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Learn French by Reading: 6 Books for French Learners

So you've beening using different apps and sites to learn French for a while now. You've moved past beginner level, learned a good amount of vocabulary and French grammar doesn't scare you anymore. You start wonder how you can learn French without using textbook. Well, the answer is - there are many ways to learn French, or any language. How about take your reading skill to another level by reading French novels?

It's easy and fun to learn French by reading French books. Not only do you sharpen your French reading skill, but you also learn a lot more vocabulary without the help of Google Translate. It also allows you to see how grammar works in the real context instead of seeing the hypothetical examples.

The only French books you know might be "Le Petit Prince" and "Les Les Misérables," but one is too easy, and the other is too difficult. You might wonder if there're any good books for intermediates. We've found 6 novels for French learners at different levels to read. P.S. Most of the books have been made into movies.

Learn French by Reading French Novels

1. L'Élégance du Hérisson (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)

Difficulty: intermediate
L'Elegance du Herisson
Image via Goodreads

In an elegant apartment building in Paris, Renée, the concierge outwardly fits every stereotype of the concierge: leave the television on all day, fat, and cranky. But she is secretly a cultured autodidact who enjoys arts, literature, and Japanese culture. Renée never lets her talent shines because she thinks life will be easier this way.

Paloma, a 12-year-old girl who plans on committing suicide when she turns 13 unless she can find something worth living for, lives in the building Renée takes care of. Like Renée, Paloma is also an intelligent and startlingly bright person who's not willing to show her knowledge.

Both hide their finest qualities from a world they think cannot appreciate them Paloma and Renée discover their souls when Ozu, a Japanese man, moves into the building. He's the only person Paloma trusts and to see the secrets that haunt Renée.

2. Entre les Murs (The Class)

Difficulty: easy to intermediate
Entre les Murs
Image via Goodreads

Entre les Murs is a semi-autobiographical novel of Bégaudeau's experience as a literature teacher in a Parisian middle school. The group of kids in Bégaudeau's class is mostly immigrant children, who have their share of behavior problems. Even the well-behaved Chinese kids have their problem - the lack of command of the French language to achieve much.

It's a constant struggle for Bégaudeau and his students. Everyone hopes to get to the end of the school year when say goodbye to each other, even it's just for a few months. Throughout the novel, you can see a little idealism here and a little ambition there. But everyone is still more worried about their pride.

3. Ensemble, C'est Tout (Hunting and Gathering)

Level: intermediate to advanced
Ensemble, C'est Tout
Image via Goodreads

Ensemble, C'est Tout tells the tale of a woman named Camille Fauque. She has just hit rock-bottom and lives on the streets. With a friend's help, she now lives in a tiny bedroom in an old apartment building in Paris. Camille once was a talented artist, but now she is cleaning for an office. She becomes anorexic because of life's mysteries, but she's rescued by her neighbor, Philibert Marquet de la Durbellière.

Camille moves in with Philibert and meets Philibert's grandmother, Paulette, and Franck, a talented chef. The novel mostly wraps around the relationships between these 4 characters. It's a book about friendship, love, sacrifice, and good food. The writing style and conversation are colloquial, modern, and easy to read.

4. Que Serai - Je Sans Toi? (Where Would I Be Without You?)

Difficulty: intermediate to advanced
Que Serai - Je Sans Toi?
Image via Goodreads

Where Would I be Without You tells the story of Gabrielle and two of the most important men in her life. Martin, a Parisian cop, and Gabrielle met and fell in love in San Francisco. A few decades later, he's now a successful detective. And he's on a mission to arrest the legendary thief, Archibald Maclean.

One is her father; the other is her first love. They have been out of her life for a very long time, but they show up on the same day, at the same time, and turn her life upside down. She doesn't want to choose between them. Gabrielle wants the men she loves to be safe, to get closer, and to love each other.

This French love story is written with vocabulary that's easy to follow and a storyline that's somehow predictable but also unusual enough to keep you hooked.

5. L'Étranger (The Stranger)

Difficulty: easy to intermediate
L'Etranger
Image via Nick Pateras

A super easy and short read that you can finish in one afternoon, but the meanings behind the easy words are much more profound than you think. It discusses the questions related to morality, society, justice, religion, and individuality.

The protagonist of the book is a French Algerian named Meursault. The novel is split into two parts: Meursault's view before and after the murder he committed a few days after his mother's funeral in French Algiers.

6. La Gloire de Mon Père (My Father's Glory)

La Gloire de Mon Pere
Image via Livraddict

My Father's Glory is one of the four books in Pagnol's Souvenirs d'enfance (Childhood Memories) series where he talks about his family and his childhood days using a poetic voice. Because his mother is ill, Marcel's father and uncle decided to take their families to Province for a summer.

Let Marcel's words take you on a trip through the hills and caves of Province, Franche, where he falls in love with the landscape and learns about life and nature, and some hunting.

How to Learn French by Reading Novels if You Just Started Learning French

Let's say you only started learning French a few weeks ago, reading a French book is too much of a challenge for you. Train with Glossika and get comfortable with reading phrases in French before you pick up a French book. Like the books, Glossika shows you how different words are used in daily conversations. Our spaced repetition training build up your understanding of the grammar by familiarizing you little by little with various sentence structures and patterns.

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Learn French by Reading: 6 Books for French Learners
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