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Best French books for beginners

One of the turning points when learning a language is the decision to start reading a book. We tend to think that embarking on a book in a different language is a taunting and difficult task, that we can only take once we are fluent and completely sure of our level. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way.

As happens with movies, shows, and music, there are always different levels of approaching a new language. Taking the decision of reading a book in French (Especially if it comes from your curiosity) is something to be celebrated, the important thing is to know that there are books for beginners in French, as well as advanced students. A couple of suggestions first:

Try to avoid the classics at the beginning

French books for beginners

Sometimes as we progress in a language and the culture around it, we might be inclined to cover more than we can take. This happens especially in literature. As we learn about the great minds of French literature we might feel inclined to read some of the classics like Jules Verne, Honoré de Balzac, or Victor Hugo. But keep in mind that as a beginner, the best for you is to get acquainted with words of everyday use, and in these master's works you might find difficult and past grammar rules, or verb conjugations that are no longer in use. We absolutely recommend them once you have a more advanced level but at the beginning, try to search for something else.

Search for short lengthed books

Reading a book (especially if you don’t have the habit) can have a psychological component attached to it. If you want to start reading a book in another language but you don’t have the patience or the habit, it’s best if you choose a book that has between 100 and 180 pages. You’ll be able to see progress quickly and it will allow you to keep a good record of the new words and phrases you’ll learn.

Go back to basics

French books

If you are a beginner, don’t be afraid to consider children’s books. If you have a book from your childhood that you hold dear, try to find it in French, that way, you’ll get a good amount of vocabulary while remembering a great time from your childhood.

Without further ado, we have five suggestions for French books for beginners:

Le petit prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

One of the most popular books in the whole world and an instant classic that has surpassed the genre of children's books to appeal to all of us equally.

The Little Prince is a tale and philosophical novel about human relationships with their neighbors and the universe. It emphasizes Saint-Exupéry's thoughts on friendship, love, duty, and the meaning of life with amazing simplicity.

35 kilos d'espoir - Anna Gavalda

Grégoire despises school so much that he has already repeated sixth grade twice. His grandpa Léon's shed, where he spends hours tinkering, is his one passion, his haven.

Léon, on the other hand, is enraged when he knows about Grégoire’s news. He stops comforting his grandchild and refuses to protect him. Perhaps it's past time for Grégoire to mature and make changes in its life. This book will take you on a journey on family relationships and how stubbornness can drive us away from what we really want.

French short stories for beginners - Olly Richards and Richard Simcott

Book in French

Short Stories in French for Beginners was prepared with students from beginner to intermediate levels in mind, with the goal of providing a sense of accomplishment and to make it learning a language a fun experience. 

These eight intriguing stories, which are mapped to A2-B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference, will delight you while also giving you a sense of progress as you read.

L’élégance du hérisson (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) - Muriel Barbery

Nothing is as it appears in 7 Rue Grenelle, a bourgeois building in Paris. Paloma, a lonely twelve-year-old girl, and Renée, the wise babysitter, keep a secret from one other. The presence of a strange guy will bring these two soulmates together. 

They'll discover the beauty of small things, and create a better world together. The elegance of the hedgehog is a hopeful tale, a hidden gem that shows how to live through friendship, love, and creativity. The voices of Renée and Paloma weave a compelling tale of life with a melodic language as we read.

Calligrammes - Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire is one of the greatest minds in French literature and poetry and one exception to our “Avoid the classics” rule. This is because in embarking on this precious book of poetry you’ll get a sense of love, peace, conflict, and nostalgia in a very different way.

Apollinaire created the literary (and artistic) genre called calligramme. A calligramme is basically a poem written in a way that also creates a draw with its phrases. The lines of the poem became the lines of a drawing. Apollinaire's works are the perfect balance between French classics and a beginner’s read. His poetry is powerful, succinct, and atemporal. A must-read no matter the French level you have.

We hope this short list of French books for beginners will motivate you to grab a book in French and start reading, there’s a great sense of accomplishment in finishing a book in a foreign language, and with practice and a good French course to back it up, you can do it too. À bientôt!

By Alejandro Ramirez G

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