30+ Best French Books to Read in French

Elevate your French with our curated list of French books for beginners. 🚀

30+ Best French Books to Read in French

If you’re currently learning French, the best technique to grow your vocabulary is to read in French. French books for beginners are a great way to get used to the language, learn new French words and start to regard the language as if it were your mother tongue. Not into reading? Fear not. Reading in French is just as effective for your vocabulary, even if you read just short stories or comic books.

The Best French Novels for Beginners

  1. Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint Exupéry
  2. Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicholas) by René Goscinny
  3. L’Étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus
  4. Oscar et la dame rose (Oscar and the Lady in Pink) by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
  5. Astérix le Gaulois (Astérix le Gaulois) by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
  6. Les Aventures de Tintin (The Adventures of Tintin) by Hergé
  7. Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur (Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief) by Maurice Leblanc
  8. Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) by Françoise Sagan
  9. Le Château de ma mère (My Mother’s Castle) by Marcel Pagnol
  10. Les Misérables (The Miserables) by Victor Hugo
  11. Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas) by Jules Verne
  12. Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  13. Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers) by Alexandre Dumas
  14. Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black) by Stendhal
  15. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  16. Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) by Alexandre Dumas

If you’re a beginner eager to read in French, it’s best to start with the first book on this list of French novels and then progressively work your way through. This approach ensures that as the texts become more complex, your French reading skills will improve accordingly. As a special highlight, the final recommendations are French classics books that everyone should read in their lifetime.

Naturally, this list is exclusively dedicated to books originally written in French, because reading them in the original language ensures you experience the full depth and nuances, which can sometimes be lost in translation. However, if we’re talking about a very good translation, you can definitely also read French translations of foreign books. For instance, after you’ve tackled the first six books on our list, I highly recommend reading Harry Potter in French. Targeted at young readers, the initial books in the series are perfectly suited for beginners.

book in French

How to Choose the Best French Books for New Learners

The best French novels for new learners are ones you’ve already read. No, really. Take it from me—a language learner at heart. I perfected my English, Spanish, and French by reading books, and I strongly recommend you do the same to improve your French.

Reading in French, if your French is not that good, can be challenging at first. That’s why I always suggest starting with a book you have already read in your native language. It could be your favorite book or simply one you want to experience again. Being familiar with the story can significantly ease your first foray into reading a book in French.

As you progress through the pages, you’ll notice a gradual increase in your familiarity with French. You’ll start to deduce the meanings of unknown words from the context and learn French in a natural way. Even better, if you read an eBook in French on a Kindle, you can leverage the dictionary feature to learn new words simply by tapping on them.

After finishing, you can move on to a book you’ve never read before—in any language. However, depending on your French level, I’d suggest opting for a French novel for beginners, like Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), which is technically a novella.

Let’s recap. This is how to start reading in French:

  1. Read your favorite book first (or just a book you read before) as it will help you get used to reading in French;
  2. Continue with a short and accessible book that uses simpler language – like Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince);
  3. Repeat the first two steps with different books if reading in French doesn’t feel like home yet;
  4. Go on with more complex books, but don’t jump straight to French philosophy! Easy does it.

The secret to choosing the best books to read in French is to proceed step by step. Begin with shorter, simpler books that use straightforward language, and gradually progress to longer and more complex French books. Throughout this journey, avoid putting pressure on yourself. Reading should be enjoyable, especially when you pick genres that you love. So, make the most of your French reading experience — it will significantly benefit your French studies!

Top French Authors You Should Know

  • Victor Hugo
  • Alexandre Dumas
  • Jules Verne
  • Gustave Flaubert
  • George Sand
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Guy de Maupassant
  • Voltaire
  • Albert Camus
  • Marcel Proust
  • Molière
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Émile Zola
  • Stendhal
  • Honoré de Balzac

The history of French literature is rich and extensive. Some of the world’s most celebrated authors are French, and you can discover them in this list of top French authors that everyone should know. However, if you want to learn to read French, it’s important to approach it step by step. If you’re just starting out, avoid diving straight into the complex works of Émile Zola or Jean-Paul Sartre. Instead, start with more accessible authors like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Victor Hugo. You might not be ready to tackle the greatest French novels from day one, but with enough work and patience, you’ll eventually get there.

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Romance French Novels for Incurable Romantics

  • L’amant (The Lover) by Marguerite Duras
  • La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias) by Alexandre Dumas fils
  • Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
  • Chéri by Colette
  • Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) by Françoise Sagan
  • Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) by Victor Hugo
  • Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A very long engagement) by Sebastien Japrisot
  • Suite française by Irène Némorovsky
  • Le Grandes Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier

My number one rule for reading in French as a beginner is simple: read what you love. If that means diving into French romance novels, then embrace it! When you’re starting to read in French, there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ book genre.

