Jump to content

Books in simple French


Recommended Posts

Either educational books written for children/teenagers or a book on a subject that the reader is fascinated in.

A couple of examples, I read "Les îles heureuses d'Océanie" by Paul Theroux, whilst it wasnt simple reading it was of such interest to me that I soldiered on, I kept getting a prolongement from the library over 9 months as once I had I read it I re-read it as my vocabulary had so improved that I got more out of the book on each reading, it was that book alone that self taught me the past historic tense.

The other was a childrens book called "inconnu à cette addresse"


It was very easy to read as it was in the form of letters between two friends seperated by nazi germany during WW2 and only 90 pages in total, it was very thought provoking, I think the publisher may have been J'ai lu as it was one of a series of short, interesting easy to read books in French.

Maybe enquire at the bibliothéque? For me it was handy as I could either look educational books for young adults or those which ignited my passion.

Your post has prompted me to re-join as I find it so hard to find decent interesting second hand books in French at a reasonable price.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Betty will be your best bet as she is a whiz at this sort of thing.

In the mean time I can suggest La Petite Fille de Monsieur Lihn by Phillipe Claudel



Here is an extract so you can see if it fits the bill

"C'est un vieil homme debout à l'arrière d'un bateau. Il serre

dans ses bras une valise légère et un nouveau-né, plus léger encore que

la valise. Le vieil homme se nomme Monsieur Linh. Il est seul à savoir

qu'il s'appelle ainsi car tous ceux qui le savaient sont morts autour de


"Six semaines. C’est le temps que dure le voyage. Si bien

que lorsque le bateau arrive à destination, la petite fille a déjà

doublé le temps de sa vie. Quant au vieil homme, il a l’impression

d’avoir vieilli d’un siècle.


il murmure une chanson à la petite, toujours la même, et il voit les

yeux du nourrisson s'ouvrir et sa bouche aussi. Il la regarde, et il

aperçoit davantage que le visage d'une très jeune enfant. Il voit des

paysages, des matins lumineux, la marche lente et paisible des buffles

dans les rizières, l'ombre ployée des grands banians à l'entrée de son

village, la brume bleue qui descend des montagnes vers le soir, à la

façon d'un châle qui glisse doucement sur des épaules.


lait qu’il donne à l’enfant coule sur le bord de ses lèvres. Monsieur

Linh n’a pas l’habitude encore. Il est maladroit. Mais la petite fille

ne pleure pas. Elle retourne au sommeil, et lui, il revient vers

l’horizon, l’écume du sillage et le lointain dans lequel, depuis bien

longtemps déjà, il ne distingue plus rien.


un jour de novembre, le bateau parvient à sa destination, mais le vieil

homme ne veut pas en descendre. Quitter le bateau, c’est quitter

vraiment ce qui le rattache encore à sa terre. Deux femmes alors le

mènent avec des gestes doux vers le quai, comme s’il était malade. Il

fait très froid. Le ciel est couvert. Monsieur Linh respire l’odeur du

pays nouveau. Il ne sent rien. Il n’y a aucune odeur. C’est un pays sans

odeur. Il serre l’enfant plus encore contre lui, chante la chanson à

son oreille. En vérité, c’est aussi pour lui-même qu’il la chante, pour

entendre sa propre voix et la musique de sa langue."

Collections of short stories are often good, since a single story is not

too long as to be daunting, and if you get stuck with one there are

always others

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are simplified versions of "ordinary" books that are specifically aimed at French learners.  I have searched my bookcases to see if I could locate even one book that would give me the name of the series.

They sell them in "educational" bookshops and come in different niveaus (each level being a different colour so that you can pick the level you want).  Sorry, but for the life of me, I can't remember what they are called.

5-e might know and I know "Paws" does because she mentioned a simplified Maigret she was reading.  But Paws doesn't come on here much now.  I will rack my brains, try and find a book, etc.  I know I lent some of them to others and, as is annoyingly to be expected, they have never been returned!

I don't have time to google them now but I will let you know if inspiration strikes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's one of my "go-to" websites for this sort of thing (Well, it's one of my "go to" shops, but not convenient for everyone)


Probably what Sweets is thinking of, or similar.

