Be the Expert
I wouldn't consider myself a complete Francophile. BUT I'm married to a half Frenchman, have lived in France and have somehow ended up reading a whole lot of books on expat French living. Like, a whole lot. Here are my top picks (and a couple that really aren't, but are important anyway):
- Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris, by Ann Mah: is my current favourite. I loved Mah's conversational tone as she moves through classic French dishes, while throwing in pieces of French history, language and anecdotes from her own life as a diplomat's spouse.
- My Life in France, by Julia Child: for a start, it's an absolute classic of the genre. Once you get past that, it's a lovely insight into the life of an amazing woman, with a nice anecdotal style. It also has an interesting historical perspective - Paul and Julia Child moved to France barely a year after the end of WWII, when the country was still very much in the depths of a long recovery.
- Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris, by Sarah Turnbull: this is the French memoir that has so far struck a chord with me most on a personal level. Sarah is an Australian who falls in love with a Frenchman and struggles with many aspects of the French lifestyle. I'm a New Zealander who fell in love with a Frenchman and struggled with many of the same aspects (the judgement of how women dress etc) of life in France. It's charming, funny and possibly the most honest of my picks here.
- Lunch in Paris, by Elizabeth Bard: 'In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman--and never went home again.' This one is worth reading for the recipes. Bard has a talent for light and humorous writing, but also for simplifying classic French dishes into something achievable for the not-in-France cook.
- A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle: I didn't enjoy A Year in Provence as much as I have many others of the genre, but this was the book that started it all - Mayle moved to Provence in the '80's to renovate a classic French stone cottage. It's descriptions of French food are positively drool-worthy.
- Secrets of a Lazy French Cook, by Marie-Morgane Le Moël: is one I actually DIDN'T enjoy very much. BUT it's one of the few examples (in English) of the opposite phenomenon than normal - a stereotypical French woman's experience in Australia.
Are you a French memoir lover like I am? What am I missing here? Next on my to-read list is Paris in Love, by Eloisa James
Become the Expert
One of my undergraduate majors was Anthropology and it still has a soft-spot in my heart. Pop-anthropology is great fun, but I don't seem to get around to it as often as I want too. Currently on the TBR list are. . .
- Europe and the People without History, by Eric R. Wolf: on Europe's 'remaking' of the history of societies they colonised
- The World until Yesterday: What we can learn from traditional societies?, by Jared Diamond: on how humanity survived before the modern age and what we can learn from it. Actually, pretty much everything by Jared Diamond is on my TBR list!
- Orientalism, by Edward Said: on the West's construction of the Arab world
- The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, by Norman Cohn: on end-of-the-world fears in the run up to the first Millennium change
I found ancient Egypt fascinating as a child and recently really enjoyed The Shadow King. Anyone got some good recommendations for adult non-fiction on Ancient Egypt and Egyptology?
Will I be reading any non-fiction this month? I'm not sure yet. This month involves a 12,000 mile life relocation for me and husband. In those circumstances. . . fiction is often easier. But we will see!