If you're interested in the City of Light, or the history of the esoteric, or European history, or if you just like a weird and persuasive story, then you'll enjoy Tobias Churton's Occult Paris.

"Occult Paris aims to fill the gap in cultural knowledge that ignorance and materialist hostility to the category of the spiritual has created." Within this frame Churton presents an alternative, "unjustly forgotten" side of European art history. Forming in the late 1880s in contrast to Impressionsim, the Symbolists are the center of his story--those who thought art and the developments of technology didn't come at the expense of spirituality. Tracing the life and philosophy of Josephin Peladan--a writer and art critic who formed an alternative 'Salon' based in gnostic Catholicism--the book resuscitates a line of artistic inclination different from the "smooth 'progressive' transmission of genius from Impressionism and post-Impressionism to the full force of twentieth-century modernism occupied by expressionism, surrealism, and abstract expressionism."

Make no mistake, the book is dense and well-sourced. Churton makes a full (often conjectural) analysis of why this alternative movement came about when it did and why it deserves to be considered. Situated around Edmond Bailly’s bookshop in Paris's 9th arrondissement, the book is also a love story to France and the Belle Epoque. Churton is effusive on every page, whether trudging through 19th century European history or recontextualizing medieval ideas of the Magus and the Hierophant. His story, however bizarre, is a great antidote to what we think we know.