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Seven Books Perfect for English Learners

7 min read
9 February 2021
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We wanted to find you some fun books to fall in love with, so with the help of teachers from our English schools in the USA, we’ve picked out seven books and stories in English to stretch your vocabulary and entertain you at the same time.


The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case by Alexander McCall-Smith

Difficulty: Easy

Precious Ramotswe, private detective, is the heroine of a series of beloved mystery novels for adults. But in this delightful book for children, Alexander McCall-Smith tells the story of her very first case: who’s really been stealing sweets at school? Young Precious’s adventures continue with Mystery of Meerkat Hill and Precious and the Mystery of the Missing Lion. This is a great book to start with because the vocabulary is simple and the plot is easy to follow. As your confidence in English develops, you can go on to read her grown-up adventures in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.


Matilda by Roald Dahl

Difficulty: Early Intermediate

Roald Dahl’s quirky, mischievous books are beloved by children and adults the world over, and Matilda is the hilarious story of an intelligent girl cursed with unsympathetic parents and a terrifying headmistress. Matilda keeps herself sane with a series of pranks, but when she realizes just how dangerous the headmistress can be, Matilda has to do more to protect her friends and herself.    

The first few pages of this novel – where the narrator examines the ways parents treat their children – can seem daunting, but once we meet Matilda and the story really gets going, you should find yourself carried along with it. You’ll get to learn some colorful words and phrases like “hankering for,” “skullduggery,” and “something to make your eyes pop.” Remember, if you’re reading on Kindle you can always select a difficult word for an instant dictionary definition.


A Jury of her Peers by Susan Glaspell

Difficulty: Intermediate

When a man is found murdered in rural Iowa, Sherriff Peters and one of the witnesses examine the crime scene – along with their wives. While their husbands struggle to make sense of what happened, Martha Hale and Mrs Peters discover a key piece of evidence – and have to decide what to do next.

Natalie Whitman from our Whittier campus recommends this short story for its themes of justice, stifled dreams, and solidarity between women. Glaspell also wrote the same plot as a short play, so Natalie suggests that after reading you could try enacting it with classmates! At only 8,000 words it’s a quicker read than some of the others on our list, although as it was written in 1916 you may encounter some old-fashioned words and phrasings.



Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Difficulty: Intermediate

Just twenty years ago, no one knew the anguish of waiting for a reply to a text message, or deciphering the meaning of an emoji. Now your whole love life might depend on it! This hilarious guide to 21st Century dating comes recommended by Kaplan teacher Mardy Arenas, who tells us “the language is easy to understand and representative of how people really communicate.” It’s also thoughtful, observant, and very funny.


Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Difficulty: Intermediate

Inspired by Romeo and Juliet this story of star-crossed lovers is set in an alternative world where the dark-skinned “Crosses” have power and privilege and the white-skinned “Noughts” are an abused underclass. Sephy, a Cross, falls for Callum, a Nought, but society frowns on their relationship and the two must struggle against the odds to be together.

This is a longer novel for teens, written in fairly simple language, which means it is easier to understand if you’re just learning English. This will help build basic vocabulary and is a great book to increase your comprehension skills before you advance to a higher reading level.


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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Difficulty: Advanced Intermediate

This award-winning novel is a favorite of Kylie Chance, a teacher at our San Diego English school. “This book is a warm-hearted, often hilarious insight into the world of a young child who lost his father on 9/11,” she says.

9-year-old Oskar is an intelligent and eccentric little boy who sets out on an adventure to learn more about his dead father and befriends an assortment of New Yorkers along the way. “It shows the strength and community New Yorkers formed in the face of the tragedy,” says Kylie.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close may be a little more challenging for some readers, but the 9-year-old narrator keeps the prose from getting too complicated. A great read for students who are gaining confidence in their new English skills.


The Beach by Alex Garland

Difficulty: Advanced

This dark, vivid tale of backpacking in Thailand comes recommended by English teacher Linda Murray from our San Diego English school. “It’s an adventure novel about young travellers,” she tells us. “Students can relate to Richard’s experiences of travelling, sleeping on beaches, meeting people …and saying goodbye too.” Although seeing as this is a story of a search for paradise by flawed people that goes tragically wrong, maybe students won’t want to relate too much!


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