12 Best French Books for Beginners

If you’re just starting out learning French, reading a whole book might feel overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are many great French books for beginners that can ease you into reading. 

This post covers 12 beginner French books that can help you become more familiar with the language and introduce you to new topics. 

Start with these easier options and then gradually work your way up to more difficult ones to build your fluency.


le-petit-prince-bookcover 1. “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 

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“Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince) is a timeless French novella that delves into the imaginative journey of a young prince from a tiny asteroid.

As he encounters various characters, including a wise fox and a rose, profound lessons about life, love and human nature unfold.

The book is one of the best-selling books in history and is adored by both children and adults. It’s been published in over 500 different languages and dialects!

2. “Les aventures de Tintin” by HergéLes Aventures de Tintin - Les Sept Boules de Cristal - Tome 13 (French Edition)

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“Les aventures de Tintin” (The Adventures of Tintin) is a wildly popular 20th-century comic about a Belgian reporter and his pet dog, Snowy.

With writing that overlaps a variety of genres, it can be enjoyed by French readers of all ages.

I recommend starting with “Tintin en Amérique.” In this comic, Tintin and Snowy are covering a story on organized crime in Chicago involving Al Capone and other gangsters.

3. “Contes du jour et de la nuit” by Guy de MaupassantContes du jour et de la nuit

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Guy de Maupassant is one of the world’s best writers of short stories.

“Contes du jour et de la nuit” (Tales of Day and Night) includes Maupassant’s most famous short story: “La parure” (The Necklace).

Each story has its own plot and set of characters, and they’re particularly enjoyable if you like plot twists.

4. “Contes de ma mère l’Oye” by Charles Perrault Contes de ma mere l'oye

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Charles Perrault is a French author who’s credited with laying the foundations for the fairy tale genre.

“Contes de ma mère l’Oye” (Tales of Mother Goose) is a collection of his French fairy tales and includes stories you’re sure to be familiar with.

You’ll find “La belle au bois dormant” (The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood), “Le petit chaperon rouge” (Little Red Riding Hood), “Le Maistre Chat, ou le Chat Botté” (The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots) and other classics.

5. “Le scaphandre et le papillon” by Jean-Dominique BaubyLe Scaphandre et le Papillon (French original of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) (French Edition)

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Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote “Le scaphandre et le papillon” (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) after suffering a major stroke and developing locked-in syndrome.

Nearly his entire body was paralyzed, but he was able to dictate his work to his transcriber by blinking his left eye.

Bauby’s memoir describes his life before and after his stroke, when he served as editor-in-chief of the French Elle magazine.

6.  “Le Petit Nicolas by René GoscinnyLe Petit Nicolas (French Edition)

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Le Petit Nicolas” (Little Nicholas) is an idealized and nostalgic memorial of what it was like to be a kid growing up in France in the 1950s.

Although some aspects may be a bit outdated (it was published in 1959), the story of growing up is sure to be relatable for everyone.

Nicolas and his many friends have numerous adventures that build storylines constructed for children, making them easy to follow.

7. “Calligrammes” by ApollinaireCalligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-1916)

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For foreign learners of French, Apollinaire’s poems offer hints of meaning in their very structure.

His book is notable for its use of typeface and space on the page to evoke each poem’s meaning; the poem itself takes the shape of its subject.

These somewhat complex poems are among the earliest French surrealist works—in fact, Apollinaire is credited with coining the term—so they’re worth the effort it takes to understand them.

8. “Am I small? Je suis petite, moi ?” by Philipp WinterbergAm I small? Je suis petite, moi?: Children's Picture Book English-French

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French learning resources developed for children can be engaging for adults, too! I love this imaginative picture book written for bilingual reading.

The story follows a young girl on a journey who asks various animals whether she’s small.

With 26 pages of colorful, vivid art, it’s also a helpful resource for learning size, shape and color adjectives as well as some fun animal vocabulary.

9. “Contes de la Bécasse” by Guy de MaupassantContes de la becasse (French Edition)

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Maupassant became famous near the end of the 19th century as a realist novelist with a style bordering on naturalism.

His “Contes de la Bécasse” (Tales of the Woodcock) is a collection of stories whose realism and short length make for an easy read.

In the first, the baron of Ravots organizes a dinner and asks each guest to tell the group a story.

10. “Short Stories in French for Beginners” by Olly Richards and Richard Simcott Short stories in French

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This helpful resource offers a five-step plan that teaches readers the best way to effectively practice reading in French.

The short stories are full of natural dialogue and realistic vocabulary to help you improve your conversational French.

