French Books in the US: The 2016 Edition

July 7, 2016 | By The Book Department
 ©Joel Robison

The Book Department of the French Embassy is pleased to announce the publication of our new list of French books translated in the United States!

Please note this list has been compiled with the help of French and American publishers and agents. Some titles may be missing and mistakes may remain. Don’t hesitate to contact us at 972livre@gmail.com if you come across any errors or omissions.

With 417 titles inventoried so far for 2016 (after around 360 for 2015), the market for French translation seems to be strengthening in the United States. This list of excellent news—the best in the last four years, since we started doing it—confirms the trend that we noted two and a half years ago here and there.

2016 is definitely the year of the nonfiction book: 159 nonfiction titles have been or will be published this year. This is a notable increase from the previous several years: the number of nonfiction titles went from 119 in 2013 to 140 in 2014 and 145 in 2015. Of course, philosophy titles, a French specialty, still rank very high in demand (a fact illustrated by the success of our Night of Philosophy last year), particularly concerning the works of some widely-acknowledged figures in the field. These include Alain Badiou (six released titles just for this year), Michel Serres (four titles), Barbara Cassin, Jacques Rancière and Jean-Luc Nancy (three each) and Hélène Cixous (two titles).

Philosophy texts are now joined by an array of brilliant books from other disciplines that were underrepresented before this year: sociology (with books by Didier Fassin, Laurent Fleury, among others), anthropology (Barbara Glowczewski; We Are All Cannibals by Claude Lévi-Strauss, a French Voices title), the natural sciences (Christophe Bonneuil, Yves Christen, Patrick Forterre, Chris Herzfeld), economics (Thomas Piketty, Jean-Hervé Lorenzi, Célestin Monga), psychology (Elisabeth Roudinesco, Dominique Scarfone) and studies in media such as film (Christian Metz, Jean-Marie Straub, Jean-Louis Schefer) and music (Michel Chion).

History takes a bigger part of the nonfiction market this year than ever, represented by books from Bruno Cabanes, Alain Corbin, Eric Hazan, Olivier Wieviorka, Henry Rousso, Georges Vigarello for cultural history and Georges Didi-Huberman for art history. Political science is also strong, as represented by Dominique Schnapper, Yves Sintomer, Frédéric Bozo and Ariel Colonomos, among others. Unsurprisingly, French and Francophone perspectives on the Arab World are drawing attention this year, with writers like Adonis, Edwy Plenel, Bernard Rougier, Stéphanie Lacroix and Aurélie Daher represented by new publications. And numerous academic biographies have been bought by American publishers, with a focus on important figures in history, the arts, humanities and sciences, such as Cocteau, Kaminsky, Freud, Casanova, Renoir, Montaigne, Aragon and Rohmer.

Last but not least regarding nonfiction, we are delighted to highlight a very exciting new development: the work of younger scholarsmany of them womenis entering the American market. These authors include Laurie Catteeuw, Julia Cagé, Johann Chapoutot, Ivan Jablonka, Laure Marchand, Aurélie Daher and Isabelle Saporta. Mieux vaut tard que jamais!—Better late than never!


In fiction, 145 books translated from the French are being published in the United States in 2016, including 89 contemporary novels, released in France between 2000 and 2016. Many French authors have just been published for the first time by an American publisher: among them, Maylis de Kerangal (who previously released one book through a Canadian press), Véronique Bizot, Nathalie Léger, Fouad Laroui, Nelly Alard and Adrien Bosc, with his debut novel, Constellation. Several authors’ second or third translated novels, such as those written by Abdellah Taïa, Scholastique Mukasonga, Lola Lafon, Antoine Laurain, Hélène Grémillon, David Foenkinos, Sébastien Brebel and Ananda Devi, have also been released. This suggests that some authors are managing to extend their “one shot” at being translated in the U.S. into a sustainable presence in the American market: once they have ‘broken in,’ not only do American publishers follow up by translating their latest books, but they also show interest in these authors' backlists.

Other authors this year confirm their breakthroughs into the American market, and one even becomes a classic: Patrick Modiano, whose books were out of print in the U.S. when his Nobel Prize was announced, will have no fewer than seven of his titles released, from various American publishers, by the end of this year. Other authors of literary fiction continue to have a strong following among American readers, the release of their books having become highly-anticipated events. This is the case of, among others, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Antoine Volodine, Pascal Quignard and Virginie Despentes, whose most recently-translated work, Bye Bye Blondie, garnered a very positive review in the New York Times last weekend.

