An enjoyable and enriching way to learn a language is to dive into a great book and place yourself in another world. Or, if reading page after page isn’t your thing (or you just like to mix it up), comic books are another wonderful resource with their colorful visuals and punchy language. Our experts here at Babbel have found you the best books and comics to learn French, whether you’ve just started practicing or are looking for a challenge. So what are the best books to learn French? Here’s what makes the cut:
Le Petit Prince
Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry is a classic of French literature, renowned worldwide. The novel tells the story of a young boy, “The Little Prince,” who goes on many profound adventures as he travels the universe. A rich subtext lets you observe humanity’s flaws and the peculiarities of the world.
This is a short and pleasant read, so those at a beginner or intermediate level will find this a beneficial resource, despite some challenging vocabulary and the tense le passé simple, which isn’t used in spoken French. You’ll also find opportunities to enjoy the novel as an audiobook, a play, a TV show or a movie to practice further.
Le Petit Nicolas
The children’s classic series, Le Petit Nicolas, may be some of the best books to learn French for beginners. Written by René Goscinny and charmingly illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé, the books are narrated from the point of view of young Nicolas as he lives out an idyllic childhood in France in the 1950s.
Each book is rampant with humor and is a great way for beginner to intermediate learners to discover quintessential French culture. They’re a short and fun read, with a few sentences that may challenge you with the casual communication of the child narrator. If you enjoy the series, check out the adapted movie: Les Vacances du Petit Nicolas, for more practice (and laughs!).
Arsène Lupin, Gentleman cambrioleur
Arsène Lupin, Gentleman cambrioleur, the crime fiction book by Maurice Leblanc, recounts the adventures of the thief Arsène Lupin through a series of short stories.
The book is short, entertaining and easy to read, so it’s suited to both beginner and intermediate learners. Vocabulary for describing a person and concepts around justice, as well as grammar skills like present tense, time adverbs and adjective agreement, all offer lots of opportunities to test your skills.
Astérix et Obélix
Astérix et Obélix is one of the most popular Franco-Belgian comics in the world and was created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo in the late 1950s. The stories record the adventures of the two protagonists, Astérix and Obélix, who both hail from a village in Gaul (present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg and other parts of Western Europe).
As you may have guessed, the comics are heavy in French humor, which will help beginner and intermediate learners understand the French style and colloquial phrases, as well as social criticism.
This timeless Belgium comic set during the 20th century was created by Belgium artist Georges Remi, who goes by the pen name Hergé. The story revolves around a young reporter, Tintin, who embarks on adventures to solve crimes with the help of his trusty dog, Snowy.
The fantastic drawings, wit, and socio-political commentary make for a visually engaging and appetizing read — very helpful for those learning French at a beginner or intermediate level.
L’élégance du hérisson
L’élégance du hérisson is an easy-reading novel by French author and philosophy teacher Muriel Barbery. Her teaching discipline is prevalent in the story as themes relating to philosophy, class consciousness, personal conflict, and allusions to the arts are presented through the lens of the two narrators, Renée and Paloma.
For beginner and intermediate French learners, the book is helpful for following vocabulary and grammar points such as: describing adjectives, relative pronouns, and vivid vocabulary to describe people. You can also watch the movie adaptation to reinforce the language and story.
Le chat du rabbin
“The Rabbi’s Cat,” as it’s translated to in English, is a comic book that tells the story of a male cat who finds a voice after swallowing a rabbi’s parrot, and follows the lessons he learns from the rabbi.
Taking place in a colonized Jewish community in Algeria during the 1920s, this comic by Joann Sfar offers an original story and sense of discovery for those wanting to explore a French colonial society. This is particularly suitable for those of a beginner to intermediate level.
Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran
This novel by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt was originally written as a French play about the life of Schmitt’s friend, Bruno Abraham Kremer. “Mr. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran” (as the book is titled in English) shows the history of a young Jewish boy and a Muslim grocer living in their neighborhood in Paris.
Religion inevitably plays an important role in the book, though Schmitt didn’t want it to override the essence of the plot around the characters. Those at a beginner and intermediate level will find this an excellent book to familiarize themselves with French words surrounding religion.