French is one of the most popular languages in the world. In fact, there are over 200 million people who speak French fluently worldwide – with many more who speak at least a little bit of it. It’s no wonder that every year, thousands of people decide to take on learning French and look for the best ways to do that.
Now, one of the best ways to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. And what better way to do that than by reading books written in that language? This way, only will you improve your reading skills, but you'll also pick up new vocabulary and grammar rules without even realizing it.
Fortunately, France is home to an amazing world of art that has been showcased through its magnificent literature. From classic novels by Victor Hugo or Alexandre Dumas to modern bestsellers by Amélie Nothomb, French novels are loved worldwide. This is a huge area with a limitless number of titles to try – so everyone can find something for themselves.
But where to start? Let us share with you some of the best books for French learners.
Why Learn French Through Books?
There are a number of reasons why you should consider learning through books.
Books allow you to learn at your own pace and in your own time, which is ideal if you don't like the idea of taking classes or attending one-on-one sessions with a tutor.
Books also give you access to a variety of genres, including literature, plays, and poetry; and there is always something for everyone – whether you prefer action-packed adventure or like to curl up on the couch for a romantic drama.
Through reading French novels, short stories, or children's books, you can learn new vocabulary and expressions as well as familiarize yourself with French grammar structures. This will help you to improve your speaking and writing abilities.
Books are an easy way to gain exposure to new vocabulary and expressions, sentence structures, and topics in the French language even when you have no one to practice with.
To get the most out of the process and avoid getting stuck on certain words, phrases or idioms, use dictionaries and grammar explanations when reading French books - or mix reading with other language-learning methods.
The Best Books for Learning - French Children's Books
Even if you are not a child, French books for children are a great way to improve your language skills regardless of your current language level. They are easy to read and understand, and they often include fun and engaging stories that will keep you interested in learning.
Moreover, if you are teaching French to your child, there are many books appropriate both for young kids and older children that will be just perfect for starting the journey with this marvelous language.
Since children's books are often written in the present tense, they're perfect for beginner learners. However, even if you are an intermediate or an advanced learner, don't skip them– trust us, there can be a lot of new vocabulary in kids' literature that you might have omitted during the earlier steps of your French journey.
Because of all the above, we’ve included several French children’s books and comic books on our list. Check them out – and let these and other titles help boost your French vocabulary and grammar skills.
Books for Beginners
1. French fairy tales
The classic fairy tales in French are not only simple to read and learn, but they also include stories you might be familiar with. Thanks to this, it will be easier for you to focus on the new words and grammar, instead of trying to figure out what is going on.
For example, you can read Little Red Riding Hood – Le Petit Chaperon Rouge. You already know what this classic tale is about, and you can enjoy reading it once again in a new language, in a new style, while learning new grammar structures.
To make the process of reading fairy tales even more interesting, look for original French children’s literature along with the French translation of the classic children’s books from all over the world. This way, you will get to read something old as well as something new and dive a little deeper in French culture.
2. Le Petit Nicolas
Le Petit Nicolas (lit. Little Nicholas) is a French children's book written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé. It was first published in 1959 and tells the story of a little boy who goes to school and has various adventures with classmates and family. The book is essentially a huge satire on the flawed adults’ perception of the world.
Le Petit Nicolas is a great book for learning French as it's written in a simple style, and beginning French learners can find many familiar French words in there. Nevertheless, it can be a little tricky and requires the use of the dictionary, as the main character and his friends use a lot of schoolyard slang.
The stories are pretty engaging, and they will keep you interested in reading more and more. Plus, as a bonus, you'll also learn about French culture and customs.
Another perk – the books about the Little Nicolas have many beautiful illustrations, which will make it easier for you to understand the story even if you don’t know all the words.
3. Les Malheurs de Sophie
Les Malheurs de Sophie (Sophie's Misfortunes) **is a children's book written by French author Countess of Ségur. It is the first volume of a trilogy that begins during the Second French Empire, where Sophie, a naughty little girl, has to deal with many childhood experiences and learn many life lessons.
The book is written in simple French – there aren’t many words here that you wouldn't find in an elementary-level French textbook. Nevertheless, you can find many formal expressions in it – after all, Les Malheurs de Sophie was first published in 1858.
This French classic is definitely something you should try reading. However, it is quite an old text, and if you find it tiresome and old-fashioned, don’t hesitate to move on.
Other Books for the Beginners
Looking for other wonderful French children’s books? Here are some more titles:
- Le Vilain Petit Canard (The Ugly Duckling)
- Le Lièvre et la Tortue (The Tortoise and the Hare)
- Boucles d'or et les Trois Ours (Goldilocks and the Three Bears)
- Les Musiciens de Brême (The Town Musicians of Bremen)
- La Belle Lisse Poire Du Prince De Motordu (The Prince of Motordu's Beautifully Smooth Pear)
- Bonsoir Lune (Goodnight Moon)
- Poil de Carotte (Carrot Top)
Books for Intermediate Students
4. Charlie et la Chocolaterie
Charlie et la Chocolaterie (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is a children's book written by Roald Dahl. It tells the story of Charlie Bucket, a poor boy who wins a trip to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, the magical world full of chocolate and sweets. You might have already seen this story on the big screen.
