This is a list of books that you may want to read before joining ULIP. None of these books are compulsory to read! However, we feel that this list will make your time at ULIP and in Paris, easier! So dig in. This page is courtesy of Parlons, the ULIP newspaper.
Incidentally, a great site if you're looking for out of copyright (i.e. free) e-books and enjoy a name with a good historical reference is Project Gutenberg who deliver just that. A French language equivalent of this is Ebooks Gratuit. You can also get free audiobooks (though Sherlock Holmes sounds really weird in an American accent) at Librivox.
Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow Everything on the spirit and structure of France. What makes the French so French? Contains a lot of funny little facts (like how many people are admitted into hospital with dog shit related injuries every year), but also is a potted history and sociology of the French. It's like a brief introduction to every single one of the courses at ULIP and will help you undestand why the French (and the Parisians) are as they are. Indispensable.
L'étranger by Albert Camus Read it in French, the language is simple enough. You'll still be wondering what happened and why, though, and thus it makes a good introduction to all French literature. You may prefer La Peste or L'exil et le royaume (both Camus). The former has a more easily discernable story and moral, while the second is a collection of short stories and perhaps easier to swallow.
Kiffe Kiffe Demain by Faiza Guène The story of a young girl named Doria, who was born and is raised in the banlieue of Paris. Doria describes her life after her father leaves her mother for a younger wife back in Algeria and talks about her adolescence and her crushes and her school problems. Kiffe is a great book because it provides a compelling insider insight into life in the banlieue and the French is very easy to read. It will also help you learn and practise your argot, which will be invaluable as you settle into a new French life.
La Vie en Bleuby Rod Kedward A seminal work of history on 20th century France, well worth a read for History and good as a piece of reference material in second year and beyond.
Candideby Voltaire A solid ULIP first year staple. Published in 1759 under a pseudonym, it satirises much and more, but particularly Leibnizian Optimism (which is good because Leibnizian Optimism is really daft), following story of the young Candide through his really quite eventful life.
Down and Out in Paris and Londonby George Orwell A study of poverty in the early 20th century, it really is very interesting (check out Orwell's other stuff if you haven't already too). As well as its attractions as a work of literature, it'll remind you how much worse things COULD be when you're homesick in first year. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi The autobiography of the Franco-Iranian Satrapi, it's an absolute cracker. It's easy to read and provides you with a great introduction to the French bande dessinée (comic books). They're big over here and it'll also save you time in 3rd year. A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel A work of fiction based as closely on the realities of the time of the French Revolution as possible. A nice way to get to grips with the who/what/when of one of the most important moments in history. Have a bit of patience with it as it is a bit heavy at the beginning and difficult to get your head round everything but it's also a great read which emotionally invests you in movements and people long dead - no mean feat.