TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

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Carmody
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:44 pm

kanewai

Many thanks for taking the time to list all the books you have read. I liked especially your summaries or comments on the books.

If you get a chance would it be possible for you to note on your list which books you would highly recommend for us to read? For myself, I am from now on grading all the books that I post here so that people will have an idea what I think of it. Such as 8/10 or 3/10. If people note they really like a book then the chances are I might as well.

Thanks again and congratulations on your wonderful listing.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sun Mar 17, 2019 12:15 am

MamaPata wrote:What did you think of Le Grand Meaulnes? I’m about 30pages in. I keep suggesting it for the book group in order to help me progress with it, but no takers yet! :lol:


I carved out from Kanewai's list books I have read with some comments and posted belos, but I am responding here as well because I want to comment on your question.
I am fond of La condition humaine and have read it twice, but Le Grand Meaules is my favorite French novel of the 20th century.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sun Mar 17, 2019 12:38 am

kanewai wrote:These are all the French books I've read going back to 2012.

  • Alain-Fournier. Le Grand Meaulnes. 1913.
  • Albert Camus. La peste. 1947. Explores the humanist side of existentialism in a city under quarantine.
  • Alexandre Dumas. Le comte de Monte-Cristo. 1844. Grand adventures with vivid characters.
    ***
  • André Malraux. La condition humaine. 1933
    ***
  • Gustave Flaubert. Madame Bovary. 1856. More focused and tightly written than the other 19th Century writers.
    ***
  • Honoré de Balzac. Le père Goriot. 1835. Father Goriot was too much of a passive victim for me to really 'like' this novel, but I figure everyone should read Balzac once, since he's referenced so much by other authors.
    ***
  • Jean Racine. Phèdre. 1677. There are shenanigans going on at the royal palace while Theseus is off fighting the Minotaur.  
    ***
  • Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Voyage au bout de la nuit. 1932. A man sees horrible things in the world, and becomes a horrible person at the end. Lots of French friend recommended Céline to me. It makes me wonder who my friends really are.
    ***
  • Marcel Proust. Du côte de chez Swann. 1913. A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs. 1919. Le Côté de Guermantes. 1920. Sodome et Gomorrhe. 1922. Aggh. Proust. There are some sublimely beautiful passages here, surrounded by hundreds of pages of unrelenting dullness. 
  • Marguerite Duras. L'amant de la Chine du Nord. 1991 
    ***
  • Maurice Druon, Le roi de fer. 1955. La reine étranglée. 1955
    ***
  • Victor Hugo.  Les misérables. 1862. Victor Hugo is like a dotty old uncle who's stories never end, and who tends to go off on too many tangents, but when he stays on track his stories are fantastic.

I carved out above the novels that I have read over a number of years. Here are my thumbnail assessments.

Le Grand Meaulnes. Excellent.
La peste. Interesting, but that's all.
Le comte de Monte-Cristo. The comte took so long to escape prison that I lost interest and quit reading.
La condition humaine. Read it twice, loved it the first time, not so much the second.
Madame Bovary. Quit at page 9.
Le père Goriot. I am reading along to an audiobook of this, but even so it's tough going.
Phèdre. Read years ago; I think I liked it.
Voyage au bout de la nuit. Also read years ago, but in translation. I think I liked it, too.
À la recherche. I agree with your assessment, except, if you hear it read by a professional reader, it is marvelous.
L'amant de la Chine du Nord. The point of view from which the novel is told is everything. Mind-shifting.
Le roi de fer. Read it twice, just because it's fun. But got bogged down in La reine étranglée. I have the set in hard bound copies. Because of Game of Thrones, this set of books may be worth millions. :roll:
Les misérables. Yes, Way too dull to finish, but I may have to give an audiobook a try, if there is one.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:29 pm

A very big thank you to kanewai and to MorktheFiddle for their listing of books and posting their evaluations. It's great now I have a road forward when looking for French books that I will have a good chance of enjoying.

I must say I find it especially wonderful that MorktheFiddle listed the different classics that he did not like. That was great. I think many people are usually reluctant to say when they really don't like a classic that they are supposed to like.

These lists are certainly going to be saving me lots of time in the future.

