Book Ideas for the France-Lover in Your Life

Christmas is coming and you might be having a hard time coming up with gift ideas. I am here to help!

The French are famously literary, but they don’t sit around reading Proust and Molière all day. They like a good page-turner as well as anyone else. So how about gifting a book that was a top seller in France, but has recently been translated into English? It would be a great gift for a France-lover, or someone who loves good books, or both!

I’ve put together a list of 11 books that covers a lot of bases.You’ll find serious reads, thrillers, inspiring tales, and even a touch of science fiction!

Read all about it in France Today!

 

What the French are Reading: The Arab of the Future

One way to gain insight into a culture is to see what its people are reading. Topping the French charts lately has been The Arab of the Future 6, the final volume of a series that has been a massive best-seller in France. It’s a bande dessinée, or graphic novel, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Written and illustrated by Riad Sattouf, one of France’s top cartoonists, it tells the story of his childhood.

Sattouf’s heritage spans two very different cultures. His mother is from Brittany and his father from Syria, and they met when the father was pursuing a doctorate at the Sorbonne. Sattouf was raised in France, then Libya, then Syria, then back to France, experiencing culture shock every step of the way.

The Arab of the Future is funny, touching, enlightening, infuriating, and much more—it’s easy to see why the French love it. It tells the story of a child raised between two worlds, offering a unique look at both French and Arab societies, and is a great read in any language. For those who want to try their hand at reading in French, a bande dessinée is a great place to start, with lots of pictures to help you along, and not too many words.

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Only in Provence: An Insider’s Guide

Provence is a magical corner of France, with unique sights, surprising legends, and a rich Roman, Jewish, and Catholic heritage.

Would you like to walk through a rainbow? See magic inside a mountain? Learn about the “Babylonian captivity” of the Popes? You can do it all in Provence.

Maybe you’d like to explore France’s best Roman sites, or the country’s oldest synagogue, or visit the grotto where Mary Magdalene spent her last years. Again, you can do all that in Provence.

To learn more about this most distinctive of French regions, read my series Only in Provence in My French Life!

Secrets of St-Rémy #6: Animal Traditions

My wife Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-de-Provence, a charming town between Marseille and Avignon. I’ve written a guidebook about the area, An Insider’s Guide to Provence, where I share some of our favorite things to see and do. This series of articles is based on my book.

Many Traditions

The people of Provence have a deep respect for nature and for the animals that have long been integral to their rural life. And they maintain their traditions, many of which have to do with animals.

One is the transhumance, where thousands of sheep march through town, baaing all the way. Bands play as they go around the town’s ring road, accompanied by shepherds, sheepdogs, and the occasional goat. It’s like a river of sheep!

Another is the festival of St. Eloi, the patron saint of horses. On his day, plow horses are cleaned up, brushed, and wear flower and colorful harnesses. Then they are blessed by the village priest and march through town in a big procession so everyone can admire them.

And let’s not forget the course camarguaise, where little doodads are tied around a bull’s horns and brave young men have to run up and take off the doodads. It’s very exciting and surprisingly, no one gets hurt!

Read all about it in My French Life!

What’s it Really Like to Move to France?

People dream of moving to France, but what’s it really like? Can you make friends? How does it change you?

My Frenchly colleagues Karen Karbo, Catherine Rickman, Philip Ruskin and Caitlin Shetterly have all taken the plunge. Two did it as young adults and have since returned to the US. Two others, both middle aged, moved a few years ago and see France as their permanent home. What have their experiences been like?

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Michel Houellebecq, the Bad Boy of French Literature

Michel Houellebecq has been called France’s greatest living writer, a worthy successor to the likes of Camus and Céline. He has also been called an enfant terrible and a provocateur.

His books have sold millions, been translated into dozens of languages, and won many awards.

I love Houellebecq’s books, and I also hate them. But love them or hate them, I can’t stop reading them.

Who is Michel Houellebecq? And should you read his books?

Read all about it in My French Life!

 

See the Dutch Masters in Provence

One of the highlights of any trip to Provence is visiting the fabulous Carrières des Lumières. This former stone quarry now hosts an immersive sound and light show…inside a mountain! It is so popular that other sites have been created in many countries, and recently the Immersive Van Gogh program was shown around the world.

But the best place to see it is still where it started, in that enormous cavern. This year’s program is all about the Dutch Masters, from Vermeer to Van Gogh. It’s fitting that the program finishes with ol’ Vincent, as many of his greatest works were painted in nearby St-Rémy and Arles.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

Liberty, Equality, Maternity? “Childfree” in France

A few months ago, headlines ricocheted across France: “30% of French Women Don’t Want Children” and “Nearly One Woman in Three Doesn’t Want Kids.” They were the result of a survey for Elle Magazine by France’s leading pollster.

If a third of French women is not having kids, the media surmised, then this is a demographic earthquake!

So, what’s actually going on and what will it mean for France’s future? I spoke to one of France’s leading demographic researchers and learned some surprising things about the survey (hint: the devil is in the details.)

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Learning French in a Surprising Place

Thousands of young Americans are speaking French daily, in a place you wouldn’t expect: Utah. In a state better known for its vast open spaces and beautiful national parks, kids are chattering away in a multitude of foreign languages. It is part of Utah’s “dual language immersion” program, offered in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Russian.

The program was launched in 2009 to help students integrate into the international economy. Today, over 65,000 students are enrolled in the language program, nearly 10% of all students in the state!

Read all about it in My French Life!

See Prehistoric Art by Torchlight

The Grotte Chauvet 2 is one of the wonders of France. Called “the cave of forgotten dreams,” it is the near-perfect replica of a grotto filled with paintings made more than 30,000 years ago—the oldest ever discovered. Not only is the art recreated, but the entire cave is replicated down to the smallest detail, with stalagmites and stalactites, and bear skulls scattered on the ground. Walking through it, and seeing paintings of lions and rhinos, is like stepping back in time.

And now there’s something new—tours by torchlight. Small groups are led by guides armed with torches, viewing the stunning artwork in their flickering light. Visitors can see the paintings as our ancestors did, with the works coming to life as the shadows play on the walls’ nooks and crannies.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!