The book is great for intermediate learners because it has more difficult vocabulary and grammar than the previous books mentioned. However, the language is still easy to understand and follow. Plus, the story is very engaging and will keep you hooked until the end.
If you're looking for a book that will take your French to the next level, then Charlie et la Chocolaterie is definitely worth checking out.
5. Le Petit Prince
Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) is a classic French children's book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It tells the story of a pilot who crashes in the Sahara desert and encounters a young prince, who has fallen to Earth from a tiny planet.
The book describes their experiences and conversations, as well as many philosophical lessons, such as "Mais les yeux sont aveugles. Il faut chercher avec le cœur," which means: “But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart.”
Le Petit Prince – a Book for Everyone
The book contains many beautiful and enlightening passages, which would make it perfect for an intermediate learner, but you will need to know some verbs and grammar structures in order to fully understand the plot and characters.
Still, if you try reading only a few pages every day with the use of a dictionary, you'll be able to get the basics even if your level of French is low. Le Petit Prince is definitely worth it.
The Little Prince is one of those books that prepare you for further reading; there are many symbols and metaphors in it that will help you understand more complex French texts once you're done with it. That's why this classic French book is perfect for boosting your reading skills – it will help you relate to more complex texts in the future.
Moreover, you can opt for a bilingual version of the book - there are many of them in online and regular bookstores, so finding The Little Prince adapted to your level should not be a problem.
6. Les Contes de la rue Broca
Les Contes de la rue Broca (Tales of the Rue Broca) is a book written by French author Pierre Gripari and illustrated by Claude Lapointe. The book consists of thirteen short stories, which either happen on or are somehow related to Broca street.
While the book was quite popular among French children after it was published, the stories’ plots are a little darker than the regular kids’ tales, and the humor can be a bit edgy.
The book has a casual, easy-to-follow style full of idiomatic expressions and everyday language. Plus, the stories are short and engaging both for young readers and adults. Les Contes de la rue Broca is exactly what you need to practice your reading skills as well as discover the Parisian universe.
Other Books for the Intermediate Learners
Apart from those mentioned above, you can also check more children’s books and other French novels for learning the language on an intermediate level. Here are some of them:
- Astérix by René Goscinny
- La Trilogie des fourmis (The Ant Trilogy) by Bernard Werber
- L’étranger (The Stranger ) by Albert Camus
- Oscar et la dame rose (Oscar and the Lady in Pink) by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
- L’élégance du hérisson (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) by Muriel Barbery
Books for Advanced Students
7. Poésies by Stéphane Mallarmé
Poésies (Poems) by Stéphane Mallarmé is a book of poetry that was written in the 19th century. It's an excellent choice for advanced learners because it can significantly improve your fluency and pronunciation. It's also a perfect tool to study French literature or work on your creativity.
The poems are written in a very intricate and difficult style that is perfect for practicing your reading skills. They might not be the easiest book to read, but once you learn more about French poetry and start getting familiar with Mallarmé’s style, there’s a huge chance that you will like them.
Above all that is said, if you want to dive deeper into French literature, then Poésies is definitely worth checking out, as it is a classic poetry collection.
8. Pietr-le-Letton by Georges Simenon
Pietr-le-Letton (in English: The Strange Case of Peter the Lett) is a book written by French author Georges Simenon and the first novel featuring Inspector Jules Maigret– a fictional French police detective who, like Sherlock Holmes, became a famous fictional detective.
Maigrets investigates the case of Peter the Lett – an international con artist who is coming to Paris. The story becomes more and more complicated thanks to many mysteries surrounding Peter’s identity.
The book is an excellent choice for advanced learners. It has simple, easy-to-follow language full of idiomatic expressions and everyday phrases – and even if you know some of them, a good French dictionary (or a French-English dictionary) would be your best friend when reading this novel.
Other Books for Advanced Learners
- Bonjour Tristresse (Hello Sadness) by Françoise Sagan
- Les Yeux jaunes des crocodiles (The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles) by Katherine Pancol
- Paroles (Words) by Jacques Prévert
- Entre les murs (Between the walls) by François Bégaudeau
- Stupeurs et tremblements (Fear and Trembling) by Amélie Nothomb
Learn the French Language with Books
If you want to improve your French language skills, then these books are a great place to start. After you are done with them (or if you simply don’t like any of them), feel free to move forward and look for other French novels, comic books and stories appropriate for your language level.
And if all of this sounds intimidating or too time-consuming for you, don't hesitate to look for other ways to learn by reading – for example, the Langster app was designed specifically to help you learn French with short stories and make your language learning process interesting and motivating at the same time.
The stories are read out loud by a native French speaker, which also helps you improve your French understanding and pronunciation.
We hope that you find your perfect reading material in a short time – and will learn a lot from it.