Many people read captivating books without thinking twice about what the names of the books mean or why they have the titles they have. Though most of the literary written books have self-explanatory names, some remain a mystery to many people. Titles are usually in reference to the main characters or a single character in the book, some may be in reference to a famous quote or a line from the book and still others may be a line picked up from an old classic. Shakespeare is a favorite for some authors looking to have a catchy title for their books.

Below are some of the titles of famous books with the sources and meaning of their titles.

 The Count Of Monte Christo By Alexander Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo

This book, based on revenge, is one of the most widely read books in the universe. Its plot made a great movie by the same name, which won many accolades. The epic tale of retribution and suffering of the main character was from a real life experience, which inspired the writing. Dumas wrongful imprisonment for a crime he did not commit gave birth to this popular tale, which first serialized in 1840.

The Stranger By Albert Camus  

The stranger by Albert Camus

In this book, Camus tries to explain what society does to a non-conformist. If one does not go by what society expects of them no matter how unfair to the person it is, then you become a stranger living with your own people. Meursault, the character in the book is a non-conformist and wants the society to judge him differently. Society however does not judge him by his crimes but by not showing any remorse during his mother’s funeral. The society does not forgive him for this and he chooses to leave. He feels like the outsider, the stranger in a society that does not give any value to humanity but to conformity and law.

Candide By Voltaire

Voltaire Portrait

Candide is the story of a bright young man who is calm, wide eyed and a bland gentleman living in Castle Westphalia. The satirical masterpiece depicts David as an interesting and cynical character who makes fun of optimism. He is very candid in everything that he says or writes. The philosophical pieces in this book are what make it even more interesting to read.

The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame By Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo in 1867

This extraordinary historical novel by one of the greatest writers in French history is a masterpiece. The book, set in medieval Paris, and based on the cathedral of Notre-Dame tells the drama of Quasimodo the hunchback and Esmeralda the gypsy dancer not forgetting the priest Claude Frollo. One of the great things about the book is how victor depicts or gives descriptive depictions of the city. Today when people read the hunchback of the Notre- Dame, they connect the characters and the sites mentioned to what the world is going through today.

The Three Musketeers By Alexander Dumas

The Three Musketeers

This is also one of the most widely read and celebrated historical romance book ever written. It is the story of three friends from the minds musketeers and one Gascon Gentleman D’Artagnan. The follow characters will make you laugh from the beginning to the end.  The book is very romantic and besides the musketeers and D’Artagnan, there is Milady who is poison to the gang. Her psychotic behavior all through the novel is both compelling and makes it even more worthwhile to read.

Phedre By Jean Racine

Jean Racine portrait

Phedre is a play that has seen several translations over the years and the main character acted out by excellent actors from all over the world. Phedre is the plays protagonist and is about a woman trying to control her desires. This proves difficult and the only way for Phedre to find help is by confessing her feelings.

Every year, there are hundreds of literary events and award presentations from all over the world. The events highlight the work of the authors and allow readers to mingle with them, do some book reading and sign the books for the people attending.

Moroccan-French author Leila Slimani

Awarding of prizes to different genres is one way the French show their appreciation for the authors’ hard work. French literature awards fall in different genres. These are awards for short stories, poetry, first novel, biography among many other genres. The panel chosen every year to select what writer deserves what prizes is made up of different juries handpicked from literary figures, media personalities, French academics, book professionals young enthusiastic readers and selected women representatives among others. The criteria to determine which jury makes it to the list for the award selection, largely depends on their professionalism and the prestige that comes with it, their appeal to book readers and their reputation.

Sixteen annual French literature awards have a very big influence on books sales in France and everywhere in the world today. Out of these sixteen, eleven of them are very prestigious and any writer receiving any of them means they are among the best. The eleven are Prix Goncourt, Prix Renaudot, Prix Femina, Prix Goncourt des lycéens, Grand Prix des lectrices de Elle, Prix des maisons de la presse, Prix Interallié ,Prix du livre Inter, Prix des libraires, Prix du roman Fnac and Prix Médicis.

Prix Goncourt 

French novel by Lydie Salvayre

This is arguably the most prestigious annual French literary prize, awarded in France. Introduced in 1876 by the Goncourt brothers Edmond and Jules, the Prix Goncourt award ceremony takes place every year in the month of November. The price comes with an insignificant monetary award. Prix Goncourt recognizes French authors with exemplary work in imaginative prose novels. Among the most notable past winners of the Prix Goncourt are André Malraux, Marcel Proust Elsa Triolet, Marcel Proust, Romain Gary, Marcel Proust, André Schwarz-Bart, Marguerite Duras and Michel Tournier.