Thank you one and all.
:D
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Lysander » Sun Mar 17, 2019 9:35 pm

Did many of you use dual-readers before reading things exclusively in French? My library has a decent number of options (half a dozen) of those. But part of me thinks I should just buy a Kindle book in French and start reading since Kindle's have a built in dictionary.

I am unsure where a good place to start would be. I have heard Le Petit Prince has some archaic and surprisingly complex grammar in it.

I see a copy of L'Étranger for $1.99, which seems like a good price.

Maybe Harry Potter would be a good way to go? $57.64 for all seven books, which seems like a not outrageous price since that equals over a million words, at least in English.

I like that you can search by author, even in foreign languages. It is just hard to know a wise way to start. I feel like reading engaging things and having the steeper learning curve makes more sense than reading a bunch of books for children first.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby DaveAgain » Sun Mar 17, 2019 10:36 pm

Lysander wrote:Did many of you use dual-readers before reading things exclusively in French? My library has a decent number of options (half a dozen) of those. But part of me thinks I should just buy a Kindle book in French and start reading since Kindle's have a built in dictionary.

I am unsure where a good place to start would be. I have heard Le Petit Prince has some archaic and surprisingly complex grammar in it.

I see a copy of L'Étranger for $1.99, which seems like a good price.

Maybe Harry Potter would be a good way to go? $57.64 for all seven books, which seems like a not outrageous price since that equals over a million words, at least in English.

I like that you can search by author, even in foreign languages. It is just hard to know a wise way to start. I feel like reading engaging things and having the steeper learning curve makes more sense than reading a bunch of books for children first.
Reading the kind of books you usually like to read is certainly a good point. Your own interest in the book is necessary to keep you putting in the time. But for your first steps it can be a good idea to take advantage of resources designed to help you: e.g. your local library's dual language books, they may also have graded readers (these use a limited vocabulary of common words).

A book you already know well is an option (this I believe is the attraction of the Harry Potter books for some language learners).

Petit Nicolas is a popular first choice (funny short stories).
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Mon Mar 18, 2019 12:21 am

Lysander wrote:Did many of you use dual-readers before reading things exclusively in French? My library has a decent number of options (half a dozen) of those. But part of me thinks I should just buy a Kindle book in French and start reading since Kindle's have a built in dictionary.

I am unsure where a good place to start would be. I have heard Le Petit Prince has some archaic and surprisingly complex grammar in it.

I see a copy of L'Étranger for $1.99, which seems like a good price.

Maybe Harry Potter would be a good way to go? $57.64 for all seven books, which seems like a not outrageous price since that equals over a million words, at least in English.

I like that you can search by author, even in foreign languages. It is just hard to know a wise way to start. I feel like reading engaging things and having the steeper learning curve makes more sense than reading a bunch of books for children first.

My recommendation is to start with the cheapest option and see how far it takes you and how long your patience last. If it seems like too much, go with Harry Potter. Le petit prince turned me off almost immediately, since fantasy does not appeal to me. Le petit Nicolas is unfamiliar to me. Graded readers as DaveAgain suggests is another possibility, though I myself have come to the conclusion that parallel texts where the translation sticks as closely as possible to the original is the way to go. I first came to French literature via the academic route, but (much) later as a false beginner I used first LingQ and then LWT to catch up on my vocabulary. Had I to do it over again, however, my struggles with Ancient Greek, where LWT/LingQ is as much an encumbrance as an aid, have led me to believe I would have been better off using parallel texts instead of either LingQ or LWT as being far more economical with time.
Graded readers probably have the same virtue. I used them a bit with trying to re-establish my German, but found them a wee bit dull. But that's me. Your mileage may vary, to coin an expression.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Mon Mar 18, 2019 7:51 pm

MamaPata wrote:What did you think of Le Grand Meaulnes? I’m about 30pages in. I keep suggesting it for the book group in order to help me progress with it, but no takers yet! :lol:
I enjoyed it. It was one of the first French books I read, so it might be worthwhile to go back and re-read it now that I'm more fluent. It was really popular during the first Super Challenge, possibly because there were public-domain dual-language copies that we passed around. I'll link to those below.

