Top 5 Books About American Writers in Paris

Classic American Writers in Paris

Paris has been an extraordinary destination for American writers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton, and John Dos Passos. What drew so many American writers to the City of Lights? Whether escaping problems back home, becoming an exile, or just enjoying the mystery and romance of The City of Lights, these books explore the stories, letters, memoirs, and journalism from American writers in Paris. Here are a few collections that explore why the home of the Eiffel Tower was and continues to be such a draw to creative-minded American writers.

by Adam Gopnik (Editor). Library of America.

Gopnik, a staff writer at The New Yorkervlived in Paris with his family from for five years, writing the magazine’s "Paris Journals" column. He compiles an exhaustive list of essays and other writings about Paris by writers spaning generations and genres, from Benjamin Franklin to Jack Kerouac. From cultural differences, to food, to sex, Gopnik's compilation of written works highlights the best things about seeing Paris with fresh eyes.

From the publisher: "Including stories, letters, memoirs, and journalism, 'Americans in Paris' distills three centuries of vigorous, glittering, and powerfully emotional writing about the place that Henry James called 'the most brilliant city in the world'."

by Jennifer Lee (Editor). Vintage Books.

Lee's collection of American writers writing about Pars is divided into four categories: Love (How to Seduce and Be Seduced Like a Parisian), Food (How to Eat Like a Parisian), The Art of Living (How to Live Like a Parisian), and Tourism (How You Can't Help Being an American in Paris). She includes works from better-known Francophiles like Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, and a few surprises, including reflections from Langston Hughes.

From the publisher: "Including essays, book excerpts, letters, articles, and journal entries, this seductive collection captures the long and passionate relationship Americans have had with Paris. Accompanied by an illuminating introduction, Paris in Mind is sure to be a fascinating voyage for literary travelers."

by Donald Pizer. Louisiana State University Press.

Pizer takes a more analytical approach than some other compilations, looking at how Paris acted as a catalyst for literary creativity, with careful attention to works written after World War I but before World War II. He even examines how the writing of the time in Paris was related to artistic movements of the same era. 

From the publisher: "Montparnasse and its cafe life, the shabby working-class area of the place de la Contrescarpe and the Pantheon, the small restaurants and cafes along the Seine, and the Right Bank world of the well-to-do...for American writers self-exiled to Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, the French capital represented what their homeland could not..."

by Robert McAlmon, and Kay Boyle. Johns Hopkins University Press.

This remarkable memoir is the story of the Lost Generation writers, told from two points of view: McAlmon, a contemporary, and Boyle, who wrote her autiobiographical Paris experiences as an alternate, after the fact point of view in the 1960s.

From the publisher: "There was no more exhilarating decade in the history of modern letters than the twenties in Paris. They were all there: Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mina Loy, T. S. Eliot, Djuna Barnes, Ford Madox Ford, Katherine Mansfield, Alice B. Toklas...and with them were Robert McAlmon and Kay Boyle."

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A Paris Year

A Paris Year
Image provided by Ohio Univ Press

by James T. Farrell, Dorothy Farrell and Edgar Marquess Branch. Ohio University Press.

This book tells the story of a particular author in Paris, James Farrell, who arrived after the Lost Generation crowd and struggled, despite his considerable talents, to ever earn enough from his Paris writings to be financially comfortable while living there.

From the publisher: "Their Paris story is embedded in the lives of other expatriates like Ezra Pound and Kay Boyle, who also were defining their times. Branch's narrative is complemented by photos of persons and places interwoven with the personal and artistic growth for the young Farrells."