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Stop reading to learn French!

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

I love reading. If you don't, that’s ok. Check out my article on French-speaking series, it will certainly interest you more.

And if you do like reading like me, no matter what - novels, detective novels, biographies, autobiographies, historical novels... Well, this article is for you.

Because reading in French is a good way to:

  • Have a good time (and that's the most important thing in life, isn't it?)

  • Enrich your vocabulary in French

  • Learn French expressions

But - and this “but” is really important - be careful, do not confuse “reading in French” and “reading in order to learn French”

But - and this “but” is really important - be careful, do not confuse “reading in French” and “reading in order to learn French”, with the dictionary by your side and you underlining each unknown word and reread each paragraph three or four times to be sure you have understood correctly… before looking for the version of the same book in your language to confirm that you only understood… 20% / 50% / 80%, to your great despair.

No. Reading in French is above all READING: discovering a story, characters, ideas, feelings etc. Discovering a culture - and therefore you should read books in French when they were written by a French-speaking author, not the translation into French from an American book.

Reading in French doesn't have to be a chore

Reading in French doesn't have to be a chore - like doing a grammar exercise, writing an essay on “For or against the use of English words in French” or trying to pronounce “ennuyeux” until a Frenchman understands you. You should definitely have a good time


So, before you take a look at the list of my recommendations below, and open your favorite bookstore online, promise me to follow these few tips:

  1. Only search in the dictionary words that you don’t understand and that come up constantly in the story (eg. the word “princess” in “Cinderella”). For the rest, look at the context, trust yourself and imagine what that might mean.

  2. Accept the idea that you will not understand everything. I know, it's frustrating. Me too, when I read a book in English, German or Hebrew, I feel like I don't fully enjoy the story, the beauty of the language and its nuances. But you will see, it will get better. And actually, it’s more or less like that when having a conversation in French. It might take a really long time before you fully understand what the others say. And it doesn’t really matter as long as you get the main idea.

  3. Don’t stop each time you see a verb conjugated in some weird way - it’s probably passé simple, a tense you didn’t learn and probably never will, since it’s only used in literature. If your main goal is to communicate in the modern world (and not as living in some Gustave Flaubert’s novel), then you really don’t need to know how to conjugate verbs in this specific tense.

Now, enough for the recommendations. Here’s a list of some readable books in French from an A2 level (intermediate). Note that some of them may be a little more difficult than the others. If it’s your first book in French, I recommend you choose a short one (for example, Katherine Pancol’s books are great but they are usually more than 350 pages!).

And by the way, if you happen to have read a simple and good book which is not on the list, you are very welcome to write the title and the name in the comments, so that everyone of us can enjoy this one too.


Le petit Nicolas, de René Goscinny (but some words are a little quaint since it was written in the 60s)

Le Petit Prince, d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, d’Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

Odette Toulemonde et autres histoires, d’Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt (Short stories, so this one would be a good start)

No et moi, de Delphine de Vigan

La liste de mes envies, de Grégoire Delacourt

Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles, de Katherine Pancol (and other books by her)

Je voudrais que quelqu’un m’attende quelque part, d’Anna Gavalda

Demain, j’arrête !, de Gilles Legardinier

Les oubliés du dimanche, de Valérie Perrin

Les souvenirs, de David Foenkinos (and other books by him)

Et si c’était vrai, de Marc Lévy (and other books by him)

Et après, de Guillaume Musso (and other books by him)

Surface, d’Olivier Norek (and other books by him)

And now, take a French book, find the best spot in your house (or outside), make a coffee or pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy!

And if you are looking for other ways to combine French learning and fun, check this post.

Bonne lecture !

Photo at the top: Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Photo of books in the middle: me :-)

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