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:
- 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 habit has stuck with you.
- 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 improve 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?
- Start small – interesting topic, simple language, and just 10-15 minutes – and then expand gradually.
- And, last, read regularly, even if it’s for just 20 minutes a day.
Without further ado, here are some books you can read depending on your reading level:
Books for beginners
Children’s books are a good source of reading for beginners because they contain simple language, simple vocabulary. Amazon is a good source to discover children’s books. They’ve a separate section on the website for children’s books, which you can access through the following path:
Books –> Children’s Books
You can sort children’s books through multiple ways
As shown in the screenshot, you can even access books age wise. So what age group should you go for?
I suggest pick books in 9-12 age group or higher. Books for younger can be too simplistic, thin, and image-heavy with, obviously, less text.
On the children’s book page, you can also pick books by:
- Category – adventure, crime & thriller, comics, traditional stories etc.
- Popular authors
- Popular series (few mentioned in the post further down) and
- Top rated books
Here you can also find the volume of the book (# of pages), which can vary significantly in children’s book. (You wouldn’t want to buy a 60-page book, would you?)
Find more books at ‘People also bought’
Check if the level of the language is right before you buy
When you’re buying a book for the first time from a particular author or a series, it’s good to check if the book will serve your purpose or not. Amazon provides you the opportunity to read the first few pages of the book (click on the thumbnail of the book cover with ‘LOOK INSIDE’). Make use of it and see if the level of the language isn’t too simple or too advanced for you.
Here are few popular book series for children, some of which are in existence for close to a century. To know which books in the series or by a particular author to start reading with, look at the number of reviews and average rating of reviews. The higher the two numbers, the more likely the book is more popular. In case you don’t find enough reviews for a book on your country’s Amazon website, see reviews on Amazon.com.
1. The Secret Seven
2. The Famous Five
3. Wimpy Kid
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 are somewhat expensive.
5. Nancy Drew
6. Roald Dahl
7. Chronicles of Narnia
8. Winnie the Pooh
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.
Books 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. Whereas children’s books are dominated by fictional characters, here you’ll find plenty of non-fiction options as well. Let’s start with fiction.
Some of the popular fiction series you can explore are:
1. Harry Potter
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
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:
1. Dan Brown
2. John Grisham
3. Agatha Christie
4. Arthur Conan Doyle
5. Mario Puzo
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
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
- 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.