To be read: French books for all skill levels
Updated: Oct 9, 2020
As summer comes to an end, you may be looking for a good book to get your mind refocused for the new school year. Why not make it a french book! Reading is one of the quickest ways to pick up new vocabulary words and see grammar concepts applied in a more natural context.
*Book recommendations will be sorted according to the Cognates fluency levels (complete beginner, beginner, intermediate, advanced and fluent)*
1) Histoires ou Contes du temps passé (Tales of Mother Goose) by Charles Perrault
When you're first learning French it can be helpful to already know the plot of the story you are reading so that you can more easily follow along. The original Mother Goose Tales aren't the same stories you heard as a kid. Much like the brothers Grimm's Fairy Tale’s they’re darker and more twisted takes on classic Disney stories.
1) Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This French classic appears on almost every French class syllabus, and for a good reason. I know you may think this is a children's book it's actually packed with metaphors about life, Love and War. The plot is linear so it's easy to follow but the language used is advanced so it's a great way of picking up new words.
2) La Nuit Des Temps by Rene Barjavel
This novel tells the story of an earth-shattering discovery beneath the Antarctic ice and a love story older than humanity itself. It's a perfect first full-length novel in French for upper beginner/lower intermediate-level students.
1) La Trilogie des fourmis by Bernard Werber
Although a book about ants may not sound all the interesting, trust me when I say you will not be able to put it down. In no time, all you’ll be thinking about is this empire of ants. The story follows a male human and a female ant. "When the human inherits a house and a strange message from his uncle, he goes into the cellar to try and solve the mystery—but never returns. When others follow him, they disappear as well. At the same time, the ant is on a foraging expedition that gets destroyed from an unknown source and she assumes another ant colony is trying to destroy them". (Fluent U summary)
2) Après la Foudre by Brian Selznick
Written by the same author as The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Après la Foudre takes the reader through a maze of stories that intersect in time. It offers a different perspective on the beloved story of Hugo Cabret while using a similar storytelling method of alternating between illustrations and text to tell a story.
1) Le livre pour enfants by Christophe Honoré
“Le livre pour enfants” is deceptively titled. It’s not a book for children but rather an autobiographical work that touches on human and philosophical themes, as well as Honoré’s childhood and life as an author and director.
2) L’Amant by Marguerite Duras
The novel tells the autobiographical story of the author and life in French Vietnam while exploring the attitudes of the day. It tells the story of an affair between a French girl born in colonial Vietnam and a local Chinese-Vietnamese businessman. The story is better known by the English film adaptation “The Lover” from 1992.
This book would be more suitable for upper intermediated or lower advanced readers.
1) Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
I'm sure by now you are well aware of the story of Les Miz. Whether you've seen the movie adaptations or the Broadway musical you are probably familiar with the story in some capacity. This is a long and difficult to get through the book but is one that is essential in the evolution of French literature. If you're looking for a good first step when diving into classic French literature or history, Les Miserables is great.