Reading - a tool for language acquisition: 5 French books for 2024

Reading is one of the most straightforward ways to establish and maintain a good vocabulary in French

Reading is a simple and effective way to boost your vocabulary in French
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Reading is one of the best tools to expand our vocabulary in a new language and to introduce ourselves to different grammatical structures.

Research shows that children who read for 20 minutes per day in their native language will be exposed to almost 10 times more vocabulary than those who read for just 5 minutes per day.

The same is true of learning a new language.

While you may not necessarily learn every new word from simply reading it once, the continued exposure to contexts it is used in will eventually help to establish an understanding of when and how this word or phrase is used.

If possible, fitting between 5-20 minutes of reading in French into your daily routine is a great way to build up a solid foundation of context and language.

If possible, download the audiobook of the text you are reading and listen along while you read.

It is useful to read a section without stopping to translate to see what you understand first. Then, after you can go back through the section and identify vocabulary you don’t recognise or understand.

Once you have done this, you can then read the section again with a new found understanding.

With the beginning of the year a prime time to pick up a new habit as part of your New Year’s resolutions, here are five books to get you started in 2024.

Whilst most have English equivalents, we of course recommend reading the book in the original French.

Il est grand temps de rallumer les étoiles - Virginie Grimaldi

Following a survey in 2022 by France Televisions and the BBC, Il est grand temps de rallumer les étoiles (Chasing the Stars: a journey that could change everything) by Virginie Grimaldi was found to be France’s most loved book.

The novel tells the story of a busy mother, Anna, who works long hours and only sees her 17-year-old and 12-year-old daughters at breakfast.

Her oldest daughter is boy obsessed while her youngest is obsessed with her rat that she has named after her absent father who left them behind.

In order to shake up their routine, she decides to take the girls on an expedition in a campervan to Scandinavia.

Les gens heureux lisent et boivent du café - Agnès Martin-Lugand

After Diane loses her husband and her daughter in a tragic accident, she leaves Paris and hides herself away in Ireland to grieve.

The story has been described as a mix between Bridget Jones’s Diary, a British cult classic, and Erich Segal’s Love Story, and while emotional it also offers a touching and funny insight on grief.

It too made the list of France’s favourite books following the 2022 survey, and Happy People Read and Drink Coffee (its English title) is less than 200 pages in length, making it a viable read even for those with a hectic schedule.

Veiller sur elle - Jean Baptiste Andrea

Winner of this year’s Prix Goncourt, as well as FNAC’s novel of the year, Veiller sur elle is set in Italy in the 20th century.

It follows the love story of Mimo, the son of a poor man, and Viola, the daughter of a rich and powerful Italian family set against the backdrop of a country grappling with fascism.

They both must fight for what they believe in against an extremely trying period in politics while trying to maintain the love they have for each other.

The book has not yet been translated into English, meaning for the moment, the only way to experience this page turner is via the French-language original.

Read more: What is French Prix Goncourt and who is the new winner?

Paroles - Jacques Prévert

This book of poetry, published shortly after the Second World War (and then in the 1960’s in English, titled Selections from Paroles) is perfect for someone getting to grips with the French language.

Prévert, one of France’s most celebrated poets of the modern era, uses simple straightforward language to evoke everyday situations and dissect the quotidien.

While poems in another language can seem daunting to read, the work of Jacques Prévert provides the perfect doorway into accessing French poetry, and this particular collection was ranked 16th in Le Monde's 100 greatest books of the 20th century.

Astérix L’iris Blanc - Fabcaro and Didier Conrad

For people at the beginning of their language journey, bande dessinées (comic books) are a great access point.

This is particularly true for the French language, with France and Belgium having arguably the strongest comic book publishing industry outside of Asia.

Although they may have been written with children in mind, it is news to no one that Astérix comics are popular with different generations across the entirety of France.

It is perhaps no surprise then that AstérixL’Iris Blanc (The white iris) was the number one selling book in France on Amazon in 2023 after its release last autumn.

It is the 40th Astérix book in the series and sees Julius Caesar struggling to motivate his troops who no longer want to fight.

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