This year’s winner of the Prix Goncourt held on 6 November was Eric Vuillard, for his novel “The Agenda.” The jury awarding the prestigious prize included Bernard pivot who also chaired the event.

 Prix Goncourt Des Lycéens

L’Art de Perdre

This is another prestigious prize awarded annually to authors contributing to the academics. This year’s winner of the prize was Alice Zeniter for her book “the art of losing.” This year, 15 books competed for the prestigious prize organized by the Ministry of National Education. After two months of reading all the 15 books in different cities from all over France, students made the final deliberation voting in Alice Zeniter’s book. The announcement of the winner was on 16 November 2017 and from November 30 to December 1 of 2017, there will be a National meeting in Rennes.

Past notable recipients of Prix Goncourt, des lycees are Leonora Miano, SorjChalandon, Gael Gaye, and Nancy Huston among many others. November of 2018 will see the next award ceremony.

Prix Renaudot

The winning novel of Oliver Gues

Prix Renaudot is a prestigious French literary prize awarded annually to the author of the most outstanding novel. The prizes, named after Theophraste Renaudot who founded an influential weekly newspaper in the sixteenth – century, has been going strong since its establishment in 1925. The ceremony takes place in a selected Parisian restaurant every year in the month of November. This year’s award ceremony was at Drouant Restaurant in Paris and the prize went to Olivier Guez for his novel “La Disparition de Josef Mengele” (The Desperation of Joseph Mengele)

Other notable past winners of the PrixRenaudotprize are Michel del Castillo, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Michel Butror, Marcel Ayme, Jean Cayrol, Edouard Clissant and Louis Aragon. 

Prix Femina

Last year winner of Prix Femina

The jury that decides which author takes home the prize for this prestigious award is exclusively an all women affair. The prize aims at rewarding the best male or female for the best-published novel. Established in 1904 by Femina and Vie Heureuse, the PrixFemina was an alternative to the Prix Goncourt and held every second Wednesday of November every year. Notable past winners of PrixFemina are Marcus Maite, last year’s winner, ChrostopherBoitanski, YanickLahens, Leonora Miano and Patrick Deville among others.

This year’s price held at a PrixFemina award ceremony on November 8 2017, went to Phillippe Jaenada for his novel La Serpe.

Love and romance is very important to the French people and so are many other good things like great food, fine wine and mouth-watering sweets. The French love listening to good music and they have many great musicians. However, this is not all that the French has to offer. Just as they give it their all in almost everything they do, they also have very great writers known in the entire world.

These writers make the French literature what it is today and help to define French history much better through their books. Without them, no one would ever know how good the French could write. No one would know much about medieval literature, renaissance literature and other French literature genres. Below are the groundbreaking French authors you should make a point of reading at one time or another.


Candide Ou L’Optimisme by Voltaire

Voltaire is a historian best known for his book “Candide”. During the 18th – century there was movement called the age of enlightenment intellectual movement that Voltaire was actively part of. He loved coffee and reports said he took around 50 cups in any single day. Maybe that is where he got all his energy to write.

Victor Hugo

Les Misérables. Fiction by Victor Hugo

The revered Victor Hugo’s books are some of the most widely read in many parts of the world. “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” and “Les Miserables” are very popular books and masterpieces written to thrill by this talented author. His favorite quote was “To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.”

Marcel Proust

Proust, Marcel (1871 – 1922)

Marcel Proust is probably one of the most celebrated legendary French authors. Best known for his classic masterpiece 3200 page novel “In Search of Lost Time”, his grave at the Pere Lachaise cemetery continues to attract hundreds of tourists and readers from the entire world.

Guy De Maupassant

Boule de Suif short story by Guy de Maupassant

He was a protégé of Guy Maussant and an author of short stories. His short stories are very modern and many movies are in circulation today from Guy de Maupassant’s short stories. He is second to Shakespeare according to many reports and for anyone to get the same mention as Shakespeare then he must be good.

Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary novel of Gustave Flaubert, 1856

Gustave  known for his masterpiece classic “Madame Bovary “is another renowned and one of the best French literary giants France has ever produced. One of his best-known protégés was Guy de Maupassant. Many consider Gustave Flaubert to be a great inspiration

Émile Zola

Émile Zola, 1840-1902

The Captain Dreyfuss scandal is very hard to forget in France. This scandal of the 19th – century shot Émile Zola to fame when he wrote a letter to the then French president seeking justice for Captain Dreyfuss. The letter that he titled J’accuse received a wide coverage and thousands of people read it. It also caused a big rift between liberals and conservatives in France. The letter however helped with captain Dreyfuss exoneration eight years later. Zola has other novels, plays and short stories to his name. He is arguably one of the most groundbreaking authors of French history.

