Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Healing from Heartbreak Through Chick Lit

When I think of my sister Megan’s and my first Eurotrip together as adults in 2012, I remember laying on a deflated air mattress on the hard, unyielding floor of her dorm at University College of London. Punchy from jet lag-induced insomnia, reading and crying myself to sleep—my reading material a chick-lit novel that made the tears stream down my face as I sought answers to my broken heart in the love lives of imperfect women.

For the first few days after the breakup, each morning had the same routine: Drag myself out of bed, stumble through my suddenly strangely empty two-bedroom apartment, turn the shower to blisteringly hot. Each morning, I began to feel more like myself just in time to shout along to Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” on Spotify.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Falling for a Frenchman in France

To say that I fell in love in Paris feels almost cliché. Paris is known the world over as the most romantic city on the planet, so to fall in love there makes sense…but it also seems rather predictable. But that’s what happened to me in the spring of 2013. I met a man, a Parisian, in a cabaret in Montmartre, and within a matter of weeks I was in love. Everyone around me was shocked; I’m not the type to fall in love so easily or quickly. I guess Paris does that sort of thing to people, even jaded New Yorkers like me.

Olivier—the man who would become my husband—and I met on a Wednesday. It was March 6. I had been in France since mid-January and it had been an unusually cold winter for Paris. In other words, I hadn’t really gone out much. But in early March, a friend came to visit from New York and I was forced to play both host and tour guide. Despite not having slept in almost 24 hours, my friend, who had arrived in Paris that morning, insisted on going out that night. After taking her up to Sacré-Cœur to see the glow of the city below, we headed to Place du Tertre and made our way to one of those very touristy cafés. We just wanted to drink lots of wine and eat lots of cheese, so any place would do at that moment.

We weren’t at the café long when my friend set her sights on a waiter; a waiter whom she proceeded to flirt with in English while he proceeded to flirt with her in French. As the only one out of the three of us who had any sort of grasp on both languages, I was put in charge of translating this flirtation and the absurdity of it all caught the eye of a man a few tables away. That man was Olivier.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Enter to Win I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting To Exhale is back with the inspiring story of a woman who shakes things up in her life to find greater meaning.

In I Almost Forgot About You, Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life–great friends, family, and successful career–aren’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, quitting her job as an optometrist, and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love. Like Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, I Almost Forgot About You will show legions of readers what can happen when you face your fears, take a chance, and open yourself up to life, love, and the possibility of a new direction.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Life at Two Speeds: A Parisian View of America

Food is always the first place to start when talking about the differences between Paris, where I grew up, and New York City, where living for a few years changed my life. The subject has been written about many times, how serious the French take their food and drink, how much Americans have to learn about French cooking and French eating and French everything. But I knew none of this when I first began living in New York as a Frenchwoman in her twenties, there to sell my uncle’s wine. It’s often like this: you cannot see your own culture clearly until you are taken out of it. So the first time I went out to dinner with my new friends in New York’s East Village was a shock, and only then did I realize what everyone takes for granted as the French attitude toward dining.

I should say first that things are always changing; the rules about what is “French” and what is “American” are lines that shift even if it’s hard to see in the moment. From my vantage point, I can see French culture receiving little injections of what could be considered American—the pace of life, at least in Paris; the way of doing business; even snacking between meals, which the French never used to do. As a Parisian who feels a little American herself, I may be doing my own small part. I believe in blending. In life, as in wine, it’s frequently an improvement.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Women’s Fiction Giveaway: The Assistants

A wry and astute debut about a young Manhattanite whose embezzlement scam turns her into an unlikely advocate for the leagues of overeducated and underpaid assistants across the city.

Tina Fontana is the hapless but brazen thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the all-powerful and commanding CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making his reservations for restaurants she’d never get into on her own and pouring his drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, she’s bored, broke, and just a bit over it all.

Excerpt Good for Book Clubs

Ina Garten’s Favorite Foodie Places in Paris

The Barefoot Contessa compiles her must-see, must-eat and must-drink spots in the City of Lights.

There are so many wonderful restaurants, specialty food stores, and cookware emporiums in Paris that it’s impossible for me to compile a complete directory. However, for anyone going to Paris, I thought I would compile a list of my favorite places—the ones I visit over and over again. If you are really interested in food, the most indispensable resource is Patricia Wells’s book The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris. I don’t leave home without it.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Carving Out a Place to Write in Paris

I had been to Paris often as a girl, on vacations to visit my mother’s family. Other Americans might swoon at the buttery croissants, the perfect foulards, the flower and cheese shops. But I knew Paris. Paris was shop-keepers who slapped children’s hands. Paris was sitting still for hours at the dinner table while my grandfather scolded me for using the wrong fork. It made me feel very French, to not love Paris.

Three years ago however, as I prepared to move from New York to Paris in order to write a book, I found myself suddenly awash with romantic visions. I imagined I would sit in the same chairs as Hemingway, be invited to join literary salons, stroll cobblestone streets that would leave me blinded with inspiration. I pictured myself at a round bistro table on a café terrace, an overflowing ashtray by my notebook, while French waiters gave me free café crèmes, simply because I was a regular, and they loved me. There was really no limit to my fantasies, no matter how much I told myself I knew better.

As soon as I arrived, I set about finding the café that would become my café. I settled on the closest one, on the corner: a large brasserie identical to all the others that lined the extra-wide Grand Boulevards. The street was a main axis, and the cafés along it catered to a high-turnover of tourists and businessmen on lunch breaks. The decor was black and modern and slick, the menu was printed in both English and French, and they served food at any hour of the day. Now that I have a better understanding of the nuances of French culture, I blush to think that I was ever naïve enough to believe this particular café could be mine.

Good for Book Clubs

RIF’s Favorite Reads of April

To be or not to be? To read or not to read? To read, of course. As usual, we spent this month with our noses in books, and we suspect you might have as well. With Willy Shakespeare’s birthday, a legendary musician’s death, and both the Bard and Prince’s connections to poetry (sonnets; lyrics), April has been one packed National Poetry Month. And whether or not you’ve been pranked recently—be it by friends on April 1 or by the fickle spring weather—we’re not fooling with our favorites.

Click on our favorites to buy them, and tell us in the comments which were your best April reads!