10 best books to learn English with
Everyone may be on their smartphones all day every day nowadays, but there’s something uniquely charming about sitting down to read an actual book. There’s also something particularly effective about it for those of you keen on improving your English skills; diving into a stack of books is great for getting to grips with grammar, vocab and spelling. Oh, and it’s not bad for your wellbeing, either!
1. Notes From a Small Island (by Bill Bryson)
“What a wondrous place this was - crazy, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec and Farleigh Wallop…?”
Bill Bryson is one of the best travel writers of our time, and I will hear no argument otherwise. This witty and oh-so-lovely American explores Britain, and the resulting book neatly tours all the weird and wonderful things about the British. It’s as good as crisps in a sandwich (try it).
2. Everything I know about Love (by Dolly Alderton)
“Nearly everything I know about love, I've learnt from my long-term friendships with women.”
Recalling some of her romantic adventures, from laughable dates to the love she has for her childhood best friends, Dolly journeys through the human side of growing up and working in London. This is a very funny page-turner, in which you’ll get a firm grasp on recent British pop culture.
3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (by Mark Haddon)
“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”
The narrator of this super popular novel is a teenage boy with mild autism. It’s a brilliant window into how differently (and wonderfully) our minds can work, and the language is matter of fact. Plus, there’s a mystery to solve; who killed the dog?
4. Where the Crawdads Sing (by Delia Owens)
“I wasn't aware that words could hold so much. I didn't know a sentence could be so full.”
The use of language in this novel is spectacular; watch as ‘marsh girl’ Kya grows from a child living in swamp country in the southern United States, speaking in simple sentences, to a keen reader and beautiful linguist in her own right, commenting on the beauty of the natural world surrounding her. All while falling in love and being accused of murder; it’s a breathtaking read.
5. Pride & Prejudice (by Jane Austen)
“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”
Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is an absolute classic. Although the vocabulary is quite advanced (the English language has evolved somewhat since 1813), this is a perfect pick if you feel like a challenge.
6. 40 Rules of Love (by Elif Şafak)
“Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.”
This novel could transform your English, and possibly your life. It’s beautifully written and the Penguin edition ensures that even relative beginners get a good grasp of the story and the meaning it conveys. If you’re curious about spiritual matters, this is your pick.
7. How to be a Woman (by Caitlin Moran)
“Why on earth have I, because I’m a woman, got to be nice to everyone?”
This isn’t your typical feminist manifesto. Caitlin Moran is a powerful, compelling writer and doesn’t mince her words. This book is perfect if you want to learn American slang, smash the patriarchy (as any good feminist would!) and laugh while you’re at it.
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (by Stephen Chbosky)
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
This book is the story of a smart and socially awkward teen struggling with mental illness, trying to find his place in the world. If you feel like jumping back to your high school days while brushing up on your teen slang, this one’s for you.
9. Treasure Island (by Robert Louis Stevenson)
“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum”
This book doesn’t really need an introduction – it’s a true classic, complete with pirates, sailors and adventures. It’s a great one for expanding your vocabulary, especially if you love to travel.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee)
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
This is a masterpiece of American literature that will help you understand the history of the United States. They say a culture can only be understood through language, and this is a great story for you to test that theory.