A Holiday Gift for the France Lover in Your Life?

France has a long and rich literary tradition, and the country has won more Nobel Prizes in Literature than any other. But that doesn’t mean that all French books are stuffy and boring–there are plenty of ripping good reads coming out of France!

But where do you find them? One good place to start is by looking at the winners of France’s literary awards. Many of these winners later get translated into English and are widely available. I’ve read a number of these books and really enjoyed them.

There are six big French literary prizes and they’ve all just been awarded. I’ve written an article describing them, to give you an idea what they are all about. If you want to skip the article, here’s on thing to remember: the Goncourt Prize. It’s the biggest of the Big Six awards and the books that win this are almost always great.

Read all about it in My French Life!

8 Books for Francophiles to Lose Themselves In

A good book on your bedside table can offer refuge like none other. Whether you need to unwind for 30 minutes while your baby naps; you need to dream someone else’s dreams before bed; or you wake in the middle of the night and need to while away the wee hours; here are eight books you can lean on.

I was one of the Frenchly writers who was asked to contribute their favorites–both old and new–for you to consider for yourself or someone special in your life while colder weather descends.

Read all about it at Frenchly!

Riad Sattouf and The Arab of the Future

Graphic novelist Riad Sattouf has lived a fascinating life. Born in 1978 to a French mother and a Syrian father, he spent much of his childhood in Libya and Syria before moving to France for his teenage years.

Sattouf dreamed of becoming a pilot, but his talent as a cartoonist took him in another direction. His first graphic novel (bande dessinée in French, or BD) was published when he was just 21, and he soon joined the staff of the famous French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. But it was his BD, The Arab of the Future, that catapulted him to nationwide fame, making him one of the most successful authors in France today. 

BDs are a big deal in France, much bigger than in the US. They are not comic books, but rather cover a wide range of subjects, from humor to history to politics and more. Remember Persopolis, the Oscar-nominated animated film? That started as a BD that sold more 2 million copies worldwide.

Sattouf’s Arab of the Future is now a series of five BDs, all of which have been translated into English. They are a fascinating look into two sometimes strange societies, including France’s!

Read all about it in Frenchly!

10 Great Reads That Will Transport You to France

How would you like to travel to France but not have to get on a plane?

The best way to do it, unless you have a friend with a yacht, is by reading a book. I love books by foreigners who’ve lived in France. They see the country differently than the French do, and living abroad helps them see their own country through new eyes.

I’ve put together a list of my favorite books about France. Some are funny, some are touching, and all are excellent reads. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite yourself!

Read all about it at Frenchly!

Heartwarming Tales from France

Have you ever dreamed of chucking it all, leaving the big city behind, and moving to a charming little village in France? That’s exactly what Janine Marsh and her husband Mark have done, but the path they took was anything but straightforward.

One day some years ago, while on a booze-buying trip from London, they somehow bought an old wreck of a house in France’s Seven Valleys region. It’s a hilarious story, and Janine tells it brilliantly in her book My Good Life in France. Over the years, she and Mark have fixed up the house, adopted a shocking number of animals (including 72 chickens at last count), and settled into their village in “middle-of-nowhere France.”

Janine continued their story in My Four Seasons in France and now she’s back with more heartwarming tales in her latest terrific book, the soon-to-be-published Toujours la France!

If you’d like to know what life is really like in a rural French village, this is the book for you. There’s not a lot of entertainment, unless you count the snail races, but there is a strong sense of community, with neighbors always willing to lend a hand to one other. And there are, of course, endless cups of coffee to share the latest gossip.

The book is full of funny stories, like the dinner party where a neighbor tries to get Janine and Mark to taste his special holiday rum. Another neighbor warns them off. “For heaven’s sake don’t drink it,” she says. “You will miss Christmas if you do and most likely have to go to the doctor.” Mark foolishly takes the tiniest of sips and is rendered mute, his mouth so numb he can’t taste his food.