They cover a variety of genres, including science fiction, history and crime, so you can see how the language is actually spoken in all sorts of situations.

French-Short-Stories-bookcover 11. French Short Stories” by Dylane Moreau

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This book includes 30 short stories in French written by a French teacher for beginner and intermediate French learners. 

The stories are clear, concise and easy to read, touching on a variety of everyday topics such as travel, family and friendships.

Each story comes with an English version, a French-English glossary of key vocabulary and comprehension questions and answers. There’s also an audio recording of all the stories available for free.

Asterix-comic-book 12. The Astérix” Series by Rene Goscinny 

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First published in 1959, “Astérix Le Gaulois” remains a cultural icon in French literature.

The comic book series follows the adventures of a small Gaulish warrior, Astérix, and his companion Obélix as they resist Roman occupation with the help of a magic potion. 

The series is full of action, humor and cultural references and includes 40 different comic books.

Reading Tips for Beginners

Here are some ways you can make the most of your reading time without getting overwhelmed as a beginner French learner: 

  • You don’t need to know every single word. Read a section and try to understand what’s happening based on the context. Afterward, you can look up the meaning of any words you think are important to know. It’s better not to miss the big picture by focusing on the small details!
  • Read the French translation of your favorite English book. You already know what happens, so reading it in French will allow you to focus more on the language use.
  • Note key words or phrases you don’t know and look up their meaning. This will help you learn lots of new vocabulary. You can also turn these phrases into study points or flashcards to review later.
  • Say the words out loud as you read. This will help with speaking and pronunciation practice as well as comprehension—how’s that for efficiency?
  • Start a book club with other French learners. It can be both fun and educational getting together with other French learners to talk about books you’re reading. You can discuss the plot, grammar points, vocabulary, and things you’re enjoying (or struggling with).

Remember, there’s more than one way to learn! Watch this quick breakdown of some helpful self-teaching methods to further improve your understanding of French with everything you read. 

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Benefits of Reading French Books for Beginners 

There are many great reasons why I recommend picking up a simple book in French as part of your language learning. Here are a handful of them: 

  • See many popular phrases used in context. Understanding native idioms can be a challenge. Books present them in context so you see the meaning and are often packed with useful daily phrases and expressions.
  • Discover information about French culture. Taking influence from all walks of life, French books can illuminate what it’s meant to be French over the years. You can live alongside royalty, or hang out with servicemen—the French world is your oyster!
  • Get to grips with formal, traditional French. Some French books contain examples of how to write in French and how to utilize more formal language and certain kinds of addresses that, while no longer common in conversation, are still used in written documents or bureaucracy.
  • Pick up a great conversation starter. Many French people love indulging in a novel or reminiscing about their favorite children’s books. Talking about these books is a great way to begin a conversation in French and to get to know native speakers.
  • Expand your vocabulary. Reading is one of the best ways to increase your vocabulary and make you sound much more eloquent when you write and talk. Plus, since you’re seeing these new words in context, it’ll be easier for you to use them in actual French conversation.

FAQ About French Books for Beginners 

What is the best book to start learning French?

This depends on your personal preferences! It’ll be helpful to get a good French textbook, and then to supplement your studying, try a children’s book like one from the series “Le Petit Nicolas.”

Or dive into some short stories like you’ll find in “Arsène Lupin, gentleman cambrioleur” by Maurice Leblanc.

What is an easy first French book?

​​Try one of the books from this post, such as “Short Stories in French for Beginners” by Olly Richards and Richard Simcott. Or pick up a comic like “Tintin en Amérique” and use the imagery to put the story together if you get stuck on the text. 

What is the best French grammar book for beginners?

I recommend “Easy French Step-by-Step” to get a strong foundation in grammar and vocabulary with plenty of practice exercises. “Allez, viens! French 1” is another good option to help build your proficiency, with lots of coverage on colloquial language and interesting topics.

If you want something a bit more visual, try “Entre Amis” or “Contacts: Langue et culture françaises.”

Can you learn French by reading books?

Reading books is an effective method for learning French. It exposes you to vocabulary, grammar structures and cultural nuances. It also enhances comprehension, builds language patterns and reinforces contextual usage.

However, if you really want to improve your fluency in French, I recommend a holistic approach combining reading with speaking, listening and writing for a well-rounded language learning experience.

As you familiarize yourself with French books and authors, you’ll add to your cultural knowledge, which will enhance your relationship with the language.

You’ll also have fun and give yourself immediate motivation to continue learning French.

With so many exciting French books for beginners waiting for you, the only difficult decision will be choosing which one to read first!

And one more thing...

If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:


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All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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