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The 60 Best Classic French Books Of All Time

The 60 Best Classic French Books Of All Time

June 16, 2024 by Mylene in Discover

New books are published every day, but which books really mark literature? These are the “classic” books. The term classic is used to describe a work of literature that has stood the test of time. These books generally deal with universal themes and issues that transcend the specific historical and cultural context in which they were written. They are well written and often considered among the best works of literature in their respective genres. These books have had a significant impact on literature and culture. They inspired other works.

To establish this ranking, I studied the numerous rankings offered by literary blogs and I relied on years of running book clubs. I only focus on French authors.

A selection of the best classic French books

Le Petit Prince d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)

L’étranger d’Albert Camus (1942)

Les Misérables de Victor Hugo (1852)

Voyage au bout de la nuit de Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1932)

Les Fleurs du mal de Charles Baudelaire (1857)

Le comte de Monte-Cristo d’Alexandre Dumas (1844)

A la recherche du temps perdu de Marcel Proust (1927)

Madame Bovary de Gustave Flaubert (1857)

Cyrano de Bergerac d’Edmond Rostand (1897)

Antigone de Jean Anouilh (1944)

Bel-Ami de Guy de Maupassant (1885)

Les liaisons dangereuses de Pierre Chordelos de Laclos (1782)

Les Fables de Jean de La Fontaine (1694)

Le Rouge et le Noir de Stendhal (1830)

Le Horla de Guy de Maupassant (1886)

La Peste d’Albert Camus (1947)

Candide ou l’Optimisme de Voltaire (1759)

Notre-Dame de Paris de Victor Hugo (1831)

Germinal d’Emile Zola (1885)

Mémoires D’Hadrien de Marguerite Yourcenar (1951)

Les rois maudits de Maurice Druon (1995)

Le dernier jour d’un condamné de Victor Hugo (1829)

Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers de Jules Verne (1869)

Dom Juan de Molière (1665)

Les Essais de Montaigne (1595)

Les Trois Mousquetaires d’Alexandre Dumas (1844)

Au bonheur des Dames d’Emile Zola (1883)

La Gloire de mon père de Marcel Pagnol (1957)

Huis clos suivi de les Mouches de Jean-Paul Sartre (1945)

L’Assomoir d’Emile Zola (1877)

Phèdre de Jean Racine (1677)

Le grand Meaulnes de Alain Fournier (1913)

L’éducation sentimentales de Gustave Flaubert (1869)

Le Cid de Pierre Corneille (1637)

Belle du Seigneur d’Albert Cohen (1968)

Alcool de Guillaume Apollianire (1913)

Le Père Goriot d’Honoré de Balzac (1835)

La Condition humaine d’André Malraux (1933)

Les petites filles modèles de la Comtesse de Ségur (1858)

Manon Lescaut d’Antoine-François Prévost (1753)

Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard de Pierre de Marivaux (1730)

La Chartreuse de Parme de Stendhal (1830)

Gargantua de Rabelais (1534)

La Promesse de l’aube de Romain Gary (1960)

Les contemplations de Victor Hugo (1856)

Le Deuxième Sexe de Simone de Beaucoir (1949)

L’amant de Marguerite Duras (1984)

Les Pensées de Pascal (1670)

Thérèse requin d’Emile Zola (1867)

Zazie dans le métro de Raymond Queneau (1959)

L’être et le néant de Jean-Paul Sartre (1943)

Lorenzaccio d’Alfred de Musset (1834)

L’écume de jours de Boris Vian (1947)

Paroles de Jacques Prévert (1945)

La Princesse de Clèves de Madame de La Fayette (1678)

Le tour du monde en 80 jours de Jules Verne (1873)

Le silence de la mer de Vercors (1942)

Du côté de chez Swan de Marcel Proust (1913)

L’avare de Molière (1668)

Les vrilles de la vigne de Colette (1908)

For a deeper appreciation of French literature

In conclusion, the selected books offer a comprehensive and engaging introduction to French literature, allowing readers to appreciate the richness and depth of French culture. The reasons for choosing these classic French books include:

  • Cultural Impact: Significant influence on French society and literature.
  • Literary Significance: Important contributions to literary traditions like realism and romanticism.
  • Accessibility: Clear and evocative narrative styles suitable for language learners.
  • Historical Context: Set in significant periods, providing insights into the culture and society of the time.
  • Universal Themes: Exploration of timeless themes such as love, justice, and redemption.
  • Language and Style: Rich and elaborate language to enhance vocabulary and understanding.
  • Philosophical and Existential Themes: Relevant explorations of contemporary French culture and thought.

With these factors in mind, readers not only enjoy the stories but also gain a more in-depth understanding of French literature and culture. To explore these works further, we invite you to join our online French Book Club, where we delve into and discuss many of these classic books. What other titles would you add to our list?

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