French books are rubbish?

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rdearman
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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby rdearman » Sat Oct 16, 2021 5:55 pm

Carmody wrote:
rdearman
There may be a great book out there written in French I just haven't seen it yet.
Could you share with us what you consider to be a great book in any language?

I will tell you the books I like, that doesn't however make them great books. :)

Lord of the Rings (and the Hobbit)
Dune (or anything written by Frank Herbert)
The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
The horse clans novels (the entire series)
The destroyer series (Warren Murphy)
Way-Farer series by Dennis Schmidt
Thraxas series by Martin Scott
James Cavell novels (Taipan, Shogun, Noble House, etc)
Robert E Howard books
Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony
Raise the Titanic
Number One Ladies Detective Agency series Alexander McCall Smith
The sword of Shannara
Illusions the adventures of a reluctant messiah Richard Bach
Musashi, Eiji Yoshikawa
Andre Norton (any of them)
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
The Blind Assassin
Any book written by David Gemmell
Neuromancer, William Gibson
The Shining, The Stand, Salems Lot, (Stephen King)
Interview With the Vampire
The Godfather (Any Mario Puzo actually)
2001: A Space Odyssey
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
A Clockwork Orange
Stranger in a Strange Land, The moon is a harsh mistress, (Roberty A Heinlein)
I, Robot
Nineteen Eighty-Four
The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men
All Quiet on the Western Front
Tarzan of the Apes
Sherlock Holmes novels
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, etc
Treasure Island
Little Women
Most of the books by Jules Verne
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
The Fall of the House of Usher
Gulliver’s Travels
Robinson Crusoe
The Legend of Drizzt Series
The Urth of the New Sun
The Ghost Brigades, (The old mans war series) John Scalzi
Louis L'Amour westerns
A Mote in God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Uplift Series by David Brin
Serpent War Saga, Brian E Feist
Le Petit Nicolas
Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
All of the books written by P.G. Wodehouse
The art of war
The war of art
Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
The Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison (which is the first time I ever heard of Esperanto BTW)
Riverworld Philip José Farmer
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Martian, by Andy Weir
Titan, John Varley
Enders Game, Orson Scott Card
The Hardy Boys series, Franklin W. Dixon
Robert Ludlum books, all most all of them.
The Sunset Warrior, Eric Van Lustbader
The Pillars of the Earth, Ken FOllet
Spellsinger series, Alan Dean Foster
John Grisham books
The Night's Dawn Trilogy, Peter F. Hamilton
I am Legend, Richard Matheson
Berserker Series, Fred Saberhagen
Lucifer's Hammer, Larry Niven
Michael John Moorcock, Elric of Melniboné
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle Camp
MythAdventures, Robert Asprin


I'm sure there are more, but that was all I could think of.
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: 16 / 22 22 French Paperbacks Read: 7736 pages

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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby Le Baron » Sat Oct 16, 2021 6:09 pm

Surely there are French analogues for a lot of these kinds of books? Many of those are historical books and French has lots (Man in the Iron Mask, Jacques le Fataliste etc).

They are also mainly English books and that is a style to be found in English (or north American) writing.

We all have our 'warning flags', for me anything with 'trilogy' or 'series' after it says to me: verbal diarrhoea and a triumph of 'imagination' over content. 8-)
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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby FyrsteSumarenINoreg » Sat Oct 16, 2021 8:58 pm

Try Anna Gavalda. :D
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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby einzelne » Sat Oct 16, 2021 10:25 pm

Since you liked Meditations, try Citadelle by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (and his novels)
La Condition humaine by André Malraux.

As for genre fiction, how about Maigret novels?
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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby Carmody » Sun Oct 17, 2021 1:56 am

Congratulations on a wonderful list!
Many thanks.
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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby rdearman » Sun Oct 17, 2021 6:49 am

Le Baron wrote:
They are also mainly English books and that is a style to be found in English (or north American) writings


two points.
  • I would like to refer the honourable gentleman to the title of this thread
  • I spent the first 40 years of my life as a monolingual American

I have yet to find any good French books, probably because of circumstances I have already explained, and having spent most of my life as a monolingual English speaker it was only possible for me to read English books, or books translated into English.

einzelne wrote:Since you liked Meditations, try Citadelle by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (and his novels)
La Condition humaine by André Malraux.

As for genre fiction, how about Maigret novels?

