What to Read When You Want to Learn How to Be French

When you think of French literature, one book that comes to mind is the famous children’s classic, The Little Prince(or Le Petit Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  What most people do not know is that this classic was written and first published in New York City.

The Morgan Library and Museum in NYC recently had an exhibition showcasing the American side of the story. The story’s origins and how the exhibition came to be…that is a bit of a remarkable story.

As he prepared to leave the city to rejoin the war effort as a reconnaissance pilot, Saint-Exupéry appeared at his friend Silvia Hamilton’s door wearing his military uniform. “I’d like to give you something splendid,” he said, “but this is all I have.” He tossed a rumpled paper bag onto her entryway table. Inside were the manuscript and drawings for The Little Prince, which the Morgan acquired from her in 1968.

I loved this part of their description of the story:

his beloved story that reminds us that what matters most can only be seen with the heart.

Sorbonne (c) 2011 Michelle Kenneth
Sorbonne (c) 2011 Michelle Kenneth

When I was in Paris a few years ago, I spent some time on the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) perusing titles in bookstores, especially around Sorbonne.  Beyond picking up a few Moliére and other French classics, my mission was to find Le Petit Prince, which I found in a ‘newer’ bookstore (like Barnes & Noble).

I wanted to read the book the way it was meant to be read: in French.  Luckily, you don’t have to buy the book if you want to read it in French.  It’s available via PDF online.

After I finish Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” I’ll be opening up my copy of Le Petit Prince to enjoy all over again.

Blogs to Read

I have a few favorite bloggers that cover the topic of France and the French lifestyle.

1. Paris in Four Months: This Swedish lady, Carin, spent four months in Paris to learn the language before returning back home to Stockholm.  She began to miss Paris so she moved there in 2013 and started a brand new adventure.  Through her photo blog, I came to fall in love with the way she saw beauty.  She shares that beauty in her photos.  They’re all so beautiful.  One of her subjects (or models) has her own blog: Gary Pepper.  If you want to fall in love with beauty…follow both of these blogs.  It’s a little bit of breathtaking beauty every single day. [Fashion/Lifestyle/Photography]

2. French Country Cottage: The key to a fabulous blog all lies within the pictures.  It’s like looking in a magazine.  That’s what you’ll find here at the French Country Cottage.  I also follow her on Twitter because there are pointers and photos and conversations going on that for those who love home decor and beautiful home decor, will be genuinely pleased with what she offers.  [Home/Entertaining]

3. French Revolution: Born and raised in New York with a French mom (who loves food and to cook) and a father who has a love for great food?  I give you French Revolution.  Highly recommended for those who love a good story to go along with a recipe.  She loves her food, so that means she loves good food.  A must follow. [Food]

4.  Oh So French: What is it about the French lifestyle that makes us feel so glamorous? Whatever that je ne sais quoi is, you, too can live it up like the French with me this month.  Oh So French shows you how. [Lifestyle]

5. Jen Reviews: At Jen Reviews, Jen has come up with 15 classic essential French dishes that everyone should learn how to master.  She takes you through all 15 recipes from Bouillabaisse to ratatouille and the Croque-Monsieur (my favorite).  If you want to challenge yourself in the kitchen and learn how to cook French food, this is an excellent place to start. [Lifestyle, Food, Health, Travel]

French Literature

How many classical French literature books have you read in your lifetime?  As I was perusing the Goodreads.com list, I noticed I not only have read a lot of them, but I own the majority of them.  That’s a lot.  Considering I don’t feel like I’ve read a lot of classical literature books, it ends up the majority of the classical literature I gravitated towards were all French.

Here are some of my favorites I highly recommend:

The Stranger (Albert Camus)
Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert) [Note: this book is steamy] Les Misérables (Victor Hugo) [I love this story] Tartuffe (Moliére) [Everyone needs to read Moliére. This was the first play I ever read from him] Candide (Voltaire) [I don’t even know why I liked this book, but I remember reading it one summer while I was in college and felt wiser because I had.]

For those wanting a bit of French culture and great literature, I highly recommend The Paris Wife (Random House Reader’s Circle Deluxe Reading Group Edition): A Novel.  This is the story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife.  I read this book before I went to Paris last time.  I ended up going around Paris trying to see the city through the eyes of Hemingway.  A literary adventure is always the best adventure to take while traveling.  My favorite moment was walking into Shakespeare & Company (the place where Hemingway ordered all of his English/American books) to see photos of Hemingway and his son as soon as you walk in.  To think that Hemingway once stood in this store, perusing titles, talking to the owners…you can’t help but feel more connected to him.  As a writer, it’s chicken soup for our souls.  A definite MUST READ.

What are some of your favorite French reads?


When I’m in Paris, I always spend time in bookstores looking for French books and classics.  One author I am constantly looking for is Goethe…the man who made Faust what it is today.  Goethe is a German writer, but his works have been transcribed into French. I am always looking for any version of his work in French, but as close to the original date of first publication.  I was fortunate to find a piece from the 1800s the last time I was in Paris.

When I returned to the US, I happened upon an antiques street festival and came across the original Goethe works in German.  The binding had to be replaced, but the inside was pristine.  I snatched up every single book, took it to the register and they said $5.

So I walked away a happy customer, because I had finally found the books I had spent countless hours looking for while I was in Europe.  One woman realized what I had and chased me down the street trying to purchase them off of me.  I looked at her funny and walked away.  When you’ve spent years looking for something and you finally find it, there’s no way you’re going to ever give it up.



About Michelle Kenneth

Michelle Kenneth is the voice behind PerfectionistWannabe.com.