Reading improves English.
It particularly improves your written English, but it also improves your spoken English indirectly through better vocabulary, being better informed on range of topics, and learning how to build your arguments. You can make your reading work even further for your spoken English by reading out loud.
Before we get into the thick of this blog post, I’ll briefly narrate few steps you can take to make reading a habit:
1. Read stuff that interests you. Don’t force yourself into reading something that you don’t enjoy in the beginning. You can take up discomforting, though useful, topics at a later stage by when reading becomes a habit for you.
2. Read stuff you can understand from the context without referring to a dictionary too often. And in due course after your vocabulary goes up few notches, you can raise the level of language in your reading. Such graded reading will help you build your vocabulary without losing interest.
If you read stuff that doesn’t interest you or read too difficult a language for your current level, you may give up on reading even before it becomes a habit. You don’t pick the heaviest weight right in the beginning when you take to lifting weights, right?
3. Start small – interesting topic, simple language, and just 10-15 minutes – and then expand gradually.
4. And, last, read regularly, even if it’s for just 20 minutes a day.
Before we jump into list of books and novels for different reading levels, a suggestion to progress fast on your English Language skills are concerned: crawl or read attentively 5-10 percent of pages.
Without further ado, here is the list:
English novels for beginners
If you’re a beginner, a good place to start is children’s books in 9-12 age group and higher. If you think children’s books are too lowly for your level, go through few pages (you can preview few pages using Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ option) and then decide.
Esha Manwani decided to start with books for 7-8 year olds when she was 15. Listen to this particular part in her TEDx Talk where she talks of her journey to improve English. (The clip is 1:45 minutes long, ending at 6:00 timestamp.)
What was important for her was that she understood the language in those books. If the language was too high for her, she might not have immersed herself into books like she did.
Maybe children’s books provide the right level for you. Maybe not. You can also have a look at books by Wordsworth Classics, the very first option below, which provides the most advanced option in the beginner category. If you find this too simple, you can jump to intermediate plus category, covered later in this post.
Here are the novels categorized under publisher, series, and so on:
(To know which books in a series or by a particular publisher or by a particular author to start with, look at the number of reviews and average rating of these reviews. The higher the two numbers, the more likely the book is popular. In case you don’t find enough reviews for a book on your country’s Amazon website, see reviews on Amazon.com.)
A. By publishers
1. Wordsworth classics
Low cost editions of classic literature.
2. Om illustrated classics
They’re easier reads than the first option.
B. By series
1. The Secret Seven
Books in the series (mainly for 12+ and 15+ age group) have a fictional group of child detectives as the main characters.
2. The Famous Five
Written by English author Enid Blyton, this series comprises of children’s adventure novels (mainly for 15+ age group). It’s reasonably priced for the number of pages it offers.
3. Wimpy Kid
Written by American author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney, the series comprises of fiction books (mainly for 8-12 age group).
4. The Hardy Boys
The Hardy Boys is a fictional mystery series for children (mainly for 8-12 age group). The characters were created by American writer Edward Stratemeyer, but the books have been written under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. The books in this series are somewhat expensive.
5. Nancy Drew
Again a mystery series (mainly for 8-12 age group), with girls as the fictional characters. This too is somewhat expensive.
6. Roald Dahl
7. Chronicles of Narnia
The series narrates adventures of various children in Narnia, a fantasy world full of magic, talking animals, and mythical beasts.
8. Winnie the Pooh
Winnie-the-Pooh, also called Pooh Bear, is a fictional teddy bear created by English author A. A. Milne.
D. Graded readers
Graded English Readers are popular stories rewritten for English learners. As the adjective ‘graded’ suggests, these books come in different grades (or difficulty level) for English learners at different stages of learning.
Pearson is a popular name in English Graded Readers, but its’ books are too expensive (search by ‘Pearson English Graded Readers’ on Amazon).
Another name in graded readers is Ladybird Readers. However, this is mainly for young kids.
English novels for intermediate to advanced level
Once you get into the groove of reading simple books, you can graduate to the next level. There are more options here:
A. By series
1. Harry Potter
The earlier books in the series are relatively easier reads than the later ones.
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
A comedy science fiction series full of adventures of Arthur Dent following the destruction of Earth by aliens.
In fiction, you’ll typically find several books by the same author. So you can also search books by author name. Some of the popular authors whose books you may consider reading are:
B. By author
1. Dan Brown
Treasure hunts set in 24-hour period.
2. John Grisham
3. Agatha Christie
Fictional detective novels.
4. Arthur Conan Doyle
Detective novels featuring none other than Sherlock Holmes.
5. Mario Puzo
Crime novels on mafia.
You can also take to reading non-fiction books at this stage. One big advantage of reading non-fiction is that, unlike fiction which is mainly for entertainment, it provides invaluable knowledge from the world’s best. You may consider adding following non-fiction books to your reading list:
- Talent is Overrated by Geoffrey Colvin
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
- Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
- The Greatness Guide 1 & 2 by Robin Sharma [short nuggets]
- The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz
- Give and Take by Adam Grant
- Great at Work by Morten T. Hansen
These are general interest non-fiction books. If you’re interested in a specific niche though, you can pick books accordingly. For example, if you’re interested in books on entrepreneurship, you can read:
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Renee Mauborgne
- Making Websites Win by Karl Blanks, Ben Jesson, and Avinash Kaushik
- The Hard Thing about Hard Thing by Ben Horowitz
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel
- Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
- Sprint by Knapp, Zeratsky, and Kowitz
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
Look for books in your interest area, if any.