Too often, people think they don’t enjoy reading. Maybe they feel they don’t have time, or would prefer to watch a film.
But think about the role reading plays in our daily lives, whether that’s texts, Instagram posts, adverts on the tube...or this blog!
It’s possible that in 2019, we’re reading more than ever and if you’re looking for ways to improve your English, that’s great news.
But of all the reading we can do, there’s nothing better than a good story. And there’s nothing better to help improve your English vocabulary and improve your English communication skills than enjoying a book.
Here are some recommended reads to get you excited about English and to improve your English reading.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Now a blockbuster film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, The Great Gatsby is an American classic. The prose is simple but poetic – so great for improving your English vocabulary - and you will find yourself falling in love as deeply as the book’s main character Jay Gatsby himself. There’s plenty of money and plenty of heartbreak – is the writer telling us that the two go together? Why not read the novel and decide for yourself?
“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is perhaps more famous for his children’s stories – the fantastical James and the Giant Peach, for example, or the inspiring tale of Matilda – but this short story collection is definitely for grown-ups!
These stories are for anyone who likes their fiction on the dark side and are a great way to improve your English reading. Dahl is the master of ‘the twist in the tale’, and this collection is packed full of nasty surprises. Quick to read and straight to the point, you could finish one on your way to school! But take care...Tales of the Unexpected will make you shiver!
‘ “The murder weapon is probably right under our very noses.” [...] And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle.’
– Roald Dahl, Tales of the Unexpected
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
This YA (Young adult) book is set in an alternate universe but the problems of racism, prejudice and injustice are still key.
In this world, you are either a Nought or you are a Cross, and the two groups are very separate – until Callum and Sephy become more than just friends…
A fast-paced and emotional story, Noughts and Crosses will have you hooked from page one and you won’t even notice that you’re improving your English vocabulary as you turn the pages.
“Just remember, Callum when you're floating up and up in your bubble, that bubbles have a habit of bursting. The higher you climb, the further you have to fall.”
– Malorie Blackman, Noughts and Crosses
The Golden Compass (from the His Dark Materials trilogy) by Philip Pullman
The first book in Pullman’s trilogy, The Golden Compass may officially be children’s fiction, but adults enjoy it as much.
It tells the story of Lyra, a young girl who lives in a world similar to our own, apart from the ice bears that battle in the North and the daemons. These are creatures that share a spiritual connection with each human but take the form of an animal.
With this book, you’ll explore snowy kingdoms and build bridges to other worlds as Pullman raises very complex questions about belief and bravery. This is another great choice to improve your English reading.
“When you live for many hundreds of years, you know that every opportunity will come again.”
― Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Joy Luck Club is structured a bit like the Chinese game, Mahjong.
It is separated into four parts and focuses on four Chinese-American families living in the USA. The prose style is clear but full of feeling, and the book explores mother-daughter relationships and what it’s like growing up with dual identity.
The Joy Luck Club was made into a film – directed by Wayne Wang – and has been a popular book club read for years. That makes it another great book for readers who want to improve their English and their English vocabulary.
“I had on a beautiful red dress, but what I saw was even more valuable. I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, that no one could ever take away from me. I was like the wind.”
– Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Well, we had to finish with this one, didn’t we? The much-loved book and film series – which inspired so many people to improve their English - starts with Harry not knowing anything at all about his powers.
We follow him as he begins his magical journey, going to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the very first time.
Written in a funny, imaginative style, Rowling’s fantasy novel deals with very real problems, like school bullies and finding out who you really are. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but you won’t be the only one reading it on the tube – many Londoners enjoy reading Harry Potter with their morning coffee!
“I hope you're pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed - or worse, expelled. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to bed.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
What else can you do to improve your English?
We have lots of advice for our students on how to make the most of their time studying with us.
And if there are nights where you’re tired after a day’s study and don’t want to go out and talk to people, we can recommend five Netflix series you should watch to improve your English.