Provence has been the canvas for many a painting throughout the centuries – a place where Cézanne, Picasso and Van Gogh beautifully captured the colours and light in some of their greatest works. When it comes to written works, the vivid descriptions and dreamy photographs of the following books about Provence can have a similar effect on the soul.
With this set of books set in Provence, France, you can indulge in whichever aspect of this bucolic region takes your fancy – whether that’s personal anecdotes of people living in this area of southern France, learning how to cook delicious Mediterranean food, where to visit the best markets, or learning about changing face of Provence across the decades through classic tales.
There’s also no better way to prepare for a trip than reading a book about the region you’re about to visit. So whether you’re planning a trip to Provence, or just dreaming about one, these are the best books to enjoy now.
One of the finest Provence coffee table books on the market today is Provence Glory. Written by French author and food critic François Simon, this photographic masterpiece encapsulates all that is the region and more.
With vivid descriptions of lavender fields, turquoise waters of the Calanques, native Camargue horses, and delightful food analogies, you’re instantly drawn into the Provençal world.
An array of seducing imagery accompanies, portraying Provence from a dreamers perspective – a table outdoors, with crisp white linens set for lunch beneath shady plane trees, the wooden fishing boat hauling in the daily catch, and the festivals that bring locals and tourists together in a celebration of life.
A definite must-read for anyone thinking about making Provence their holiday, or more permanent destination.
My personal favourite, An American in Provence tells the story of Jamie Beck, an artist and author who left New York on a year’s sabbatical in search of new experiences in the south of France – and is still here 7 years later.
Jamie’s bestselling book is infused with artistry and romance – the idealism of making a new life in another country brought to fruition on every single page.
Her work is a blend of travel guides, photography tutorials, and recipes; with stories from her personal journey sprinkled throughout.
Francophiles and culinary connoisseurs will love learning how to make fresh tagliatelle with asparagus or tarte au citron from the farm-to-table recipes she shares. There’s also exquisite imagery and still life photography throughout, some of which is beautifully Monet-esque, or reminiscent of the Old Masters.
A dream of many is to live in a beautiful French Mas (farmhouse) with cornflower blue shutters and honey-hued stonework, but what lies within such houses?
You’ll find all of the answers in Provence Style: Decorating with French Country Flair.
The author, Shauna Varvel, uses her own 18th-century country house in the Rhône Valley as a central focus of the book, inspiring designers everywhere with her reimagined property – an expression of Provence with a hint of Parisian glamour.
The book covers how to decorate everywhere in the home from living rooms to bedrooms and outdoor patios. It’s a journal of style, colour and creativity, that indeed places you in southern France.
When Peter Mayle and his wife decided to relocate from the UK to a remote 200-year-old farmhouse in the Luberon in the 1980s, nothing prepared them for the awaiting treats in store.
This book tells a relatable story for anyone who has moved to or stayed in a foreign country for any length of time. It will also appeal to those who are thinking about doing so!
A Year in Provence is written with authenticity, vivid descriptions, and expression – chronicling a mountain of experiences from the perils of home renovation.
Mayle describes everything from the slower pace of life in a brand new culture, to the village, countryside, and characters they encounter during their early days in France.
It’s a lighthearted, witty read with many hilarious aspects, particularly as they navigate the quirks of local events, traditions, and food – and then there’s of course the language difference…
The Promise of Provence is written by Canadian author, and self-confessed Francophile Patricia Sands. It’s a charming fictional story about how one woman falls in love, not with a person, but with a place.
When difficult times befall the protagonist in the story, she finds herself in the hilltop villages of the south of France, desperately seeking a new start.
The book is masterful in its portrayal of the heroine, the descriptions of the French countryside and the experiences she encounters.
A story of hope and perseverance, of finding happiness in yourself, coupled with the skills of negotiating a new life in a different country make this a lovely read and inspiration for all.
The seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs of Provence take centre stage in this elegant Provence cookbook.
The author, Caroline Rimbert Craig, who lives in Provence, extols the people, the produce, the seasons, and the land of this glorious region of France.
The hardback book contains 100+ simple, easy-to-cook recipes passed down from her family who lived in the foothills of Mont Ventoux.
Her love of Provence is palpable, oozing from every page – she shares heartwarming stories of farming and foraging on the land, journalling her tales of gathering the finest herbs, vegetables, and cold-pressing olive oil.
The recipes are accompanied by high-quality photographic images designed to make your mouth water or tempt you to book your next flight to France.
A great holiday read and New York Times bestseller, The Lost Carousel of Provence allows the reader to step back in time – to the early 1900s, into a fictional story set in the south of France.
The story follows an American photographer to a lonely chateau and its vintage carousel that sits on the crumbling ancestral estate.
A plot filled with twists, turns and intrigue keeps you hooked throughout with plenty of clues along the way to bringing a long-forgotten family secret to light.
The author Juliet Blackwell, clearly adores Provence, writing with such detail and knowledge of the area, people, and language of the time – it’s clear that much research has been done to ensure the genre is just right. The story flips from past to present day, making you want to continue reading to the very end.
