One way to gain insight into a culture is to see what its people are reading. Topping the French charts lately has been The Arab of the Future 6, the final volume of a series that has been a massive best-seller in France. It’s a bande dessinée, or graphic novel, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Written and illustrated by Riad Sattouf, one of France’s top cartoonists, it tells the story of his childhood.
Sattouf’s heritage spans two very different cultures. His mother is from Brittany and his father from Syria, and they met when the father was pursuing a doctorate at the Sorbonne. Sattouf was raised in France, then Libya, then Syria, then back to France, experiencing culture shock every step of the way.
The Arab of the Future is funny, touching, enlightening, infuriating, and much more—it’s easy to see why the French love it. It tells the story of a child raised between two worlds, offering a unique look at both French and Arab societies, and is a great read in any language. For those who want to try their hand at reading in French, a bande dessinée is a great place to start, with lots of pictures to help you along, and not too many words.
Read all about it in Frenchly!
A good book on your bedside table can offer refuge like none other. Whether you need to unwind for 30 minutes while your baby naps; you need to dream someone else’s dreams before bed; or you wake in the middle of the night and need to while away the wee hours; here are eight books you can lean on.
I was one of the Frenchly writers who was asked to contribute their favorites–both old and new–for you to consider for yourself or someone special in your life while colder weather descends.
Read all about it at Frenchly!
How would you like to travel to France but not have to get on a plane?
The best way to do it, unless you have a friend with a yacht, is by reading a book. I love books by foreigners who’ve lived in France. They see the country differently than the French do, and living abroad helps them see their own country through new eyes.
I’ve put together a list of my favorite books about France. Some are funny, some are touching, and all are excellent reads. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite yourself!
Read all about it at Frenchly!
One of the most popular writers in France today is Fred Vargas, author of over a dozen policiers (crime novels.) Vargas is unusual both for her background and for the style of her novels, which depart from the usual formulas and clichés of crime fiction. They are fun reads and I just love them.
Not only are Vargas’ books a hit in France, but several have won the Gold Dagger Award, given annually to the world’s top crime novel. In fact, Vargas (who is a historian in real life named Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau) is the first author to have won this award for three successive novels! Nearly all have been translated into English.
What makes her novels unusual? They are extremely well-written and they avoid the formulas common to the genre. Her most famous character, Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, is the antithesis of the classic hard-boiled detective. He is small, soft-spoken, and eschews normal investigative methods. In fact, he is completely incapable of thinking logically (much to the frustration of his team.)
Instead, Adamsberg relies on a remarkable intuition that even he doesn’t understand, piecing together minor and seemingly unrelated details to solve murders. It is this ability that has taken him from a small town in the Pyrenees to one of the top police posts in Paris.
If you are looking for a fun read with some French flair, check out one of the excellent novels by Fred Vargas.
Read all about it in My French Life!
Are you looking for a great new book to read? Then consider trying a French novel. Books that have won the prestigious Prix Goncourt (Goncourt Prize) are a good place to start because most have been translated into English. Some have even become movies, like The Perfect Nanny and The Life Ahead, recently made into a Netflix film starring Sophia Loren.
What’s not to like about the Goncourt? It’s got class! (winners include Simone de Beauvoir and Marcel Proust.) It’s got controversy! (non-winners include Albert Camus and Colette.) And sometimes the prize committee gets hoodwinked, like the time they awarded the Goncourt to an author that didn’t exist.
Find your next great read at France Today!
French is a beautiful language with a rich literary history. And unless you are one of those rare people with a gift for languages, it’s challenging to learn.
But in spite of the effort involved, it is sooooo worth it. Even if your French isn’t perfect, French people really appreciate it when you make the effort to speak their language. They’ll chat with you, ask you questions about yourself and where you come from, and offer their opinions on anything and everything. Such fun! Being able to break through the language barrier opens up a new world with new perspectives.
There are plenty of ways to learn French, from classroom work to apps like Duolingo, and Rosetta Stone. Those are great for giving you the basics, but what if you want to progress to a real conversational level, or read something beyond a few simple paragraphs? Let me share with you some helpful ideas on how to accelerate your progress and have fun doing so. And you might enjoy the intriguing question I ask at the end.
Read all about it in My French Life!
One of the best ways to improve your French is by reading. Unlike spoken French, which can sometimes be too fast to understand, reading allows you to go at your own pace. It adds to your vocabulary and can help your pronunciation if you read out loud. No matter what your level of French, reading is a fun and effective way to get better at this beautiful language.
But where to start? I’ve put together a list of excellent resources for readers at any level, from debutantes to advanced. It’s never too late to get started!
Check out my article at My French Life to find some fun things to read!
“Families come in all shapes and sizes.”
This phrase, spoken by one the women in Patricia Sands’ new novella, is a good summary of what this lovely book is about. And what families they are! United by love, friendship, and sometimes even biology. Sands shows us how families bind us together, forming the center of a life well-lived.
As with all of her books, Sands does a wonderful job of capturing the sights, smells, and flavors of this unique part of the world. We see the stunning ocher mines of Roussillon, the austere beauty of the Abbey de Senanque, and the magical sound & light show inside the Carrières de Lumières. We learn about Provencal traditions like la vendange—the grape harvest—where each new vintage begins with a joyous celebration. And of course, there are meals, lots of meals, with tables bursting with the bounty of Provence.
Learn more about this fun new book at Perfectly Provence!
French is a beautiful language, but like any foreign tongue, it can be intimidating. I remember the first time I was in Paris and a local spoke to me. I froze because I had no idea what she’d just said! It was so embarrassing. Let me tell you how reading in French can help you, as it helped me, no matter what your level.
I didn’t begin studying French in earnest until I was in my late 40s.
I improved little by little and today, a dozen years later, I can speak the language comfortably. I subscribe to a French newspaper and watch French news. And one of the things that has helped me is reading.
When I first started, I could only read the short handouts I got from my French teacher. Eventually, I tried newspapers and magazines, and finally made it to simple books—my first one is very popular with 12-year-olds!
Now I’ve enjoyed a number of French novels, including some of the classics.
I offer my tips for getting started with French reading in My French Life.
One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence has been out for six months and has been gratifyingly well received. Thanks to everyone who has read it and an extra-special thanks to those of you who have written a review. I really appreciate it!
I’m planning to write a second book, continuing the story of the adventures Val and I have been enjoying in France. Before I do, I would love to get your thoughts. I have a few questions and would be very grateful if you would let me know what you think.
What did you enjoy about One Sip at a Time?
What would you have liked to be different in the book?
What did you expect but not find in the book?
What would you like to see in a second book about our life in France? How would you like it to be different from the first book (if at all)?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Or you can email me directly at [email protected].