The ultimate list of books to learn French

Learning French is important – we have argued this in numerous articles on the subject. But have you forgotten the good old-fashioned book?

  1. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  2. Le Petit Nicolas by René Goscinny
  3. Astérix et Obélix by René Goscinny
  4. Les aventures by Tintin by Hergé
  5. Vingt mille lieues sous les mers by Jules Verne
  6. L’étranger by Albert Camus
  7. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

No matter how long you’ve been learning French, reading skills are important for advancing your language level.

While it may not always be the easiest area to develop, there are countless books available which will help you learn French

You may have read about learning to count or learning basic colors, but reading short stories in French is the next step for mastering and expanding your vocabulary.

Look no further than this short list of French books for beginners to kickstart your French reading journey.

1. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The ultimate French book for beginners, Le Petit Prince follows the story of a young prince on a journey throughout space. It covers themes of friendship, love and loss, and is a worldwide bestseller. 

Although aimed at children, it’s a wonderful read for adults; an alternative option is the audiobook for beginner learners of French.

Le Petit Prince was born in New-York in 1943 from the pen of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is a philosophical tale that has been passed on and shared from generation to generation for 80 years.

Recommended level: beginner

Vocabulary you’ll learn about: children, planets, travel…

2. Le Petit Nicolas by René Goscinny

Francophiles across the world will know the collection of Petit Nicolas children’s books. Starting off as a comic strip in a newspaper, the illustrations in these easy French books are fantastic. 

The first appearance of Petit Nicolas can be tracked back to 1959 in the French newspaper Sud-Ouest. The first book follows shortly after in 1960. 

We see the world through the eyes of Nicolas, with lots of informal language and slang words.

Easy-to-read stories with simple sentences and vocabulary, the books are an entertaining recommendation for beginner French learners.

Recommended level:  intermediate and beginners who like a challenge.

Vocabulary you’ll learn about: children, school, games…

3. Astérix et Obélix by René Goscinny

It’s no secret that the French comic book (bande dessinée) franchise Astérix et Obélix is much-adored by Francophones. 

The first Astérix et Obélix comic Astérix le Gaulois was published in 1959. You may notice that the creator of this iconic duo is also the father of Le Petit Nicolas

Full of fun stories, colloquialisms and commentary on society, these easy-to-understand comics are a great way for beginners to get acquainted with basic French, as well as the not-so-subtle pro-France message the books promote.

Vocabulary you’ll learn about: adventure, travel, the Roman Empire, history…

Recommended level: beginner

4. Les Aventures de Tintin by Hergé

Keeping with the comic book theme, this Franco-Belgian series published in 1929, is known the world over, and was even adapted for TV and film.

Written by Georges Remi under the pen name Hergé, teen reporter Tintin sets off on many adventures across the world with his dog Milou. You will discover that the stories provide fuss-free reading and are full of French words for beginners. We can dig into the somewhat problematic colonial implications of the series at a later date!

Recommended level: beginner

5. Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers by Jules Verne

Known as “Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea” in English, this nautical novel set in the 19th century is full of interesting (though archaic) vocabulary. It is one of the most translated books ever.

Simply put, if you are a beginner-intermediate in French, you will enjoy this adventurous voyage.

Recommended level: intermediate

6. L’Étranger by Albert Camus

Albert Camus is one of the best-known writers in the French-speaking world, and one of the youngest winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature. L’Étranger was published in 1942 and is his most famous work, telling the story of a young man navigating life following his mother’s death. 

It is a short read for a novel, but more suited to beginner-intermediate French readers, as some of the language and concepts can be challenging. If you’re ready for your beginner French to open doors into the world of existential philosophy, this is the book for you.

Recommended level: intermediate and beginners who like a challenge

7. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Winner of the Prix des Critiques in 1954, Bonjour Tristesse is a coming-of-age story, written by the author at just eighteen years old. 

It follows teenager Cécile on a family trip to the South of France, experiencing her first love and a rollercoaster of emotions. Written in a simple style, it is a suitable French book for beginners.

Recommended level: beginners

Where to find French books for beginners

You should have no trouble uncovering French books for beginners in your favorite bookstore or second-hand shop. If this narrows your possibilities, online bookshops are your best choice for more book options. If you don’t feel like paying for a book when you’re still trying to grasp half the words on the pages, remember to explore your local library!

Go further with Frantastique

If you are looking to further your French reading, check out our other French book recommendations. With our online French course Frantastique, perfect your French conversation, essential greetings (good morning, goodbye), and grammar points. Try Frantastique for free today and assess your level of French.

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