AP French Literature Reading List: What to Read to Prepare for the Exam?

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AP French Literature Reading List: What to Read to Prepare for the Exam?

If you’re planning to take the Advanced Placement (AP) French Literature exam, there are plenty of great works of French literature you should read to prepare. The exam is designed to assess your knowledge and understanding of French literature, critical analysis, and your ability to write a literary essay in French.

The AP French Literature exam is the most challenging language exam offered by the College Board because it requires strong reading and comprehension skills in French. Therefore, the recommended reading list for the exam includes some of the most famous works of French literature, some of which you may have already come across in your high school French classes. Here are some of the most recommended books to read before taking the exam:

Le Misanthrope by Moliere (1666)

Le Misanthrope is a satirical play by Moliere that criticizes the hypocrisies and superficiality of French aristocracy in the late 17th century. The play is rich with clever dialogues and witty exchanges that makes it an enjoyable read while offering insights into the French societal values during that period.

Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire (1857)

Les Fleurs du Mal is one of the most significant works of French poetry in the 19th century. It is a collection of poems that reflect Baudelaire’s view of the tension between beauty and corruption, love and death. The poetry’s themes are often dark and controversial, which makes it a challenging yet intriguing read.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856)

Madame Bovary is a novel that explores the life of Emma Bovary, a woman who is constantly seeking the fulfillment of her romantic fantasies despite being married. The novel was groundbreaking when it was first released because of its realism and its exploration of psychological themes such as disillusionment and boredom.

Les Mains Sales by Jean-Paul Sartre (1948)

Les Mains Sales is a play by Jean-Paul Sartre that explores the relationship between politics and ethics. It tells the story of Hugo, a revolutionary who is torn between his ideals and the harsh realities of political power. The play is known for its philosophical themes, making it a challenging but rewarding read.

Le Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac (1835)

Le Pere Goriot is a novel that examines the dramatic life of a retired flour merchant, Monsieur Goriot, and his two daughters. The story highlights the materialism and corruption of French society during the Restoration period. The book’s complex narrative structure and vivid characterization make it an engaging and thought-provoking read.


The AP French Literature exam requires substantial preparation, and reading the works mentioned above will undoubtedly improve your ability to analyze complex texts and write in French. However, this list is not exhaustive, and there are many other French literary masterpieces worthy of consideration. Nonetheless, start with these classics and enjoy exploring the riches of French culture. Happy reading!

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