5 essential reads for every true Francophile

Books about France, written by the French

Most American Francophiles will tell you that one of their favorite books about France is Ernest Hemingway's classic memoir, A Moveable Feast. Against the backdrop of his signature high alcohol to low income ratio, Hemingway's account effortlessly captures the charming café culture of Paris and the trials of the struggling expatriate artist. To this I say an unenthused, "yeah, yeah."

This answer peeves me for a few reasons. One, that Hemingway's Paris, while lovely, is a bit of a fictional, touristy Paris. Two, while Hemingway might have been seen as an honorary Frenchman, just the fact that this book is written in English for an Anglophone audience discredits its place among the top books about France and French culture. Same thing with James Baldwin, Adam Gopnik, Julia Child. As an American Francophile myself, I know what it means to love a country not your own, but if I want to learn more about France, I don't want to hear it from Americans. I want to hear it from the French themselves. So here is my list of essential reads for the real Francophile.

1. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo


Let's just get this one out of the way. Of the romantics, Hugo is, in my opinion, the most skilled, the most diverse, and the most able to present a France that is uniquely beautiful in its disarray, in its misery. How better to know France's capital city than to know a comprehensive map of its sewer system? With characters that are as brutally real as their stories, the various adaptations just do not live up to Hugo's original, unabridged text.

2. Soumission by Michel Houellebecq


Houellebecq is not everyone's tasse de thé. To American audiences, he can verge on vulgar and has had quite a few scandals of insensitivity. But the guy can write. This book tells the story of a France in the near future that is overtaken by a new Islamic party, and of a bored college professor who submits to it. With hilarity that flirts with horror, Houellebecq earned his reputation as a prophetic, if polarizing, social commenter.

3. Ils Disent Que Je Suis Une Beurette by Soraya Nini


Hold on, we're not in Paris anymore. That's right, we're in an HLM called "Paradis." This is the story of a daughter of immigrants who struggles through school and tries to have a normal girlhood amidst her controlling household life and the degraded status of many immigrant families in France's banlieues. Written in the heartbreaking voice of a young girl named Samia who yearns for freedom, this book shows a side to France that Americans usually don't see.

4. Le Ventre de Paris by Émile Zola


If you're not obsessed with French food, you're not a real Francophile. Everyone knows that food makes up a major part of French culture, and this book is a love letter to all things gustatory. Florent Quenu moves in with his brother's family by the revolutionary new market of Les Halles. But the plot goes beyond just sumptuous descriptions of food; it's a greater statement on wealth and poverty and discouraging city politics.

5. Dans le Café de la Jeunesse Perdue by Patrick Modiano


Patrick Modiano is a Nobel Prize and Prix Goncourt winner, and one of France's most celebrated contemporary writers. This book is all about ambiance. The mysterious Louki is the ghostly subject of everyone's attention, as she plays into the lives of an underground society of creatures and criminals. The story offers a satisfying confusion that evokes characters in watercolor, barely distinguishable from the landscape itself.

French literature is a goldmine that runs kilometers deep. I've shown you the surface. Now dive in.

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Do Non-Melatonin Sleep Aids Really Work?

Objective makes a chocolate square.

I Can't Sleep.

I truly cannot remember the last time I had a good night's rest. Even before the stay-at-home orders, I was just a little ball of nerves.

But lately, it's been awful. I toss and turn, it's always too hot or even too cold, sometimes I make myself tea and read for a bit, but when I'm still up at 1 a.m., I reach for my phone and then I'm up until 3. My sister and I have a weekly call, and our small talk about our exhaustion turned into an hour long conversation about sleep.

I Thought I'd Tried Everything. Even Melatonin.

My sister asked why I hadn't gone for the old staple, melatonin and I reminded her about the time we traveled abroad, and it gave me the weirdest nightmares (the horrible kind where you wake up in your dream and you're still in a dream). Chamomile tea didn't work, nothing worked.

She said she had a friend who swore by something I definitely hadn't heard of.

They Were NOT Pills, Teas or Anything I'd Seen Before.

