The Bookshelf

Travel writing

Barrie Kerper prepared hordes of research for her yearlong trip around Europe with her husband. Now she has distilled her cache into two books, one devoted to Paris, the other to Italy, launching a new series called The Collected Traveler: An Inspired Anthology & Travel Resource (Three Rivers Press). What makes them so delightful is not only the tremendous care that went into the selection of articles, but their thoughtful, learned introductions full of opinionated, practical information. In the Italy volume, ex-New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl reveals her favorite restaurants in Rome; bestselling author Frances Mayes describes market day in Camucia; the once Mrs. Pablo Picasso, Françoise Gilot, recalls de Chirico; and novelist Muriel Spark muses on Tuscany. In between are pieces on bareback horse racing in Siena, vin santo, Florentine cloisters, Lorenzo de' Medici, the best olive oils.
—Eliza Scott

The title of Edmund White's The Flâneur refers to a "stroller," someone "who loses himself in the crowd…and goes wherever caprice or curiosity direct his or her steps." This portrait of Paris, at once a deeply personal reflection and an extensively researched travel essay, is part of a new series, The Writer and the City (Bloomsbury). White, a Paris resident for 16 years, leads the reader from quartier to quartier, revealing the history that lies beneath the city. He pauses to take in minute detail and then strides on to see the big picture. A stroll through the Marais, for instance, turns into an exploration of the Jewish experience through history; a drink at the Montmartre hangout of expats Richard Wright and James Baldwin expands into a critique on cultural diversity.
—Simone Girner

Though most artists living in bohemian 19th-century Paris thrived, some couldn't get out fast enough. Vincent van Gogh wrote to his friend Paul Gauguin: "The noise of Paris was making such a bad impression on me that I thought it was wise, for the sake of my mind, to get away from it and to get out into the country." Beautifully illustrated in prints and photographs, Dana Micucci's Artists in Residence (The Little Bookroom) traces the path of eight painters whose enchantment with nature led them to France's most charming villages—and whose studios and homes are open to the public today. Some stayed in their adopted homes for a long time—Jean-François Millet, the "peasant painter," worked in picturesque Barbizon for nearly three decades; Vincent van Gogh spent only the last nine weeks of his short life in Auvers-sur-Oise. Each chapter concludes with practical travel information.
—Simone Girner

Ooh-la-la the charlotte, ooh the truffles, ahh the profiteroles…La Maison du Chocolat (Rizzoli) wows us with 65 outstanding dessert recipes (and corresponding color photos). This from legendary chocolatier Robert Linxe (with Michèle Carles), whose shops in Paris, Tokyo, and New York are beacons for sophisticated chocophiles.
—Mark Petrocelli