The Best French Books/Podcasts/Series…
This is a round-up of my current favourite French books, podcasts and series for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the French language! These resources are the perfect way to take your French to the next level. Whilst they are mostly aimed at nearly-fluent/ nearly-nearly fluent speakers, throw on some English subtitles or pull-up word-reference, and they can be enjoyed by anyone!
Le Petit Nicolas
In a series of short children’s stories, Le Petit Nicolas recounts everyday adventures – the zoo, the dentist, birthdays – through the eyes of Nicolas, a French school-boy. Le Petit Nicolas is my favourite of French book series! Whilst it is a children’s book, in my opinion, it’s a must-read whatever level of French you are at. For the more experienced learner, each novelette is about a 15-minute read or so – the perfect bite-sized accompaniment to breakfast, journeys or just before bed, full of natural and conversational level French. Whereas a less confident speaker will find that the vocabulary is repetitive and therefore extremely accessible. Either way the comical and reminiscent stories are sure to put a smile on your face!
Albert Camus’ L’Étranger is a choice for the more confident learner. Whilst this read perhaps warrants a more acquired taste, it is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Widely regarded as one of history’s most important pieces of literature, it is a book you’ve got to try! With its famous first line: “Aujourd’hui, Maman est morte.”, “L’Etranger” is famous for its exploration of absurdism and existentialism. So, if you want to ponder over life’s big questions – but in French – this one’s for you!
TIP: If you’re a bit nervous to dive straight into a French novel, why not have a skim over its summary first? You can find a simple and reliable French summary to many classics on Wikipedia.fr.
TIP: Read the French translation of your favourite English book!
On my Reading List: La Chute, La Peste, Madame Bovary, Le Rouge et le Noir
Light-hearted, comical and current, Plan Coeur is a must for anyone with a guilty pleasure for sitcoms and rom-coms. Roughly translating to “The Hook-up Plan”, this Netflix Original series of easy-to-watch 20-minute-long episodes is sure to make you laugh. Based in Paris, this series will make you an expert in familiar French. So, get ready for plenty of: “potes”, “meufs”, “ouf”, “kiffer” and “wesh”.
Tip: Listen out for Verlan! Verlan is a type of French slang that roughly inverses a word’s syllables. Verlan itself is a (rough) inversion of the word “l’envers” meaning “the reverse”. So, for example “meufs” the French for “girls/girl-friends” is the inverse of “femmes” and “ouf!” is the inverse of “crazy”: “fou”!
Another Netflix Original based in Paris, but with a very different feel! Lupin is a gripping and excellently made mystery-thriller series that follows Assane Diop on his adventure to avenge his late father. The language remains relatively accessible and a lot is said in the pictures alone!
Dix Pour Cent
Under the English title “Call My Agent”, this work-based sit-com follows the everyday drama, workplace romances and fall-outs, of the colleagues at a Paris-based talent-agency. Originally streamed on France 2, but now available on Netflix, you will laugh at how authentically French this series feels from time to time (just take a look at Arlette!). Whilst the French in this series is a little trickier than in the others, the series remains easy-to-follow. You are sure to fall in love with the dynamic characters, laugh and cry with them!
On my Watchlist: Family Business
Films to Watch: L’Arnacoeur (rom-com), A la folie…pas du tout (psychological drama – after watching the title will make a lot of sense!), Intouchables (laugh-out-loud comedy!), Au revoir les enfants (heart-breaking and moving WW2-based autobiographical masterpiece by Louis Malle)
Emotions, Louie Media
With episodes such as « L’obstination a-t-elle du bon ? » and « La colère est-elle vraiment mauvaise conseillère ? », Emotions is full of 20-60-minute episodes that deconstruct – you guessed it – emotions! Each episode focuses on one emotion – whether grief, happiness, or perhaps instead a social construct such as image or sexuality – and without going into the depth of scientific detail, deconstructs the emotion’s place in society at a conversational, thoughtful, and engaging level.
Tip: Once you feel confident watching French films and reading French books, podcasts are a great next step. With no sub-titles, words or pictures to help you out, your listening skills will really benefit!
Other Podcast Recommendations: https://www.cosmopolitan.fr/quels-sont-les-meilleurs-podcasts-a-ecouter-absolument,2020866.asp ; https://www.timeout.fr/paris/que-faire/les-10-podcasts-a-ecouter-absolument
Tip: Download a French book on Audible (even one that you may have read before!). Audible allows you to slow down the pace of listening in increments of 5%, so you can opt for the right speed for you!
Happy reading/ listening/ watching! What are your favourite French books, podcasts and series?