6 Best Books All French Language Learners Must Read

6 Best Books All French Language Learners Must Read

“We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly.”
Kató Lomb

Kató Lomb had it right!

With that said, honing your language skills should be enjoyable and lucrative. While studies have shown that reading improves vocabulary, grammar, and mechanics, its benefits remain underestimated.

Reading is the surefire method to acquire a language fast and effectively. It also promotes other language skills such as writing, speaking, and listening.

French books

Reading Classic French Books To Learn French

The best way to understand grammar rules and increase your vocabulary in French is to read books. Besides, the additional plus is that you get an awesome story line that can be so interesting that you are glued to your book!

In the list below, we have chosen 6 of the best French books for beginners to get you gradually immersed into this beautiful language.


Le Petit Prince

1. Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)

By Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Level: Beginner/ Lower intermediate

The author, Saint-Exupéry, was a French writer and aviator. He was also part of the aristocratic society and laureate of the French highest literary award. During WWII, Saint-Exupéry’s plane disappeared over the Mediterranean sea while on a reconnaissance mission. His most famous work remains Le Petit Prince which was translated into 301 languages and dialects.

Le Petit Prince is a philosophical tale in the form of a children’s story. The story follows the travels of a little boy on various planets as he addresses themes such as love, friendship, and loneliness. The book is fantastical and full of observations about life.

This piece of French literature never ceases to amaze people of all ages. Its simple language and beautiful illustrations made by the author himself are bound to captivate you as a language learner.

The simplicity of the book’s language makes it suitable for A2 to B1 level learners. You would only need a dictionary to look up the new words. Le Petit Prince is also a great help for conversations as the book includes several dialogues.

We also chose this book because of the amazing linguistic skill of using simple words to present a deep and meaning message throughout the book. Therefore, it deserves the first place on our list!


2. L'Étranger (The Stranger)

By Albert Camus

Level: Upper intermediate/ Advanced

You might have known Albert Camus for his deep interest in the philosophical movement known as absurdism. A French author, philosopher, and journalist, Camus published various written works among them is L'Étranger. A novella whose theme revolves around absurdism and existentialism. The message of the book is simply that life is absurd.

People who read this book often end up reflecting on the meaning of their life, their core values, and the legacy that they will leave behind. It also provides a new perspective to life in contrast to the modern materialistic and capitalist view that we are used to.

Are you curious yet? If not, then think of it as a way to discover another side of French literature. The tone of the book is somewhat that of ponderation; the essence of the story makes you think about life and its intricacies.

This book is a chef-d'œuvre of French literature. However, it can prove to be an extensive read for beginners. The complexity of the language better suits B2 learners and above. But, if you want to challenge yourself then this book is the right pick!

Les Fables De La Fontaine

3. Les Fables de La Fontaine (La Fontaine’s Fables)

By Jean de La Fontaine

Level: Beginner/ Lower intermediate

Jean de La Fontaine, a French fabulist of the 17th century, compiled a collection of fables from different origins. Humorous and ironic, La Fontaine’s fables paved their way into the educational system.

While these are only fables that convey a moral, La Fontaine’s Fables are the most resourceful piece of reading that will sharpen your mind. The fables depict a mastery of techniques such as sarcasm and irony in the French language. There is no doubt that this collection of little stories will sharpen your mind.

La Fontaine has also smartly used animal metaphors to represent the different characters and personalities that we find in society. One of the famous representations is the cunning fox and the hard working ant.

What’s even more exciting is that all French language learners from novices to avid experts can enjoy La Fontaine’s work. The language employed in the text is simple and accessible to every reader.

This book is featured on our list because of the short stories, which makes it easier for beginners to understand, and for the deeper meaning that each of these stories have. You will definitely enjoy them!

Le Petit Nicolas

4. Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicolas)

By René Goscinny

Level: Beginner/ Lower intermediate

Now, this one is a series of children’s books narrated from the point of view of the main character, Nicolas, a schoolboy. The book aims at showing an idealization of school for children. Goscinny’s writing highlights the perkiness of children and their unique sense of humor.

The little life of students as portrayed in the books is more exciting than you could imagine. In other words, you will learn the language while enjoying yourself.

