What to Read If You Love (or Love to Hate) Emily in Paris

Claire Handscombe
6 min readNov 14, 2022
Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

Emily in Paris landed into our Netflix queues at, arguably, the perfect time. Seven months into the pandemic, we had watched everything we could think of and were starved for new content. We’d probably already finished Call My Agent, and maybe wanted more French-themed entertainment. Some of us missed travel; some of us missed gallivanting around cities in pretty outfits, meeting new people. So we clicked play and watched as a clueless young American woman implausibly got on a plane to lend her social media “expertise” to a French advertising firm. It only got more implausible from there, but we kept watching.

I’m half-French and also a teacher of my mother tongue, so I’ll leave it up to you to imagine how much the show hurts both my heart and my ears. Did I still hate-watch the second season the same week it dropped? Obviously. Do I hope more people will be unironically drawn to learning about authentic French culture as well as the language? Of course. If that’s you, then I wanted to recommend some books.

Among them are books that Emily would have found helpful to read before she headed haplessly to Paris: books to understand how the French think and communicate, as well as fiction that shows the grittier side of Paris life and, crucially, the more diverse side.

Colloquial French by Valérie Demouy and Alan Moys

Firstly, let’s face it. Emily needs to do some serious work on her French. If you do, too, this is probably the all-around best French textbook for self-study, with accessible explanations of grammar, and real-world-like conversations to listen to and emulate. (And if you’d like a French tutor, feel free to contact me!)

When in French by Lauren Collins

It’s a little bit of an understatement to say that Emily needs some help when it comes to sorting out her love life — and especially when it comes to French men. She would benefit from reading Lauren Collins’ memoir of falling in love with a French men and her thoughtful exploration of what it means when love intersects…

Claire Handscombe

Editor of WALK WITH US: How the West Wing Changed Our Lives; author of the novel UNSCRIPTED and of CONQUERING BABEL: a Practical Guide to Learning a Language.