There are also a whole selection of "dual language" books - regrettably, more aimed at teenagers. Personally, I like the concept of these, where you read a chapter in French and then the next one in English. It can help stop people from giving up if they are struggling a bit.


Some of these are also available on Amazon with the "look inside" feature, so it's possible to see if they're for you or not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have looked at Betty's first link and, yes, that's the sort of thing I had in mind.

The bookshop that stocks many of these types of simplified language books is Mollat in Bordeaux:  www.mollat.com

Parallel texts are wonderful if you are new to reading in French.  Better still, get your teacher to read with you and s/he can explain the "culture" that is inherent in the books. 

Also, once you have enjoyed one book, it's quite nice to get another one by the same author or another of the same genre because you do get a feel of the vocabulary and sentence construction.

After that, with some practice and patience, you will be well and truly away.

When I say "you", I don't mean you, Hoddy, I just mean anyone trying to learn![:)]


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not quite the same thing, but many familiar english books have been translated into french. So you know the story and can guess some of the words.

Sorry can't give examples apart from ? Sherlock Holmes stories (and the Grey books of course.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, Patf, I forgot to say that.  The Agatha Christie ones are easy to read and also very amusing because English words are scattered about like confetti; for example:  il porte un manteau trench, etc.

Nothing like keeping you amused whilst you read.

The only thing about the parallel texts I find is that I am so lost in admiration by the art of the translator that I take forever to read them as I would often read a sentence in each language several times, just to admire the translation!

Also, sometimes, now I understand better, I would tell myself I'd translate it differently and so then that takes even longer as I want to do my own translating [:P][geek]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Enid Blyton's Famous Five books have been translated into French. Haven't read any myself,and wondered how "spiffing" was translated.

Try Guy de Maupassant's short stories. They're not hard to understand, are quite lyrical and really absorbing. Very of their time, yet still relevant today.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote user="Frecossais"]Enid Blyton's Famous Five books have been translated into French. Haven't read any myself,and wondered how "spiffing" was translated.

Try Guy de Maupassant's short stories. They're not hard to understand, are quite lyrical and really absorbing. Very of their time, yet still relevant today.
[/quote],I remember we had Guy de Maupassant's short stories while preparing for French O-level many many years ago. Seem to remember they weren't too hard to understand.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maupassant's stories can be found free online (I have never found the need for a Kindle [:)])


That site is particularly usefull in that you have them both in French and in translation.

I like http://maupassant.free.fr/textes/ferme.html

English version http://www.classicreader.com/book/514/1/

for its warm humanity  (I rather see myself as the Farmer ...)

There is a nice telefilm adaptation on youtube


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great link, Norman, thanks, I'll save it as it will be useful!

I have nothing against the lovely Maupassant. I read all kinds of stuff, classic and not, worthy or otherwise. However, and I'm speaking purely personally here, I don't know a lot of people who are queueing up to read him. And, to be honest, pleasant and easygoing though they are, many of the copyright free and worthier things to read in French wouldn't necessarily be high up on my list of things to read, either for pleasure or more importantly to improve my French. It's not inverted snobbery or anything, either. Just that, if a book and its story is gripping, it will be a greater encouragement to continue reading and, of course, to try to follow and understand for fear of missing something vital to the plot!

Sometimes, I think it's good to present a few options, and Maupassant's writings have a deserved place on the list of possibles. I'd chuck in some more modern stuff, though, just to offer some options in more contemporary French.  Maybe, I don't know, a French translation of a James Patterson book? Pacy plots, VERY short chapters, simple language, but possibly still quite tricky for someone not confident in French.....Maigret - quite a few of the books are available in "easy French"...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In a bookshop, look for books published by 'Folio Junior Edition Speciale'.  These books are aimed at younger readers but many of the stories are gripping,  My favourite was the true story of Helen Keller, an Amercian deaf-mute.

In the back of each edition, there is a summary of the story (so you can decide whether you would be interested), an analysis of the chapters and the characters, quizzes, questions to answer etc.

I look out for these books at brocantes because they are really good for reading in French.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Excellent thread! I'm with Chancer in that the bibliothèque was my first port of call. I started with books aimed at young children and found the stories so much more philosophical than you would get in comparative literature in the UK. The librarian also gave great recommendations. Right - off to make a note of all the suggestions on here... thanks all!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...