10 Best French Novels [2023]

Why do we enjoy French novels so much? Perhaps, it’s because the best French novels are among the true classics – novels that have stood the test of time. The best novels (French or not, classics or not) have certain traits in common, such as,

  • Popularity. Most people genuinely enjoy reading them.
  • Talk. They generate conversation as well as internal reflection.
  • Easy to Read. They are readable. Details are presented in a manner that is easy to digest and appreciate.

They are also universal and transcended all language barriers. We find that their themes are either applicable to us or they are ones we can easily relate to.

Have a look at our list of the top 10 French novels. How many have you read?

Things to Consider When Buying French Novels

Before selecting your French novel, there are some points you have to consider about you as a reader, your reading style and the type of novel you wish to read.

  • Reader. What are your interests? Is there a particular genre of book that you would prefer? If philosophical novels appeal to you then perhaps a romance and adventure novel is not what you should reach for. That said, you might find that you are more open to exploring other styles of writing than you first thought.
  • Version. Unabridged versions of some novels may be difficult to read, digest and appreciate. Plus, many abridged versions of novels manage to retain the elements that most appeal to readers – they just do so in fewer words! Some persons, however, will always feel a need to read the book in its entirety, exactly as the author originally intended.
  • Author. If you have enjoyed reading books by a particular author, then chances are you will also find other examples of their work engaging. Still, who knows? – Your new favorite novel might just happen to be by an author you hadn’t heard about before.

Top 10 French Novels Ultimate Chart

Picture Name Genre Price Rating (1-5)
1. The Count of Monte Cristo Historical novel and Adventure $$
  • 4.6/5
2. Les Misérables Epic novel and historical fiction $$$
  • 4.5/5
3. The Phantom of the Opera Gothic novel $$
  • 4.4/5
4. Around the World in Eighty Days Adventure novel $
  • 4.4/5
5. Candide: Or, Optimism Philosophical fiction; satire; coming-of-age; bildungsroman $$
  • 4.4/5
6. The Three Musketeers Historical novel $
  • 4.4/5
7. The Stranger Philosophical novel $
  • 4.3/5
8. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame Romanticism, Gothic fiction $
  • 4.3/5
9. The Man in the Iron Mask Historical, Romantic $$
  • 4.2/5
10. The Fall Philosophical novel $
  • 4.2/5

French Novels Shopping Tips

Hardcover or paperback, new or used – there are many options to select from when shopping for novels. Here are a few tips to make the process a little easier.

  • Hardcover or Paperback. While hardcover books are more durable, paperback books are lighter and therefore easier to move around with if you intend to read in various locations. Also, the hardcover version of a book is usually released before the paperback one – can you wait?
  • E-books. This environmentally friendly option gives you the convenience of having several books on hand at once, minus the bulk. Consider though that not everyone enjoys reading from a computer screen.
  • New or Used. Normally, new books cost more than used ones. If you are not averse to the idea of purchasing a used book or you know you will not be interested in keeping the novel once you have finished reading it, then going with a used book is a good idea.
  • Compiling a Collection. If you are compiling a collection of the best French novels, then the uniformity in the presentation of the books may be a factor you are going for. Some persons prefer a collection of all original works, or all paperback or all from the same publisher.

Top 3 Best French Novels Reviews

1. The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

Before reading the book, most people think The Count of Monte Cristo is a fast-paced, high-energy novel. Not quite – while there’s some intense action in the story, it is as much a psychological thriller as an historical and adventure piece.

Written by Alexander Dumas and originally published in series between 1844 and 1855, The Count of Monte Cristo has truly earned its pride of place among the best French novels of all time.

It tells of the handsome, young Edmond Dantes who seems to have everything going his way. He is captain of his first ship and about to marry his soul mate. Tragically, he becomes the victim of betrayal, jealously and an ill-fated love triangle. Sentenced to life in the infamous Château d’If, he learns the location of a horde of treasure. Edmond escapes, takes on the alias of the Count of Monte Cristo (among several others) and begins to plot his revenge.

2. Les Misérables

Les Misérables

Epic, indeed, this translation of the Victor Hugo 1862 classic is over 1000 pages long. Readers are neither bored nor disappointed, however, as Les Misérables takes them on an exploration of redemption from past transgression, love versus hate and fate versus justice.

Les Misérables is made even more digestible by the fact that Victor Hugo divided it into volumes, books and chapters. The mix of characters includes – ex-convict Jean Valjean; Javert, the unyielding police detective; tragic Fantine, the prostitute; and Cosette, her innocent daughter. Each one is as complex as the relationships that intertwine their lives.

This expertly translated version retains all the beauty of Hugo’s mastery of description. The book challenges you to live with your own conscience and is truly deserving of its distinction of being one of the greatest novels of all time.

3. The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera

Filled with romance, mystery and horror, Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, seems to have something for every type of reader to enjoy. Originally published in serial form between late 1909 and early 1910, this gothic novel is set in the Paris Opera House in the nineteenth century.

Beautiful, young and talented Christine appears to be stalked by a mysterious phantom that also haunts the entire opera house. Young love, jealousy and a theme akin to Beauty and the Beast dominate this exciting literary work from start to end. Which character will you feel most drawn to and why? That answer comes only after you have read the last pages of this classic.