Quiet Days in Clichy by Henry Miller
Quiet Days in Clichy
by Henry Miller
Olympia Press 1956 edition. Miller’s racy novel about bohemians in Paris and was illustrated by photographs from Brassaï.

The term Bohemian is somewhat vague and often misused. It refers to living an alternative lifestyle that is usually artistic. Writers, musicians, actors and artists have traditionally made up this untraditional group. Numerous Bohemian communities have existed around the world and attracted creative types looking to devote time to their passion rather than the 9-to-5 lifestyle of average Joes.

New York’s Greenwich Village, London’s Soho and Chelsea, and Paris’ Montmartre and Montparnasse are just some of the famous ‘Boho’ districts. There have been periods of time when it was possible to visit Greenwich or Soho and see budding writers scribbling in every cafe. An anthropologist would describe Bohemianism as a subculture.

Naturally many famous literary names have lived a Bohemian life or moved lock, stock and barrel to a Bohemian community. Think of the Americans (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton etc) who have journeyed to Paris because it was THE place to be creative.

The list of so-called Bohemian writers is lengthy – Oscar Wilde, Henry Miller, Robert Service etc – but the subject of the Bohemian lifestyle has been extensively written about in both fact and fiction. Lots of readers are interested in Bohemianism but don’t necessarily want to be Bohemians.

There have been many novels where people have moved to Bohemian communities, endured culture shock and succeeded or failed, and many more featuring a Bohemian-style romance as free love and sexual experimentation have always been important aspects.

This selection of books contains Bohemian-themed plots, books written by uber-Bohemians like Miller and non-fiction about the lifestyle itself. Many of our choices are vintage editions and we have not strayed into the Beat Generation or the Counterculture writing of the 1960s even though both of these subgenres are linked to Bohemianism.

It’s interesting to note that even today there are still books attempting to define or refine this subculture. Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks introduced the term ‘Bourgeois Bohemians’ for wealthy folks who adopt the creative, alternative lifestyle. Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge by Laren Stover attempts define the various sub-groups.

A Selection of Bohemian Books

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s famous account of his life in Paris - Crowley, Pound, Fitzgerald, Madox Ford, Belloc, Joyce and more.
The Amateur Bohemian by H.M. Clamp
The Amateur Bohemian
by H.M. Clamp

1930 romance novel from this rather prolific author of romantic books during this period.
The Woman Gives by Owen Johnson
The Woman Gives
by Owen Johnson

A 1916 romance set in Bohemian Greenwich village. Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.
Bohemia Junction by A.F. Tschiffely
Bohemia Junction
by A.F. Tschiffely

A 1950 memoir about a bohemian’s travels, including visits to Mexico, Texas, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
All Kneeling by Anne Parrish
All Kneeling
by Anne Parrish

1928 novel about a young female writer who goes to Bohemian New York. Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan starred in the movie version, Born to be Bad.
The Impossible Boy by Nina Wilcox Putnam
The Impossible Boy
by Nina Wilcox Putnam

1913 novel set in a Bohemian city based on Greenwich Village, involving a young painter, his bear and a girl. Arthur Keller illustrations.
Trilby by George du Maurier
Trilby
by George du Maurier

Du Maurier was an illustrator who turned to fiction. Trilby tells the story an artist and his model in Paris
Under a Glass Bell and Other Stories by Anais Nin
Under a Glass Bell and Other Stories
by Anais Nin

Published in 1944, this collection of short stories brought Nin, the bohemian’s bohemian, to the attention of literary critics.
Touch and Go by Ralph Cheyney
Touch and Go
by Ralph Cheyney

1926 debut book of poetry from Cheyney who moved in Bohemian circles. Blurbs include Robert Frost and illustrations by Herbert E. Fouts
Experiment by Dolf Wyllarde
Experiment
by Dolf Wyllarde

1933 romance novel about a failing marriage – the wife becomes a cruise ship nurse and the husband becomes a Bohemian author.
Gold by Gold by Herbert S Gorman
Gold by Gold
by Herbert S Gorman

1925 novel about a minor poet novel who abandons his wife for the bohemian life in New York.
New York Nights by Alexander E. Louhi
New York Nights
by Alexander E. Louhi

Published by Humanity Press in 1941, two young people go to New York for fame, fortune, and the Bohemian lifestyle.
Flecker’s Magic by Norman Matson
Flecker’s Magic
by Norman Matson

Scarce 1926 fantasy novel set in Bohemian Paris about an American art student in Paris and a magic ring.
Ballads of a Bohemian by Robert W Service
Ballads of a Bohemian
by Robert W Service

Barse & Hopkins’ 1921 edition of this famous book of verse about Bohemian Paris in the early 1920s.
Portrait of the Artist's Children by Edward Charles
Portrait of the Artist's Children
by Edward Charles

First published in 1935, this novel set in Bohemian London sees an artist leave his wife for his model.
Back to Montparnasse: Glimpses of Broadway in Bohemia by Sisley Huddleston
Back to Montparnasse: Glimpses of Broadway in Bohemia
by Sisley Huddleston

1931 account of ex-pat Americans and Brits living the Bohemian life in Paris - Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, Joyce, Pound etc.
Out of this Century - The Informal Memoirs of Peggy Guggenheim by Peggy Guggenheim
Out of this Century - The Informal Memoirs of Peggy Guggenheim
by Peggy Guggenheim

Dial Press 1946 edition of this memoir from a major patron of the arts – insight into artist life before WWII. Dust jacket by Jackson Pollock.
Collected Poems of Robert Service by Robert Service
Collected Poems of Robert Service
by Robert Service

First published in 1940. The much-travelled Service lived in the Paris Latin Quarter from 1913 until 1928.
An Indiscreet Guide to Soho by Stanley Jackson
An Indiscreet Guide to Soho
by Stanley Jackson

Undated, circa 1940/1950s. A vivid account of London’s and the places to visit for anyone looking for an alternative lifestyle.
The Moulin Rouge by Jacques Pessis
The Moulin Rouge
by Jacques Pessis

A history of this Paris institution from 1889 to the modern era.
The Bohemians: La vie De Boheme in Paris 1830-1914 by Joanna Richardson
The Bohemians: La vie De Boheme in Paris 1830-1914
Joanna Richardson

A history of the so-called golden age of Bohemia in Paris ranging from the famous to the unknown writers and artists on the Left Bank.
My Heart is in Greenwich Village by Seon Manley
My Heart is in Greenwich Village
by Seon Manley

A 1969 memoir about coming of age in Greenwich Village by a writer who lived there with her sister in 1940s.
Greenwich Village Today & Yesterday by Berenice Abbott & Henry W. Lanier
Greenwich Village Today & Yesterday
by Berenice Abbott & Henry W. Lanier

Photos by Abbott, text by Lanier. 1949 book filled with 70 photographs showing a vastly different city than today.
Bohemian San Francisco: Its Restaurants and their Most Famous Recipes; The Elegant Art of Dining by Clarence E Edwords
Bohemian San Francisco: Its Restaurants and their Most Famous Recipes; The Elegant Art of Dining
by Clarence E Edwords

An unusual book from 1914 that combines history with cuisine.
Bohemia in London by Arthur Ransome
Bohemia in London
by Arthur Ransome

Published in 1907, this is Ransome’s first major work as he describes the capital’s Bohemian areas - Soho, Chelsea, Hampstead etc

More to Discover




Cecil Beaton: Master of Photography, Writing & Design Fabulous Faber & Faber Catalyst of Change - Ellen Glasgow