It’s hard to think of anyone who more fully embodies the French-girl aesthetic than Caroline de Maigret, the model and music producer who in 2014 co-wrote How to Be a Parisian Wherever You Are. Now Maigret and her co-author, the French film producer Sophie Mas (Ad Astra, Call Me By Your Name), turn their attention to aging gracefully the Parisian way with Older, but Better, but Older, out now from Doubleday. Here, Maigret shares her favorite books.
The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir
An essential book that defines the female sex, both literally and figuratively, questions its place in the world, and introduces the questions that a woman must ask herself. It was considered scandalous at the time of its publication, with the Catholic French writer François Mauriac saying that Beauvoir’s work had “literally reached the limits of the abject.” The Second Sex was as important then as it is now.
Blue Nights, by Joan Didion
A deeply moving autobiographical work about Joan Didion’s relationship with her adoptive daughter, Quintana, who died in 2005. I was especially haunted by Didion’s confession that for many years she listened only to the outline of what Quintana said. Ever since, I try to remember the importance of listening intently to what our children are trying to tell us.
Mémoire de Fille, by Annie Ernaux
In this book (available only in its original French), Ernaux sets up a dialogue between the woman she’s become and the young girl she was in the summer of 1958, when she had her first sexual experience. Ernaux interrogates her past in such a precise fashion, studying it from all angles, that reading about it is as enthralling as looking into a kaleidoscope.
Aimez-Vous Brahms?, by Françoise Sagan
Sagan is the indisputable archetype of the French female novelist. This is a story of someone struggling to go from young girl to young woman, perpetually torn between the desire to be young and having absolute happiness.
Sophie Calle: Did You See Me?
This conceptual artist has an amazing ability to look at herself from afar, making her reality seem like extraordinary fiction. Calle provokes accidents, makes up adventures, and turns those around her into actors in her own fantasies. This book—a retrospective on the French writer, photographer, and artist—offers inspiring ways to continually re-invent one’s own life.