Charles Baudelaire

The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire

Poetry was and still is very important to the French people. One of the authors who popularized French poetry was Charles Baudelaire. “The flowers of Evil” (Les Fleurs du mal) is one of his best-known book of poems. He paved way for other like-minded poets like Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. Some of his true followers even referred to him as the “king of poets” and a “true god” going to show just how good his work is.

Albert Camus

The stranger by Albert Camus, 1942

Author of “The Stranger”, Albert Camus book is about the philosophy of the absurd and philosophical movement of the 20th – century that assumes people are wholly responsible for what they make themselves look or come out as. His favorite quote was “Still, obviously, one can’t be sensible all the time.”   He spent almost all his life studying about existentialism. During his free time, Camus spent days having a relaxing time at the café de Flore and Parisian café.

There are very many other prolific French authors that are worth a mention, but the above eight authors are some of the best well-known known French literature authors. They will not only inspire you through their literary work but will leave you asking for more. They are all worth a try.

Literature is a narration where words flow in the minds of characters created by a writer. The thoughts created to form a flowing story give anyone reading the piece of literature the impression that they are inside the characters mind. This makes understanding every piece of written literature interesting and motivating. Literature varies from writer to writer and from period to period. We also have different genres of literature ranging from poetry, fiction, non-fiction, plays, drama, folktales romance, prose and many others.

French literature evolved from what it was in the Middle Ages to what we have today as modern literature. Below are the stages French literature went through to be what it is today.

Medieval Literature

Marie de France

French literature goes back to the medieval times. This was between the 11th and the 15th centuries. There was a lot of creative work then and this period saw many poets, jongleurs and clercs display their literary skills through different genres. Some of the best medieval literature poets during this time were Aube, JeuParti, Chanson and Chant Royal. Also among the medieval French writers, using the old French language was Canticle of Saint and Eulalie. Besides poetry and other written work, there were also theatre genres made up of plays of passion, plays of mystery, plays of morality and plays of miracles.

16th – Century Literature

Works of Guillaume du Bartas

After Medieval literature, there was French Renaissance literature. This was 16th – century literary works, which was the highest level of rebirth or French Renaissance. During this period, there was use of middle French language and people could finally read great works of literary work due to the introduction of printing press.

17th – Century Literature

Jean de La Fontaine

After French Renaissance literature, things changed tremendously in the literary world.  The birth of seventieth – century literature saw many writers and poets with better taste, knowledge and creativity than the renaissance literature writers did. Order and clarity in written work improved and there was better expression and building of characters. Some of the best-known seventieth – century writers are Jean Racine and Madame de la Fayette.

18th – Century Literature

Portrait of Moliere

Thereafter came the eighteenth – century literature when French was going through modernization. Great and prominent playwrights emerged at this time bringing with them interesting literature. Some of the eighteenth – century, literary French giants included Moli

ere, Corneille and Racine.

19th – Century Literature

Proust, Marcel

Nineteenth – century literature followed the eighteenth – century literature. During this period, France had started developing tremendously and there was a heightened thirst for literature. This period saw literary written work start to bloom. It was during this period that a group of French writers popularly known as “Advanced Romantics” started a romantic movement. This they did from the influence of a similar “Advanced Romantics” group of writers that started in Germany, England and Spain. They wanted to change the old way of viewing romance and bring something different into their stories. Their claims that romance lacked reason saw them create romance stories that had imaginations and emotions. During this period, French literature was a great success both at home and internationally. Besides romance, other genres that made nineteenth – century literature stand out were naturalism, poetry and symbolism.

20th – Century Literature

From 1900 to 1999, twentieth – century literature made more turnarounds. Literature got better and some happening in other parts of the world greatly influence literature of the twentieth – century. Some of these were French colonialism of some states, African imperialism, and Algerian independence war among others.

Contemporary Literature

Tristan Garcia’s book Faber, The Destroyer

Today, we have contemporary French literature. What influences Todays contemporary French literatures are events happening from across the globe like the spread of terrorism, unemployment that causes a lot of imbalance in the standards of living, racism and violence seen in many parts of the world. Some of the best-known French contemporary writers are Christophe fiat and Tristan Garcia.

From the medieval periods of the 11th – century to today’s contemporary French literature, there has been a tremendous growth of French literature. Some of the best-known writers in the world today, some of them award winning writers, are French and have put French literature in the map worldwide. As the world moves forward and with the onset of technology, French literature continues to grow every day as there is always something influencing its growth. French novels that touch on romantic literature makes love come out as so passionately. If its nature, one can feel the beauty of it in the writings. Writers express themselves much better today than they did back then.