Good Books about France

I read quite a lot, but mostly it’s dipping into reference books, I am not a great one for novels.  We had to read Tess of the D’Urbevilles when I was at school and I have still not really recovered from it. Some historical novels are OK if they are based on a lot of facts and biographies are OK depending on who they are about and how they are written.

So don’t expect a long list and all the books I mention will be relevant to the Poitou-Charentes region in some way.

Most of the books will be out of print but with patience you can find most of them on Amazon or Ebay.


Ways of Aquitaine: Freda White, Faber and Faber 1968.

A guide to this area and a little beyond. Very informative and written as if she is having a chat with you, very readable.

The Discovery of France: Graham Robb Picador 2007

An amazing book, it will tell you so much that you never knew about France. A lot that the French might prefer you did not know!

Kingfisher Concise Field Guide, Animals and Plants of Britain and Europe:Edited by Michael Chinery. Kingfisher books 1991.

This is a brilliant guide for anyone who is half interested in the wildlife here. It covers everything from trees to insects from fungi to mammals. Obviously it can’t mention every bird, flower or fish but it does a pretty good job and covers all the common stuff. So if you just want one book to look up the odd weird-looking flower or funny looking bird then this is it.

Birds of Europe: Lars Jonsson, Christopher Helm publishers 1992.

If you are more than half interested in the bird life then this is the book.Don’t waste your time on any others, get this and you will not need any other bird identification books. 

Suite Francaise: Irène Némirovsky, Gallimard-Jeunesse 2004 

Second world war, German invasion of France, a must read. 

French Provincial Cooking: Elizabeth David, Penguin Books 1960

The good thing is you can get all the ingredients, our copy has lots of the ingredients spilt all over the pages! 

Floyd on France: Kieth Floyd, BBC books 1987

As above and he was such a great personality.

The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe: Fitter, Fitter and Blamey, Collins

Only Northern Europe but still covers most of the wild flowers in this area.

Les Oiseaux des Marais; Philippe Garguil, Editions Jean-Paul Gisserot

Some good photos.

PARIS After the Liberation 1944-1949, Anthony Beevor and Artemis Cooper 

It puts a lot of later French history into perspective.

The Devils of Loudun, Aldous Huxley.

You can see why Ken Russel would choose to make a film about it!

The French Revolution, Christopher Hibbert

Very detailed and so a bit stodgy.

Petain’s Crime, Paul Webster

One mans view and difficult to know now how accurate it is after such a long time but still it is quite disturbing.

Cellestine, Gillian Tindall

This is a must read for anyone with a house in a village in rural France.

The Olive Farm, Carol Drinkwater

Set in Provence but many of the events and descriptions will be familiar to all of us who have purchased an old place in rural France.

To see  photos I have taken click Alamy Photos

11 thoughts on “Good Books about France”

  1. If your copy of Elizabeth David is falling apart, as mine is (I had the Penguin box set) then I recommend buying a new one from Amazon.

    And you won’t get it so messy because now you pretty much know the recipes by heart…

    I also recommend

    which has an index to all 3 vols bound in with it.

  2. Thanks for this helpful list (we also had to do Tess of the d’Urbervilles for A Level!). Everyone has their battered copy of Elizabeth David. I am very attached to mine.

  3. I have just updated my list and the one I would most recommend is Cellestine, it is about a village in central France in the 19th and 20th century and has strong links through to the present day.Fascinating.

  4. I very much appreciate your having commented on my blog and led me here to these recommendations. I’ll follow them up. 🙂

  5. Probably my favourite is Celestine

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