Paris continues to fascinate Americans--perhaps it's the civilized streets, or the lazy breakfasts in a corner cafe, or maybe it's the echo of literary footsteps across the years. After all, a who's who of writers who made Paris their home, however temporarily, is a gilded one: Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Edith Wharton, James Joyce, Saul Bellow (to name but a few). Writers continue to flock there, as these titles attest.
Legendary American-history chronicler David McCullough's "The Greater Journey" profiles the exodus of stateside artists in the 19th century to the French capital. Think James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel F.B. Morse, followed by Emerson, Hawthorne, Twain, and the "Midnight in Paris" crew. But there is a more current emigration upon us.
Rosecrans Baldwin's memoir catalogs the transfer of his life from Brooklyn to Paris, where he attempts to pen his first novel while working at an advertising agency and battling culture shock. Paris can be a beautiful place, but not when one's apartment is assaulted by construction noises around the clock. Baldwin, however, manages to survive, even thrive, during his year and a half in the French capital.
3. Paris, Paris
The New Yorker magazine sent Adam Gopnik to write its "Paris Journals" for half a decade, and he transformed that output along with assorted diary entries into "Paris to the Moon." Sometimes it takes an outsider to see a city in a fresh light, and Gopnik's account covers the many sides of Paris, from the exquisite cafes to the city's cultural confusions, sparing no one and nothing.
David Lebovitz, a pastry chef and cookbook author, weaves more than 50 original recipes throughout the memoir that describes his on-again, off-again love affair with Paris. Lebovitz's stories reveal a place that is only funny once one learns to deal with its constant frustrations.
John Baxter also wrote "Immoveable Feast" and "We'll Always Have Paris," but "The Most Beautiful Walk in the World" is the winner for any traveler to the city. The Sydney-born author spent a year giving literary walking tours, and in the book that describes the experience, he relays the secrets of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso while delving into the history of the city.
Pamela Druckerman uses her former Wall Street Journal reporting chops to observe French women at their child-rearing best. Do they know secrets Americans–-and the rest of the world–-miss? She learns while raising her own baby, joining the long list of Americans writing from the cafes of Paris.