what we’re all doing on a daily or weekly basis: pairing our favorite wines with snacks, takeout, and even viral salads from chains we love. The personal touch and tongue-and-cheek tone make Vanessa’s book fun and enjoyable to read. It’s a reminder that we often take ourselves too seriously – especially in the wine world.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes 1 &2, Julia Child ($99)
There is perhaps no other book in the world of French gastronomy as influential as this two-volume classic from one of America’s greatest Francophiles. The world has changed quite a lot since this book’s first publication in 1961, but the basics of French culinary tradition are steadfast. And while nobody is peeling their asparagus to the same extent as Julia insisted, the level of detail and information in the book is astonishing. There’s a reason it’s endured and that’s the exact same reason you need this set in your kitchen: the classics never go out of style.
Wine & War, Don & Petie Kladstrup ($14)
This one is beloved by many – and for good reason! Subtitled “The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure”, it recounts harrowing war-time conditions and feats from around France, with a particular focus on two regions that were the most impacted: Alsace and Champagne. What I love about this book is that it refocuses the American perception of World War II away from a bilateral view (e.g.: good versus evil) and reframes it in a way that shows people as people – poor choices, dire circumstances, brave moments, and everything in between. I love how intimately it humanizes the people behind French wine in that era. A great read!
The New French Wine, Jon Bonné ($121)
If you are a true student of French wine like I am, you must have a copy of this book in your library. A two-volume hardback edition, this new release spares no detail or criticism about French wine. From the producers to the infinitesimal details about soil type, this box set is a remarkable love letter to and study of all things French wine. This is a truly great read for anyone wondering about what’s really going on in France and why it’s reinventing itself.
Bacchus & Me, Jay McInerney ($14)
When I was first getting into wine after college, this book was the first one that’d ever been gifted to me. I was immediately hooked and knew I had to discover the French wine world for myself. Jay’s hilarious and personal tales of his travels and musings on French wine in particular are fantastic comic relief (even if I can’t say I agree with all his opinions on wine, I appreciate that he was honest). If you’re looking for a light summer read on wine, this one won’t disappoint.