The books also contain loads of slang words used by school children. What a great way to improve your language skills! Picking up a few words from the books will most certainly be of great use in a conversation.

Given that it is a children’s book, Le Petit Nicolas is most appropriate for all levels of French language learning.

This book is also a great way for children to learn French. The kids will be able to relate to the adventures of little Nicolas and his friends while still enjoying and understanding the easy French grammar!

Le Comte De Monte Cristo

5. Le Comte de Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo)

By Alexandre Dumas

Level: Upper intermediate/ Advanced

Le Comte de Monte Cristo is a novel inspired by real-life events, notably the life of Pierre Picaud. A historical and adventure novel, The Count of Monte Cristo tells the story of a man who was wrongfully and deliberately arrested and his revenge against those who plotted against him.

This adventurous tale will keep you on your toes… for a very long time. With close to 2000 pages in the original book, Le Comte de Monte Cristo is a long read. Nevertheless, the novel gives a compelling impression of French literature and language.

You can enrich your vocabulary with a panoply of new words from the book. Also, being exposed to great works of writing can help improve your own as well. After all, the mastery of language comes first and foremost through reading.

We chose this book if you enjoy a long movie with different plots in the story. If you have already mastered the basics of the French language, this book will bring your level up a notch. Why not take on this new challenge!

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

6. Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous liaisons)

By Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Level: Upper intermediate/ Advanced

Now this one is different. Les liaisons dangereuses stands as an epistolary and libertine novel first published in 1782. The story follows the social life of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two ex-lovers who use seduction as a manipulation tool. The story unfolds as they set up their schemes to obtain revenge.

Some claim that this book tries to depict the corrupt and wretched French society before the Revolution. All this is an attempt to further undermine the Ancien Régime that dictated life before the French Revolution. Others, on the other hand, just condemn the book as being the tale of two immoral people.

Either way, Les liaisons dangereuses is as interesting as its name suggests. If you enjoy reading some scandalous scenes and different twists in the story, this book is the right one for you!


Bonus Language Tips To Combine With Reading

1. Read as often as possible

Practice makes perfect. The saying is true when learning a new language. Hence, reading as many as two pages a day can make the difference. Remember, you will only see progress when your efforts are consistent.

2. Prioritize extensive reading over intensive reading

You might instinctively engage in intensive reading - the method used across the formal educational system. However, language learning requires extensive reading. In other words, you must read less but more frequently.

The benefit of extensive learning is that you get familiar with the peculiarities of the language without tiring yourself.

3. Pay attention to the verb tenses

Once you have developed the habit of extensive reading, the next step is to focus on verb tenses. You should also try to notice the specific words that go with certain tenses.

The crucial part of this exercise is to be able to recognize verb tenses and use them in conversations.

4. Look up important words only

Well, you cannot expect to look up all the words that you come across. I would suggest you look up words that appear more often. Chances are that these are the words that we use in everyday speech.

You can use a dictionary or a translator, but do not dive too deep. Knowing only the basics can help you get by just as much. The rest will come naturally.

Also, you should not look up all the words in your dictionary as you read them. Instead, keep a notebook about the words you need to find the meaning of and get back to it later.

This forces your brain to try to understand the word within the context. You can check if you are right later.

5. Seek a general understanding

You must keep in mind that you will not be assessed on your language skills per se. Rote learning is a waste of time and resources.

While reading to improve your French skills requires you to understand the context, it is not necessary to go into the details of the reading material.

You are learning the language, not the text. Having only a general understanding of the reading material is better for beginners.

6. Choose the right reading material

You need to read things that are at the right level for you. It is the only way to improve your skills. Otherwise, you won’t enjoy the learning process.

Reading The Stranger by Albert Camus while you are only a beginner is not a good idea. Therefore, another suggestion would be to read things that are just slightly above your level.

This way you will be challenged to focus on the reading.

7. Enjoy reading in French

Extensive reading should be a fun time for you. Building a regular habit requires discipline, but most importantly motivation.

So, you should read material that interests you and enjoy them!

Reading a book

Take On The Challenge

Now that we have arrived at the end of our article, we hope that it has inspired you to start reading French books. There are so many more interesting stories out that you can choose from, so do not be afraid to look into some French books.

It's now your turn to embark on this new adventure!