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!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

An Ode to Paris’s Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

Travel from Paris’s bustling, bohemian Latin Quarter, pass the baroque fountain at Place St. Michel, then cross over the Seine River to the Île de la Cité. Most onlookers would assume you’re headed to the 671-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral to witness its breathtaking flying buttresses and stained glass rose windows. But if, like me, you’re a literary nerd, you’re likely headed to a different site of religious devotion: the Shakespeare and Company bookstore.

In a glittering city brimming with historic treasures and head-turning architecture, Shakespeare’s is not to be missed, as important a place in literary history as the oft-visited Emily Dickinson museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. The original bookstore was the bookish hub of the 1920s and 30s in Paris, helmed by expat Sylvia Beach, who originally aimed to sell English language books to Americans in Paris. But her store quickly became a lending library and one-stop-shop for eventual Lost Generation legends like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound, who were all frequent visitors that dropped in to find their latest read or to receive an extra eye on their work.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Twice-Told Lists: 13 Books to Get You Stoked About Shakespeare’s Birthday

I know, I know, this is another one of those Shakespeare lists to celebrate his birthday (and his death day), which is estimated to be on April 23rd—it’s like, c’mon, we get it. Shakespeare was the best writer ever. Woo hoo. Who cares? What relevancy can Shakespeare possibly maintain over the course of 400 years?

Well, that’s what I’m here to try to communicate, and to do so I needed to make not one but two lists: one focusing on the richest and most convincing nonfiction books ever written on the Bard, and another highlighting Shakespeare’s profound influence on contemporary fiction. Between the two lists, I think we can understand Shakespeare’s historical legacy and his lasting effect on writers of today.

(NB: neither of these lists even pretends to be authoritative and complete; rather, they represent merely a sampling of myriad books I could have chosen but that necessity forced me to exclude.)

Excerpt Good for Book Clubs

An Excerpt from How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare

I’ve been teaching Shakespeare to my children since they were six years old. I’m a bit of a Shakespeare fanatic, and it occurred to me when my daughter was in first grade that if there was any skill—any single area of learning and culture—that I could impart to her while we were both healthy and happy and able to share things together in a calm, focused, pre-teen way, then Shakespeare was it.

I began the process by teaching her lines from my favorite Shakespeare comedies; and as I continued with this method and expanded it to include my son, I became convinced that the way into the subject—the way to introduce someone to Shakespeare for the first time so that it doesn’t feel daunting and yet has real integrity—is to memorize it. First a few lines, then whole speeches.

With Shakespeare, memorizing is the key to everything.

A great deal of this book will involve memorizing speeches from Shakespeare’s plays. Along the way we’ll discuss other important aspects of Shakespeare—the stories, the verse, the imagery, the characters—everything that you and your children should know in order to understand how Shakespeare changed the world.

Two good questions arise right away: Why Shakespeare? And why memorize it?

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Chris Pavone’s Favorite Place to Stay in Paris

I’ve stayed in more than a dozen hotels in Paris, scattered across eight different arrondisements in all sorts of circumstances—with my family and by my lonesome, on a honeymoon and on a European book tour, as a sanity-restoring getaway from my life as an expat trailing spouse in Luxembourg, on a tight budget and a weeklong lease and one money-is-no-object night.

If you’re hoping that I’m about to reveal an inexpensive secret, I’m sorry to disappoint. All my low- and midrange hotels featured at least a few of the expected drawbacks, maybe even all of them.

On the other end of things, I’ve stayed in exactly one of those super-luxury grand hotels on the Right Bank that form a red-carpeted zigzag across the rue Saint-Honoré, from the Meurice at the Louvre out to the George V; they’re all similarly priced, these places, which is to say exorbitant.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

My Years in Provence

It is safe to say that starting a new life on the European continent, particularly in an old house, is a literary genre of its own. Indeed, since a certain English gentleman chose to write about twelve months of his life in a certain corner of France, it’s bloomed into a sort of pan-cultural archetype. It spread to the movies with films like Chocolat, which added Johnny Depp and confectionery to the mix; not a bad idea, I feel. You are, I am sure, familiar with what I call the Mayle Literary Cycle: the protagonist, real or fictional, moves to a European country (usually southern), introduces us to a certain number of quaint rural types, eats a lot of good meals, and learns that life really is better when it contains quantities of red wine, olive oil, goat cheese, and—depending on the author—love, sweet love. Now I am certainly in favor of red wine, olive oil, goat cheese, and sweet love, in approximately equal amounts, which is to say, lots. But I didn’t come to Alba for any of that. In fact, twelve years ago, when I arrived, I often wondered why I had come here, trying to write a book about my grandparents and their mysterious, war-torn marriage in a decrepit stone house in an isolated medieval hamlet on the northern edge of the south of France.