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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

When most readers indulge their fantasies about going back in time, they opt for science fiction, something like the work of H.G. Wells. But author Jake Halpern suggests another genre better suited for the would-be time traveler. It's for our series "You Must Read This," where authors talk about a book they love.

JAKE HALPERN: When I was 15 years old, I spent a few weeks in France, and I fell in love with girl named Nicole. We had one full day together, just the two of us, lying on the beach in Nice. I remember what she wore, even the way her hair smelled - like lavender.

II: (Reading) She was so chichi - the classic Parisian street urchin, given to storm- blown passions yet impossibly adorable - towing her coatless lover into a cafe so early in the rainy morning, so delighted with her own eccentricity, yet so vulnerable - blond shag hanging down to her eyes - that every one of them felt obliged to desire her. For she was, if only for a moment, some girl they'd once loved.

You read Alan Furst's "Night Soldiers" for moments like this - moments in cafes, on rooftops, in lovers' garrets, and on frigid trains bound for Moscow. You even take a perverse thrill in seeing the dank, gloomy cells of the Sontay Prison in Paris, if only to feel as if you were there and lived to tell.

You read Furst because when you crack open that binding, you don't smell glue, you smell the scent of espresso and the smoke of Gauloises cigarettes. And for a brief, transcendent moment, you're there.

NORRIS: Jake Halpern teaches at Yale University. He's the author of "Dormia." For more books, stories, reviews and commentary, and to comment on this essay, go to npr.org.

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