Skip to Main Content

French & Reading: A Student's Guide to Francophone Literature & Language Learning

French Literature for Students

Charles Rivière, artist. Paris. Les Tuileries. Between 1870 and 1879. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The following bibliographies are separated into three sections: French in Translation, French Language, and French Readers (which are generally bilingual and have extensive glossaries to assist with unusual vocabulary). There are also French readers which are not bilingual, but use basic conversational French, such as the Olly Richard series, "I Will Teach You a Language". This is an example of a new and less conventional approach to language learning that is based on French as it is spoken on the streets and emphasizes communication. Textbook French is more focused on grammar than natural conversational French, but remains essential for higher-level studies in French literature and language. Those seeking classes outside of the university system will find a variety of traditional language courses at the Alliance Française, which has chapters in 135 countries worldwide and 45 US states including 110 cities such as Washington DC, Boston, New York, and Chicago. One tactic is to read dual language books so one can compare the texts as one reads. This can also be accomplished by working with the original and translation (although there will be no help from a glossary). Some students find reading the book in translation first and then in French is helpful. Another strategy is listening to the audiobook (often this requires a subscription to an audiobook provider) while reading. This helps you pronounce words properly and obtain a more natural flow, and also aids significantly with comprehension because the performer's intonation and inflection will help with interpreting the tone of the text. Poetry lovers will find it gratifying to memorize and study the rich tradition of French poetry. Poetry can be challenging even if words are understood, but listening to, and memorizing some of the classic can be a solid part of building on language skills in French. Verse playwrights like Molière and Racine, classics such as Paul Valéry, Guillaume Apollinaire, Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine and more contemporary poets such Jacques Prévert, Rim Battal, Cécile Coulon, Nathalie Quintane and Valérie Rouzeau will all be worth spending time on. Lastly, watching French films or series with subtitles can be an enjoyable way to hear French as it is spoken by native speakers as well as learn about the culture and history of France and the Francophone world. This bibliography highlights books at all levels with special attention to those that are more accessible to students of the language. The French readers are an excellent starting point for beginning students. For intermediate students, short stories or those with less complicated prose and a more standard vocabulary are helpful stepping stones leading to full proficiency. Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque national de France has digitized resources on French Literature External in general, and on "Les Feuilletons" External. The reward for regular reading in French is a greater vocabulary and the ability to read more complicated and nuanced works. All of the titles selected are iconic works of French literature.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.