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Bastille Day books

Happy Bastille Day! As Read Streeters know, I'm an incorrigible Francophile, though I stop short of shooting off fireworks to mark the storming of the infamous Parisian prison. (I do hope to celebrate with a plate of steak frites, especially since we have a house guest from Lyon for the next few weeks.) If you're in the mood to join the celebration, here are a few books to pick up:

Eiffel's Tower by Jill Jonnes. Jonnes, who lives in Baltimore, has crafted a cultural history of the Paris landmark and its creator, who was vilified by many while the tower was being built. She also weaves in Thomas Edison, Annie Oakley and other prominent personalities who attended the world's fair that brought us the tower, though I found their stories less compelling than Gustave Eiffel's.

The Discovery of France by Graham Robb. A full century after the revolution, France remained divided by a dizzying mess of linguistic and cultural barriers. Robb takes a very human look at the patchwork nation, examining its people and their customs -- while noting the forces that eventually brought unity.

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The Flaneur by Edmund White. In capturing the joy of wandering Paris' streets, White delivers short profiles of interesting characters, major historic events and neighborhoods.

Of the mysteries I've read recently, I'd pick Louis Bayard's The Black Tower over Cara Black's Murder on the Ile St. Louis and Fred Vargas' The Chalk Circle Man.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

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