Tomorrow is Bastille Day, or as the French call it, la Fête Nationale or le quatorze juillet, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the flashpoint of the French Revolution that symbolizes the birth of the modern nation. So basically the French version of the fourth of July, only slightly bloodier and with more presidential garden parties. In honor of the French’s national holiday, we’ve put together a list of essential French literature to get anyone in the spirit. And obviously, there’s no way to distill the literature of an entire country into a ten point list, so these are just some of our favorites — chime in with your own in the comments. Vive la révolution!
The Stranger, Albert Camus
Camus’s classic and wonderful absurdist-existentialist novel tells the story of a highly detached Algerian man named Meursault, who in the very center of the novel (even if you haven’t read it, we assume you know at least this much) kills another man for what seems like almost no reason. In 1999, Parisian newspaper Le Monde listed The Stranger first on its list of the best books of the 20th century, and if the French love it, you know it’s got to be good.