Think about the types of books you enjoy in your native language. If history books aren’t your thing in English, chances are you won’t suddenly find a passion for them in French.

Let’s be honest—everyone enjoys a captivating romance novel now and then. The fact that it’s in French only adds to the charm, making it a delightful bonus on your journey to learning French!

Best French Short Stories for Bite-Sized Reading

  1. Short Stories in French for Beginners by Olly Richards and Richard Simcott
  2. Les Contes de la rue Broca (The Stories of Broca Street) by Pierre Gripari
  3. Les Contes de ma mère l’Oye (Tales of Mother Goose) by Charles Perrault
  4. Contes de la bécasse (Tales of the woodcock) by Guy de Maupassant
  5. Contes du jour et de la nuit (Tales of Day and Night) Guy de Maupassant
  6. La Cafetière et Autres Contes Fantastiques (The Coffee Pot and Other Fantastic Tales) by Théophile Gautier
  7. Les Diaboliques (The Diabolicals) by Barbey d’Aurevilly
  8. Voyage à Marseille (Voyage to Marseille) by Sylvie Lainé
  9. Short Stories in French: New Penguin Parallel Text edited by Richard Coward

We mentioned we would discuss short stories, didn’t we? Indeed, French short stories are an excellent starting point if you’re looking to begin reading in French. They offer a quick and accessible way into the language without requiring hours of commitment, facilitating a smoother transition.

Whether you’re into reading or not, French short stories are the absolute best choice for beginners. They are the bite-sized reading you need when starting out to not tire your brain for too long. And that’s perfect!

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned reader or not, French short stories represent the ideal choice for beginners. They provide just the right amount of content to engage with without overwhelming your brain. This makes them perfect for dipping your toes into French reading without getting fatigued. Truly, they are the bite-sized introduction to the language that you need when starting your journey.

read in French

Making the Most of Free French Ebooks

If you’re anything like me, you love reading on a Kindle. Sure, nothing compares to the smell of a new book. But reading French eBooks on a Kindle gives you access to a special feature that can speed up your learning journey: the built-in dictionary feature. Found a word you don’t know? Simply tap on it to see its definition instantly.

Fortunately, Project Gutenberg offers hundreds of free French eBooks, so be sure to explore their collection. You will also find some of the books we recommended. For those who prefer audiobooks, Librivox is an excellent resource where you can find French audiobooks for free. However, keep in mind that listening to books in French might be somewhat more challenging than reading them, especially for beginners.

Before you go, make sure to check out these FAQs.

How can reading French books benefit language learning?

Reading French books offers a multidimensional approach to language learning, immersing readers in the linguistic rhythms, vocabulary, and cultural nuances of the French language. This method not only enhances reading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition but also exposes learners to various grammatical structures and idiomatic expressions in context, promoting a deeper understanding of the language.

Can short stories help beginners in French reading?

Yes, short stories are highly beneficial for beginners in French reading. They offer a manageable and engaging way to immerse oneself in the language without the overwhelming commitment required by longer French novels. Short stories provide exposure to diverse vocabulary, grammar, and cultural contexts within a concise format, making it easier for learners to grasp the nuances of French language and storytelling. This format allows for quick comprehension checks and the satisfaction of completing a narrative in a shorter period, encouraging continued reading and practice.

Are there any free resources for French eBooks and audiobooks?

Yes, there are excellent free resources available for those looking to access French eBooks and audiobooks. Project Gutenberg’s French eBook Collection is a treasure trove of French literature, offering a wide range of classic texts in French that are freely available to the public. Similarly, Librivox offers a fantastic selection of French audiobooks for free, allowing learners to listen to French literature narrated by volunteers.

In conclusion, diving into French reading as a beginner might seem daunting at first, but with the right approach and resources, it can become the best part of your French learning journey. Starting with familiar stories or genres you love, progressing through a thoughtfully curated list of French novels that gradually increase in complexity, and making use of eBooks, are all strategies that will not only enhance your French vocabulary but also to deepen your appreciation for the language’s literary heritage.

What other French books would you recommend for beginners? Let us know in the comments!

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Diana Lăpușneanu - Linguist at Mondly Blog

Diana is a Linguist at Mondly by Pearson. Learning English as a second language early on fueled her lifelong passion for language learning, leading her to pursue a diverse array of languages as a hobby alongside her academic endeavors. With a Master’s Degree in advertising and a fascination for historical linguistics, she brings a unique perspective to her role, making language learning fun for readers worldwide.

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