A company called Objective makes Fast Asleep, a sleep solution delivered as chocolatey treats. They're created with saffron and GABA. If going to sleep was as easy as eating a piece of these chocolatey, minty delights every night, I'd be sold.

What Exactly Was In It?

Cocoa contains caffeine, so I didn't know how this would help me sleep. After talking with my sister, I went online and saw that the calming, sleep-supporting ingredients cancel out any of the very little caffeine content.

Saffron, the spice, is apparently known to help with staying asleep, and their GABA is a fermented version of the neurotransmitter that's known to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In a study, 100% of customers saw improvement in their sleep quality thanks to saffron. One hundred percent!

Do I Try It?

A bag of 30 pieces was only $40, and they had a money-back guarantee.

They're keto-friendly and only 30 calories a piece, so not too decadent before bedtime.

They were chocolatey-minty, which is my favorite flavor, so I was sold. I ordered a bag to try.

The First Night, I Wasn't Impressed.

I took one piece (super yummy!) - 30-60 minutes before bedtime is recommended - but when I climbed in, I didn't notice a difference. I was worried I'd wasted my money.

However, once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which hasn't always been the case for me.

I checked the site again, and noticed that many people didn't notice a real difference until the third or fourth night - it builds up in your system over time, so I decided to keep an open mind the rest of the week.

The Second Night Was Completely Different

Without doing anything differently from the first night, my second night was amazing. I felt calm and sleepy as I was getting ready for bed, and once I hit the pillow, I was out the whole night.

It had to be these sweet treats. The next day, I even felt more balanced and relaxed - Fast Asleep helps boost serotonin levels and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and I definitely noticed a difference in my overall mood and alertness.

I Already Ordered More.

Just In Case! There's nothing habit-forming about this product, so it's completely safe to take every night, and I honestly always want to keep it in the house. I'd also love to offer it to anyone staying over in the guest room, whenever we have guests again.

Now that I'm getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel more equipped during the day to tackle the things I need to do and deal with some of my daytime stressors. I finally had the energy to clean the kitchen, which had been bothering me so much for the past few weeks.

With Objective's Fast Asleep, I get real sleep and balance my levels, so I don't have to feel tired during my waking hours. Sleep in the form of chocolate squares sounds so weird, but oh my goodness, do they work.

Our partners at Objective Wellness are currently offering a 25% discount if you use the coupon code STAYHOME. Check them out here!

Food & Drink

The Best Apps for Craft Beer Delivery

Try beers from all over the world–from your phone.

With breweries and distilleries out of business for the foreseeable future, your favorite beer may feel particularly out of reach this time of year, especially with the weather changing. But don't let quarantine suck all the fun out of summer. Luckily, thanks to technology, a lot of craft beer is now deliverable straight to your door step. Here are a few of the best apps to help make sure you stay up to date on the latest trendy brews.



Simplistic and elegant, Tavour allows users to easily fill up a box of beer over a period of time before shipping. The app offers more than 650 different breweries both local and national and is perfect for those who like to experiment. It's easy to use, and their menu rotates regularly so you and your beer never grow stale.



TapRM offers a wide range of both craft beers and hard seltzers. While based almost exclusively in New York City, the app offers fast, same day delivery from some of the best beer brands in the world. They also provide a unique selection of beers to help you find your new favorite. All you need to do is download the app and place your order!


Offering a stark variety of craft beer, Drizly allows its users to mix and match 12-packs, sixers or by the bottle. Their guarantee is that they can have whatever you order delivered to your house in less than an hour. You can even schedule your delivery for a specific time, with each delivery taking around 20-40 minutes.


Saucey takes delivery very seriously. When you order with them they guarantee that they'll deliver in 30-minutes or less, or they guarantee two day shipping. Also, beer aside, their entire liquor cabinet is also up for grabs. From tequila and whiksey, to vodka and wine, nothing is off the table for Saucey.

Beer Menus


For those who enjoy strictly local beers, BeerMenus features a tap list from local bars and a broader stock list from your neighborhood beer store. With that, you can make sure to create a list of your favorite beers in your neighborhood, so that when they're in stock you can be ready to go.