I'd definitely recommend it for French readers. The Book Club is more challenging, because you'd want books with more universal appeal. I'm not sure how well Le Grand Meaulnes would work in translation.

Carmody wrote:Many thanks for taking the time to list all the books you have read. I liked especially your summaries or comments on the books.

If you get a chance would it be possible for you to note on your list which books you would highly recommend for us to read? For myself, I am from now on grading all the books that I post here so that people will have an idea what I think of it. Such as 8/10 or 3/10. If people note they really like a book then the chances are I might as well.
I tried doing that, but got stuck. Literature is so subjective. For someone like Proust, I'd give his books a 10/10 and also a 3/10. I hated Marc Levy, and would give him a 1/10 ... but he's insanely popular & people who like the romance genre love him. Whereas I'd give Jean Genet a 10/10 ... but his writing is definitely not for everyone.

MorkTheFiddle wrote:I carved out above the novels that I have read over a number of years. Here are my thumbnail assessments.

Le comte de Monte-Cristo. The comte took so long to escape prison that I lost interest and quit reading.
À la recherche. I agree with your assessment, except, if you hear it read by a professional reader, it is marvelous.
Le roi de fer. Read it twice, just because it's fun. But got bogged down in La reine étranglée. I have the set in hard bound copies.
Les misérables. Yes, Way too dull to finish, but I may have to give an audiobook a try, if there is one.
Just some follow up to your follow-up:
Le comte de Monte-Cristo - I read this in part, and listened to an audiobook in part. There's an even longer slog after he gets out of prison that was hard to get to, but once Dumas puts all the pieces in place the book is amazing. Too bad the reader has work through hundreds of pages of world-building to get to the best parts.
À la recherche - This sounds like it would be intimidating on audiobook. You didn't get lost in his stream-of-conscious digressions?
Le roi de fer - Some day I might get to the third book.

Lysander wrote:Did many of you use dual-readers before reading things exclusively in French? My library has a decent number of options (half a dozen) of those. But part of me thinks I should just buy a Kindle book in French and start reading since Kindle's have a built in dictionary.

I am unsure where a good place to start would be. I have heard Le Petit Prince has some archaic and surprisingly complex grammar in it.
...
It is just hard to know a wise way to start. I feel like reading engaging things and having the steeper learning curve makes more sense than reading a bunch of books for children first.
I started with dual-language texts, and they were super useful for the first couple months, but quickly found the format too distracting. I ended up using the dual-language pdf as a back up for hard passages, but not as my main text. When I finally bought a kindle it opened up a whole new world of literature.

I uploaded some dual-language texts onto my Google Drive. These are all public domain works that folks shared on the old HTLAL forum. Any of these would be a good place to start!

Françoise Sagan - Bonjour tristesse
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - Vol de nuit
André Gide -L'immoraliste
Alain-Fournier - Le grand Meaulnes
Marguerite Yourcenar -Mémoires d'Hadrien
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:04 pm

kanewai wrote:À la recherche - This sounds like it would be intimidating on audiobook. You didn't get lost in his stream-of-conscious digressions?

I uploaded some dual-language texts onto my Google Drive. These are all public domain works that folks shared on the old HTLAL forum. Any of these would be a good place to start!

Françoise Sagan - Bonjour tristesse
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - Vol de nuit
André Gide -L'immoraliste
Alain-Fournier - Le grand Meaulnes
Marguerite Yourcenar -Mémoires d'Hadrien

Listening to Proust is like listening to a favorite song. Without the music of the song, it would read rather dry. With the sound of a good voice, Proust is pleasant listening.
I agree with your recommendations for a start, except that I have not read Gide or Yourcenar.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby MamaPata » Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:01 am

Will return to discuss Le Grand Meaulnes later, but just as an update:

Started La Vie Comme Éva (by Fanny Jola). It was free and the cartoons inside look a little like Jackie Fleming’s, who I find very funny. However, it’s truly terrible and I’ve given up. It’s kind of Bridget Jones style, young single woman screwing up her life. But I didn’t find it funny and one sequence leans pretty strongly towards homophobia. Could not recommend, 1/10.
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