Janine and Mark are often a source of amusement for the village, as on the bitterly cold day when their water stopped running. They determined that an uninsulated pipe in the roof had frozen, so Mark got up on a ladder and removed a few tiles, while Janine plugged in a hair dryer so he could heat up the frozen section. One villager after another came by to see what was happening, and soon the whole village was abuzz about les anglais “who are blow drying their house.”

The book is packed with fun facts about France, like the reason why people clink their glasses before drinking (it has to do with fear of poisoning back in medieval times.) And that it is considered unlucky to have a dinner with 13 people—if you do, the waiter might put an egg on the table to represent a 14th. And that France invented the online sex chat!

As the book ends, Janine reflects on how she and Mark have become perhaps not natives, but awfully darned close. And how lucky they are to have settled in the part of France “where people have sunshine in their hearts.”

Highly recommended.

My New Book!

Val and I live part of the year in the charming village of St-Rémy-de-Provence. It’s in a delightful spot at the foot of the Alpilles Mountains, between Avignon and Arles. There are lots of great things to see and do in the area.

I’ve just had a new guidebook published, An Insider’s Guide to St-Rémy-de-Provence and the Surrounding Area. It’s the first guidebook dedicated just to this part of Provence, so I think it fills a need.

If you have friends who will be coming this way, please let them know about my book! It’s available on Amazon.

18 Curious Facts about Provence

Did you know that a sardine once blocked the port of Marseille?

Or that seven different popes once lived in Avignon? (not counting Pope Joan)

Or that a Provençal town once passed a law banning UFOs…and none have landed since?

These are just a few of the fun facts that are in my new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence. Read all about it in Frenchly!

An Insider’s Guide to Provence

I am thrilled that my new book has just been published! It’s a guide to all the “insider secrets” that Val and I have discovered during our years of living in Provence.

An Insider’s Guide to Provence has our favorite restaurants, wineries, outdoor markets, picnic spots, hiking and biking trails, you name it. There is dining advice for the gluten-intolerant, vegans, and vegetarians, and special sections on Roman Provence and Jewish Provence. And with hundreds of links to maps and websites, it is perfect for the on-the-go traveler.

Here’s what others have to say…

A must-have for every visitor looking for local advice”–Carolyne Kauser-Abbott, Perfectly Provence 

A super add on to any general guidebook of the area”–Janine Marsh, The Good Life France.

“You will not be disappointed with this modern guidebook—it is a bottomless treasure!”–Judy MacMahon, MyFrenchLife 

“If you’re looking for an expert guide to show you the ins and outs of beautiful Provence, look no further”–Tuula Rampont, Belle Provence Travels

“I’ll be using this guide every time I go back to France”–Janice Chung, France Travel Tips

“A must-read for anyone planning a trip to Provence”–Annette Charlton, A French Collection

An Insider’s Guide to Provence is the perfect gift for the Provence lover in your life, and is available from Amazon as a paperback or e-book.

I hope you enjoy it!

The Greatest Books of the 20th Century–As Seen from France

What are the greatest books of the 20th century? Americans might say To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. The British might push for Ulysses and Brave New World. But what do the French think?

That’s easy to answer, because a giant survey was done a few years ago on exactly this topic, ranking the 100 best books of the 20th century. It should come as no surprise that French classics The Stranger and In Search of Lost Time topped the list. But it might surprise you that French authors made up only half the list. There were plenty of books by authors from the US, UK, Italy, Russia…even Albania!

Learn what the French think about literature, and find out why this list was controversial, in France Today!

Finding That Perfect French Novel

Are you looking for a great new book to read? Then consider trying a French novel. Books that have won the prestigious Prix Goncourt (Goncourt Prize) are a good place to start because most have been translated into English. Some have even become movies, like The Perfect Nanny and The Life Ahead, recently made into a Netflix film starring Sophia Loren.

What’s not to like about the Goncourt? It’s got class! (winners include Simone de Beauvoir and Marcel Proust.) It’s got controversy! (non-winners include Albert Camus and Colette.) And sometimes the prize committee gets hoodwinked, like the time they awarded the Goncourt to an author that didn’t exist.

Find your next great read at France Today!