What to Read and Watch Before Going to… France

So you’re planning a trip to France? Why not indulge in some of the country’s finest literature and most representative cinematic pieces before you go? I grew up reading French literature and keeping this list short is a real challenge. However, bearing in mind that I can’t just make a list of 19th century authors, here are my recommendations:


The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola

Zola is my favourite author. He wrote a series of 20 books chronicling all aspects of French society of the 1800s. This book tells the story of a young country girl who gets a job at the first department store of Paris, and how she rises through the ranks. Meanwhile, other shop owners struggle to compete against the modern convenience of the store.

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Kathrine Pancol

A modern classic telling of two very different sisters, one outgoing, rich socialite and the other a recently divorced and shy history teacher. Both unhappy, the teacher writes a historical fiction novel published in her sister’s name, who has the contacts and fame for it to become a success.

Seeking Whom he May Devour by Fred Vargas

A modern writer, Fred Vargas is one of my favourite crime authors. In this book, a series of murders in the Alps is blamed on wolves, but as we all know, malice is human.

The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux

The original murder in a locked room mystery, from the man that also wrote Phantom of the Opera. The story continues in The Perfume of the Lady in Black.


The Last Day of a Condemned Man by Victor Hugo

This is a short story by one of France’s most famous authors. It tells the story of a man about to be executed, and his last day. Tragically moving, it is a must read for all Hugo fans.

Eighty Days Around the World by Jules Verne

This list wouldn’t be complete without Verne. This is one of my favourites for the world adventure it depicts. Of course, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is also a classic but is a hefty tome to get through.

The Ice People by René Barjavel

This should be much more known than it is. A sci-fi novel from the 60’s, recounting the find of two frozen people from an ancient but knowledgable civilisation who are awoken and tell their story to the modern world. That civilisation brought destruction on itself through war, and as we all know, history repeats itself.



One of the most famous French films ever, set in Paris. Amelie is a waitress who decides to get involved in fixing the lives of others.

The Intouchables

A man goes to a job interview for the sole purpose of being allowed to claim his jobseeker’s allowance. To his great annoyance, he gets the job and has to care for a disabled, grumpy man. An unlikely friendship is formed as each learns to cope with the other.

Got any other suggestions? Add them below in the comment section!


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