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If you really want to live or work in a French-speaking area, it’s not enough to just be able to speak the language, you also need to be able to understand the language if it’s spoken.
You’re going to need to be able to read French to get around, to read maps and street signs, and even notice boards in a subway or train station.
While many international companies based in France might produce company memos or reports in multiple languages, it will also be to your advantage if you can understand these important papers in the “original” language.
While reading French will be part of any basic French language learning curriculum, there are a few things that you can do on your own to ensure that you learn how to read French quickly. One of the most efficient of these methods would be to read modern French books.
Aside from improving your reading ability, reading modern French books can also help improve your French in other ways.
Reading, in general, will help improve your vocabulary as it will introduce you to many new words and phrases. Also, it’s sometimes easier to learn the meaning of words through context, which reading can help you with.
Reading modern French books will help you better understand modern French slang and expressions. It’s easier to pick up the meaning of a French idiom if you see it used in a sentence or a paragraph. French authors use a lot of idioms in their work, so you’re sure to be able to see examples of common French idioms while reading.
If you want to get a glimpse into modern French life and the way French speakers think and feel about certain topics, reading about their lives and the opinions they have is also a great way to learn. Modern French books can provide you with glimpses into these topics and more.
Convinced? Wondering where to start? Here are nine modern French books that you should check out and maybe add to your bookshelf now.
Author: Frédéric Beigbeder
This author is known for prose that is witty and poignant. He’s also quite funny. This is one of his most successful works, and you might actually be able to find it written in your native language.
If you want to learn French and improve your reading comprehension, this is a good entryway to modern French literature. This book, which is formatted to resemble a series of diary entries, follows Parisian Marc Marronnier, who is in the middle of getting divorced.
Marronnier believes that love only lasts three years and, in a series of flashbacks to the start and eventual dissolution of his marriage, he attempts to make his point and prove his theory.
Author: Leila Slimani
If you like thrillers, you’re definitely going to want to check out this book, dubbed the French “Gone Girl”.
The story begins with a French, middle-class couple, who decide that they need to hire a nanny. The middle-aged widow Louise seems perfect for the job. Soon, she’s not just helping care for their two children, but also effectively running their household.
This book isn’t just lauded for its ability to rachet up the suspense but also for the way it looks at modern French class distinctions.
Author: David Foenkinos
One of the best ways to use French books to improve your French language skills is to pick books in genres that you are interested in. If you like love stories, then this is a great modern French book for you to read.
This book tells the story of a widow who learns to find love again. When her husband died, Natalie had shut herself off from the possibility of loving again. Then she meets a man who is the exact opposite of everything she thought she wanted in a lover and realizes that it is possible.
Author: Raymond Queneau
This French book follows the adventures of a precocious preteen called Zazie, who decides to run away and explore Paris. This light and humorous book (don’t worry Zazie reunites with her family” allows you to explore and see the “City of Lights” through the eyes of a child. If Paris doesn’t already sound like a great place to have a grand adventure, this book will surely convince you of that.
Author: Bertrand Puard
If you like mysteries, you’re not going to be able to put this book by Bertrand Puard down. The novel starts with the disappearance of an airplane heading to Paris from San Francisco. For a few hours, people have no idea what happened to the flight, only for it to show up again.
While the plane is found, four of the passengers who were supposed to be on board are missing. The protagonists are left trying to unravel the web of mystery and conspiracy that led to the plane’s disappearance and the fate of the missing passengers.
Author: Kamel Daoud
The debut novel of Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud takes on the ambitious task of retelling Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger.
In the original tale, Camus’ protagonist murders a nameless man only referred to as “the Arab”. In Daoud’s tale, he gives the victim a name, Musa. He then proceeds to revisit the events of The Stranger from the point of view of Musa’s brother, Harun.
This isn’t just the story of a grieving brother, however, but also a thoughtful tale of identity and the effect that French colonialism has had on Algeria.
Author: Francoise Sagan
Sagan was only 18 when she wrote this book, which is considered a modern French classic. Young as she was, she already had some pithy observations to make about how the French view sex and relationships.
The basic plot of this novel hinges on the frank observations that a young woman makes about the superficial affairs of her philandering father. To the surprise of both, however, one of these affairs becomes a serious relationship leading both to rethink their views.
Author: Jean-Dominique Bauby
If you like memoirs, you should check this book out. Bauby, a former journalist describes the changes brought onto his life after suffering a stroke.
Bauby’s stroke left him experiencing locked-in syndrome, only able to move his eyes. Despite this, he still managed to “write” this book. Blinking his eyes to communicate, he was able to get his memoirs transcribed over the course of 10 months. The result is a poignant and moving tale that shot to the best-seller lists.
Author: Jean-Paul Didierlaurant
This novel is known for being both witty and also an accurate chronicle of existential angst. 36-year-old Guylain feels trapped in a monotonous life where he just goes to work and returns to an empty home.
To relieve the monotony of his commute, he reads sections of books to passengers who share the ride with him on the RER. One day, however, he finds a flash drive that has within it, the story of a washroom attendant called Julie and he finds his life beginning to change.
Reading French novels and short stories is a great way to familiarize yourself with the language and gain fluency. It’s also a good way to keep your French language learning interesting.
If you looking to supplement your French lessons by reading modern French books, the books we listed here are a great start. They are also a good icebreaker as; you can always start conversations by mentioning that you are reading a French novel and asking if the person you are talking to has read them as well.
French books are also a good topic to discuss during conversation practice with your online native French-speaking language tutor. You can tell your tutor that you are interested in reading more French literature and they can incorporate that In your lessons.
You and your tutor can decide on a certain book to read together and discuss. This can also help you get the most out of your reading as you will be able to ask them about anything you didn’t really understand – be it a vocabulary word or a plot point that you feel you might be misinterpreting.
Of course, you can always talk modern French books as part of conversation practice with your tutor. You can both discuss the books that you like to read or are currently reading. Your tutor will probably also have some good suggestions on French books to read.
1. L’amour dure trois ans, 2. Chason douce, 3. La délicatesse, 4. Zazie dans le metro, 5. Vol 1618, 6. Meursault, contre-enquête, 7. Bonjour tristesse, 8. Le scaphandre et le papillon, 9. Le liseur du 6h27
Aside from improving your reading ability, reading modern French books can also help improve your French in other ways. Reading, in general, will help improve your vocabulary as it will introduce you to many new words and phrases. Also, it’s sometimes easier to learn the meaning of words through context, which reading can help you with. Reading modern French books will help you better understand modern French slang and expressions. It’s easier to pick up the meaning of a French idiom if you see it used in a sentence or a paragraph. French authors use a lot of idioms in their work, so you’re sure to be able to see examples of common French idioms while reading. If you want to get a glimpse into modern French life and the way French speakers think and feel about certain topics, reading about their lives and the opinions they have is also a great way to learn. Modern French books can provide you with glimpses into these topics and more.
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