Following our previous article explaining the language-learning method of reading foreign-language books in their original version, we’re listing—as promised—our recommendations of the best foreign-language books to read.
You can choose books based on language, subject matter, and/or reading level. To determine the reading level, as usual, we’ll refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Don’t forget – learning a language has to be fun, so choose books that you really enjoy, and I assure you that you’ll make enormous progress without even realizing it.
Just think of how great it will feel to finish reading your first foreign-language book!!
For True Beginners
So, you barely know any of your target language? That’s okay! You can still practice reading – just start with children’s books. In fact, lots of children’s books are fun and enjoyable to read, even for adults. In addition, there are illustrations to assist comprehension. Here is a great website for reading children’s books that are available online for free:
This site has thousands of children’s books in every language! And, best of all, it’s free!
Luca and I are huge fans of comics. Like children’s books, comics are a great way to learn a language. There are all sorts of comics: for children, for adults, and all types of genres. The most well-known comics have been translated into many languages. For example, I’ve reread the entire Tintin collection in Spanish, and it’s also easy to find Black & Mortimer, Largo Winch, XII, etc. (also accessible through peer2peer downloads, but that’s illegal).
You can view selections of comic books in foreign languages on Amazon.
Educational or Self-Help Books
Educational or self-help books make it possible for you to kill two birds with one stone: learn about a topic that interests you while improving your target-language skills. If you’re passionate about something, why not learn about it by reading a book? For example, because I’m a software developer, I read a ton of English texts on the subject. I also read lots of books on language-learning methodology and memorization.
Look up topics that interest you and that may be useful to your professional life (e.g. technology, management, marketing, economics, etc.) or for personal development (self-help).
The other advantage to these books compared to novels is that they are easier to read. The writing style is simpler, and the vocabulary is limited to the subject field (less vast than in novels). In addition, you will have double the motivation to read these books because you will be improving in two areas at once.
Books that Have Been Adapted to Film
I also recommend that you check out books that have been adapted into films. First, you can watch the movie using our method, then start reading the book. This will make the reading easier because you already know the story.
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Our Selection of Book Recommendations, Organized by Level and by Language
Here is our selection of great books (organized by language and by level) that you will enjoy reading and that will help you make significant progress in your target language.
The Best Books to Read: French, Level A1
À la recherche de l’ami disparu (Maureen Simpson)
Jules and Camille are twins, even though they are nothing alike. It’s summer vacation, and their friend Guillaume has disappeared. Help Jules and Camille find their missing friend!
Le Capitaine Fracasse (Théophile Gautier)
The baron of Sigognac is a noble who runs off with a group of traveling actors. He falls in love with a young actress named Isabelle. However, an insolent duke wants to seduce Isabelle, so the baron has to challenge him!
The Best Books to Read: French A2
Candide is a young man who lives a sheltered life and is indoctrinated with optimism. The book describes Candide’s slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world.
Bel-Ami (Guy de Maupassant)
This book describes journalist Georges Duroy’s corrupt rise to power. He goes from being poor to becoming one of the most successful men in Paris, most of which he achieves by manipulating many powerful, intelligent, and wealthy mistresses.
The Best Books to Read: French B1
Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (Jules Verne)
This book tells the story of Captain Nemo and his submarine, from the point of view of Professor Pierre Aronnax.
Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
This book is centered on a man who is wrongfully imprisoned, escapes from jail, acquires a fortune, and seeks revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment. However, his plans have devastating consequences for the innocent as well as the guilty.
The Best Books to Read: French B2
Les Misérables (Victor Hugo)
The story begins in 1815 and ends in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris. It follows the lives and interactions of several characters, focusing on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.
Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
This book is about a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.
The Best Books to Read: Spanish A1-A2
Lazarillo de Tormes
Anonymous anecdotes on Lazarillo’s passage from childhood to adult life.
Asesinato en la Mansion (Susana González Orozco)
A rather easy detective story where Martha Lucas has to solve the mystery of an unpopular baron’s death.
The Best Books to Read: Spanish B1
La Tia Tula (Miguel de Unamuno)
A family drama that tells the story of Tula, who decides to go live with her brother after her sister’s death.
La Celestina (Fernando de Rojas)
The beautiful Mélibée’s refusal throws Calisto into despair… this story has a few surprises in store!
The Best Books to Read: Spanish B2
Una otra historia de amor Como Cualquiera (Lucia Etxebarria)
A collection of short stories full of people who seem to have come from an Almodovar film: prostitutes, absent fathers, women on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the search for love, and so on.
Los hijos de la Luz (César Vidal)
An excellent, historical thriller where 3 parallel stories take place in 3 different places and 3 different time periods. This is one story that you shouldn’t miss.
The Best Books to Read: German A1-A2
Generation Y (Felix Farwick)
The story of Jorg and Helena, two young boys in Berlin who fall in love and have to deal with the problems that may jeopardize their relationship.
Der Verzicht. Drei Erzählunge (Joseph Roth)
Roth is the author of, among other works, the well-known books “The Emperor’s Tomb”, “The Legend of the Holy Drinker”, and “Radetzky March”. This volume presents three stories centered around the theme of renunciation. (Level A2-B1)
The Best Books to Read: German B1
Die Leiden des Jungen Werther (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
The Sorrows of Young Werther, who has to go out to the country to deal with family issues and gets seduced by the charm of the countryside and the beauty of Lotte, who is already betrothed to someone else.
Unterm Birnbaum (Theodor Fontane)
A crime story that takes place around the Hradscheck Abel inn, in northern Germany.
Read the free, online version.
Bref une Vate den (Franz Kafka)
“Letter to his Father” by Kafka is an autobiographical novel about the inter-generational conflict between the Prague writer and his father.
Das Fräulein von Scuder (Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann)
Class struggles, mysteries, and crimes in France at the time of Lous XIV. One of Hoffmann’s best stories.
Where can you find the best books to read?
- Hoepli: Reading Series with graded readers in English, French, Spanish, and German
- Giant, online bookstores (Amazon, etc.) always have tons of books in foreign languages
- Eli – Graded Readers: organized by level and by age (English, French, Spanish, and German)
- Cidib – Graded Readers: under the heading “Easyreads,” books are organized by the readers’ age (English, French, Spanish, German)
We’ve developed this list as we’ve come across these books and from your suggestions, so thank you in advance for sharing your favorite reads with us here!
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