Even if you’re not travelling to France this year, the sights and sounds of Provence’s local markets can still be experienced through the literary eyes of Marjorie R. Williams.
Provençal markets are the beating heart of any town or village, and in this book, we catch an evocative glimpse into the soul of each place – the rich history, delicious foods, and regional wines of each market.
This pocket book is a helpful, practical guide detailing 30 of the most popular Provence markets complete with maps, opening information, and buying etiquette.
There are local restaurant recommendations for the finest French food, useful hints and tips for shopping, and a bunch of helpful French phrases to help navigate your visit.
Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog is a thoroughly relatable book as to how a former lawyer – author Jamie Ivey, left his job in England and travelled along with his wife to search for a better quality of life in France.
The book follows their foray into a wine business, training a dog to become a truffle sniffer and highlights their numerous house-building challenges along the way.
His account of encountering bewildering customs, local behaviours, and the secretive trufficulture, will resonate with anyone who has migrated to another country (or dreams of doing so) and faced similar challenges.
It’s a fun read for anyone interested in Provençal cuisine, and also those who have wondered what it could be like to build a new life in France.
Published in 1992, Toujours Provence is a delightful continuation of Peter Mayle’s love affair with the idyllic, charming region of Provence in southern France.
This sequel to A Year in Provence (featured above) offers more humorous and heartwarming tales of Mayle’s experiences living in the French countryside.
Mayle’s writing transports readers to Provence, where they can almost taste the local cuisine, smell the lavender fields, and hear the lilt of local gossip.
He captures the essence of Provençal culture and character through engaging anecdotes about local traditions, encounters with eccentric neighbours, and the joys and challenges of rural life.
From the truffle markets in winter to the wine harvest in fall, the book takes readers on a journey through the seasons, showcasing the region’s annual rhythm and rituals.
The author’s charming wit, keen observation, and palpable love for Provence bring the region and its people to life, making “Toujours Provence” a delightful armchair travelogue that both entertains and inspires.
Two Towns in Provence is a deeply personal and evocative memoir by the esteemed food writer, M. F. K. Fisher.
She doesn’t merely describe; she ensnares the reader’s senses, transporting them to the bustling open-air markets, charming cafés, and familial kitchen hearths that define the culinary landscape of Provence.
One of the more unique books on Provence, it’s a beautifully rendered memoir, a love letter to a region and its people, penned by a writer whose passion for life and food shines through every page.
This book is an immersive sojourn that transcends the bounds of travel and food literature, inviting the reader to savour the profound pleasures and textures of life in Provence.
Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934, Tender is the Night was inspired by time spent on the French Riviera with his wife Zelda and their daughter Francis in the 1920s.
It was while here that he was inspired to write The Great Gatsby, but Tender is the Night is the only one of his books set in Provence France.
The book is said by critics to be one of his most emotive, yet it’s only in recent years it has gained further popularity.
The book is autobiographical in parts and took Fitzgerald years to complete – it shows the romance, trials and tribulations of the years they spent as a family in France, and although not an overly uplifting read, it’s emotional and heartfelt, and a must for anyone who enjoys the classics and is interested in exploring his works.
One for those who enjoy historical fiction, Village in the Vaucluse – a book by Laurence Wylie, offers a fascinating insight into life in the small Provence village of Peyrane just after the Second World War.
The author spent time in France in the 1950s, and in the book, he documents the idiosyncrasies of rural living – one bus service a week to Avignon, hardly any indoor plumbing and just two phones for the entire village.
The stark contrast from then to now will highlight how much evolution and technology has advanced us.
There’s something pure and inviting about his story – the sounds of villagers chatting, a lively community spirit and the general simplicity of life.
This lighthearted book is infused with romance, cooking, Provençal escapes, and just a tiny hint of mystery.
Cooking for Picasso, written by Camille Aubray, is a story that takes place in 1936 in Juan-les-Pins in a family-owned café, where Pablo Picasso has just arrived incognito…
There are in-depth references to art, cuisine and local culture, and the book skips between present-day New York and 1930s French Riviera, featuring a mix of fictional characters alongside some famous residents of the era.
It’s a delightful read for holiday time, and with wonderful depictions of the scenery of Provence and culinary treats intertwined, it’s sure to be a favourite for anyone planning to visit.
From the author and award-winning photographer of An American in Provence, Jamie Beck, The Flowers of Provence pays homage to the stunning French countryside – a treat for nature lovers, virtual travellers and anyone interested in her spellbinding, ethereal photography.
This Provence coffee table book is brimming with personal stories and visuals that will encourage everyone to step outside and connect with nature.
The subjects, which include still lifes, hidden gardens, and summer lavender, are captured beautifully, and the colours, scenery and accompanying prose allows the reader to be transported to the landscapes alongside Jamie and her camera.
The book is also infused with tips for cutting and preserving flowers, and there are arrangement tutorials from local artisans, allowing the reader to create their own works of art and become part of a greater story.
There’s something for everyone’s taste in this list of books about Provence. From photographic masterpieces to culinary and interior design books, fictional tales and autobiographical travel and lifestyle stories, you’re sure to find one, two, or more that will have you dreaming of a Provençal escape!