I will check those out, as well as the others people have told me about. I did read a couple of books by Maigret they were given to me. They were OK but not something I would spend money on.
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: 16 / 22 22 French Paperbacks Read: 7736 pages

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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby guyome » Sun Oct 17, 2021 7:06 am

I included the books in your list that made me think of these French authors. This is, of course, not saying that they are the same thing, just that for some reason my mind drew a connection:

- Kim > Joseph Kessel, Romain Gary, Frison-Roche
- Dune/space opera > Les Guerriers du silence
- Gulliver’s Travels > Voltaire's Contes (Candide, Zadig, Micromegas, etc.)
- All Quiet on the Western Front > Ceux de 14, Les Croix de bois, Le Feu, Voyage au bout de la nuit
- Marcus Aurelius > Yourcenar's Mémoires d'Hadrien
- The Three Musketeers > more Dumas, it's not like there's a shortage of them! Vingt ans après, Le Vicomte de Bragelonne maybe, for more d'Artagnan?
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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby BeaP » Sun Oct 17, 2021 8:34 am

I've been reading this forum for years, and got a lot of help from you all. I've just registered to try and give some back.
So my suggestions are:
Hervé Le Tellier: L'Anomalie
Tonino Benacquista: Saga
Jean-Michel Guenassia: Le Club Des Incorregibles Optimistes
Florence Aubenas: L'Inconnu de la Poste
Georges Simenon: La Chambre Bleue
Emmanuel Carrere: L'Adversaire
Romain Gary: La Promesse de l'aube
Antoine Laurain: Le Chapeau de Mitterrand
Marguerite Yourcenar: Les mémoires d'Hadrien
Laurent Binet: HHhH
And my opinion on the topic:
French books are not worse than others in general, but you need to search a lot to find one you like. I usually search on goodreads, but it's very time-consuming in any way. There you can find people with similar tastes and look at their suggestions. Most people also organise their books on shelves, so you can look at the 'french' shelves.
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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby Iversen » Sun Oct 17, 2021 9:21 am

rdearman wrote:(...) not something I would spend money on.


That's an important point. I can read a standard book in an hour or two, and in most cases I won't ever read it again. So unless it's a dictionary or grammar or travel guide or field guide to birds or some other kind of tome for repeated consultation then it would be idiotic to buy it - for reasons of both economy and shelf space.

It's also a question of languages. I have access to many thousands of books in Danish and English at the libraries here so it would be idiotic to buy books in those languages. They do have French books (and books in many other languages), but hardly any non-fiction - otherwise I would borrow it home and read it. I do buy books and popular sci mags during my travels, but not many, so all in all I read far fewer fullsize books than I did before my interest in foreign languages was rekindled. Instead I mostly read things on the internet, with Wikipedia as the main source, and for much of the time where I once would plow through whole books I now study short texts from the internet intensively. You can't do everything within the allotted 24 hours a day...
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Re: French books are rubbish?

Postby Le Baron » Sun Oct 17, 2021 12:18 pm

I would move that the thread title could better be: French books don't cater to my tastes. Which is a perfectly understandable and acceptable sentiment. We all have types of books we like.

I think I've made a fair argument about how general French literature has a discernible character and is likely not suitable for those strongly preferring genre fiction. This is going to be an obstacle if anyone learning French insists on reading general French literature and wants it to be something it isn't. It is what it is. Someone (or more than one person) above mentioned reading non-fiction, which is probably a place to find more direct writing anyway. I say 'probably' because some ostensibly 'non-fiction' books, especially the popular ones, now employ a very fiction-like narrative to tell 'stories'.

One non-fiction book I read a couple of years ago L’arme invisible de la Françafrique. Une histoire du franc CFA is of the type that just imparts factual information, but has a sort of driving narrative enough to make it engaging. I'm a great lover of fiction, but perhaps language learners rely a little too much on the idea of fiction as the main learning tool for reading. It is often filled with difficult/awkward constructions; highly poetic language with many idioms; confusing dreamlike narratives which require a level of sophistication beforehand. Where Iversen talks about reading Wikipedia articles, just articles on the internet...that makes sense to me. You need variety in short bursts and there is almost limitless material of that kind available in a language like French.

Grinding one's way through massive texts (or huge numbers of 'pages') with the idea this translates to the main route to 'language proficiency' seems to me highly misguided. The interplay between talk, listening and reading feed off each other. Listening/reading at the minimum and not necessarily some organised, integrated L-R idea, but wide and variegated reading and listening. This is how you got good at your native language.
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Beter ten halve gekeerd dan ten hele gedwaald.


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