Métronome was on the French best seller list for months before it came to my attention. Actually I don't pay any attention to what's hot in the French press because most of it is way beyond my capabilities. (And just as an aside, do you know the French term for "best seller"? Yes, that's correct: "best seller.") The only reason I picked it up is that my French teacher thought it would be a good book to read together. And she was right. Written by French actor Lorànt Deutsch, the book tells the history of France through a clever conceit: 20 chapters, each named for a station of the metro and each representing one century. The tone is light, the stories well told, and the reading level was well within my grasp. (Not that I didn't have to have a dictionary on hand, you understand.) And even though I've read quite a bit about French history since the Renaissance, this book provided an easy introduction to the preceding centuries, beginning with the Roman founding of the city of Lutece.
Deutsch followed up on the success with a companion book, Métronome Illustrée , that follows the same formula but replaces prose with photos, maps, and captions. Francophone or not, it's the perfect addition to your coffee table or nightstand. And stay tuned. Deutsch is hard at work on a follow up volume to be published in 2012; a television mini series, produced by France 5, is also in the works.