Francophone writers, who specialize in French-language writing from outside France (French is the official language in 29 countries, and spoken in many others), continue to gain ground in the American translation market, with books appearing by Leïla Sebbar, Alain Mabanckou, Wilfried N’Sondé, Boubacar Boris Diop and Tahar Ben Jelloun, who has three titles, published by three different houses, coming out this year.


With 65 graphic novels translated from French released in the American market in 2016, this year’s list is a further sign of the previously-acknowledged vitality of French and Belgian comics in the United States.

Classics don’t go out of fashion. Take The Smurfs: the adventures of the little blue people are frequently republished, with four volumes appearing in 2016 and three upcoming in 2017.
The large number of new graphic biographies on the market this year from France and Belgium also confirms that this sub-category of the graphic narrative is a safe bet. Portrayals of Agatha Christie, Henry Thoreau, Glenn Gould, Elvis, John Lennon, Paul Gauguin and the legendary blues guitar player Robert Johnson (Love in Vain) are all being released in 2016.

The success of contemporary authors in graphic narrative is highlighted by the release of several volumes of a graphic series in a single year. For instance, the three volumes of La Saison de la Coulœuvre by Serge Lehman and Jean-Marie Michaud, or the two most recent volumes of Last Man, by Vivès, Sanlaville and Balak, have all come out in 2016. And after the nationwide success of Riad Sattouf’s graphic memoir The Arab of the Future, which won the LA Times Book Prize in Comics/Graphic Novels, the title’s second volume is sure to be much anticipated.

All in all, a new generation of young and edgy graphic novelists is increasingly present on the American market. A few of these creators are just entering it in 2016, including Dominique Goblet and Tiphaine Rivière, with her humorous Notes on a Thesis.

Some publishers are opening up to graphic novels for the first time this year, signified most notably by the launch of NYRB Comics, which just published the remarkable Peplum, by Blutch, among other exciting works. More publishers may follow into the graphic-novel world after the extensive French and Belgian graphic narrative festival that will be held in New York this fall, featuring an exhibition at the Cooper Union and many authors participating in literary events throughout the city. Follow the Book Department on twitter to get the latest updates!


This American interest in the creativity of French and Belgian artists is particularly evident in the kids’ section, with 32 titles by boundary-pushing children’s authors from independent presses such as Joëlle Jolivet, Lucie Félix and Matthieu Maudet all being translated in 2016. While some publishers are capitalizing on talented authors who have developed successes over time—such as Christine Roussey (who has three titles coming out this year from Abrams Books)—others are taking risks in introducing young and inventive illustrators who defy traditional formats. Among these is Cléa Dieudonné, whose dazzling Megalopolis is a work of thirty-eight pages that, once unfolded, transform into one page which spans over ten feet! And this year we greet Archipelago, who will be opening up to children books in 2017, with the release of Claude Ponti’s My Valley and Blaise et le château d'Anne Hiversère.

The trend of translations of French works for children is likely to pick up speed in the years to come. After the exhibition here at Cultural Services celebrating the 50th anniversary of L’École des loisirs last December, last month the Book Department hosted a two-day conference of Franco-American children's books publishers organized by the Bureau international des éditeurs français. At the event, more than 40 American professionals exchanged with their French counterparts, browsed a wide selection of the very best children's books, and left full of ideas for publications to come. This is a promise for even more varied and dynamic 2017 and 2018 translation lists!

To browse the 2016 list, please click here!
And for more details about previous years, check the articles for 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

For accurate information about the rights sales of French books abroad in 2015, please refer to the report by the Bureau International de l’Edition Française (International Office of French Publishing) and the Syndicat de l’Edition française (French Publishing Syndicate). Please note that of the languages into which these French titles were translated in 2015, English is the fifth-ranking language, with 743 agreements, after Chinese (1,868), Italian (1,312), Spanish (1,209) and German (967).

Several authors mentioned on the list have visited or will soon be visiting the United States. Please check our Authors on tour presentation for more information on author events.

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