I'm teaching French for Reading Knowledge this summer. It's a course for graduate students to help them fulfill their foreign language requirements in their programs. I have students from History, Math, Art History, Music, Philosophy, English, Theatre, Education, and probably a few other disciplines. It's a fun course for me, because I get to meet students from lots of different departments, and we get to work together on a French article or book chapter from their discipline.
It's not a course in grammar or translation, though we do talk about both. It's also obviously not an information-transfer course, but a workshop in skill acquisition. It's all about pattern recognition: we're not thematizing word endings as an object with certain characteristics that can be related to other sets of characters and a rule generated to account for those correlations; rather, we're just trying to get familiar with certain patterns that will help us guess what something means. It's much more like developing skill at doing crossword puzzles than anything else.
The book we're using is Sandberg and Tatham, French for Reading (Prentice-Hall, 1997). I recommend the Robert Micro French dictionary in addition to a French-English dictionary.
I'd be happy to hear from people telling me about the first French book they ever read. Mine was Camus's L'Etranger, with its famous first lines: Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. Next came Voltaire's Candide.I can't remember after that.