As I've mentioned here before, I don't know much about French history. I picked up La Belle France: A Short History (Alistair Horne, 2005) to help remedy that lack and give me a better sense of the context of the Napoleonic era.
It's not a perfect history. I caught a few errors--e.g. he treats droit de seigneur (the right of a lord to deflower the young women of his estate) as established fact, when AFAICT it's an urban legend, or at least dubious and poorly documented. Also, he has his dates off in at least one place; there was no US presidential election in 1970. But I do feel like I have a better understanding of what makes France tick, and of what happened in Europe between 1815 and 1914--a topic I know almost nothing about compared to the 19th century as experienced in America and in Britain and her empire.
Really, it's remarkable that a country as unstable as France was from 1789 right up to my own lifetime has held together as well as it has and is still important enough to play a role on the world stage.