11th July 2019
Fiction Books for English Learners
If you are learning a language, reading fiction books can be a fun way to learn new vocabulary, sentence structures, and ideas. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced reader, there’s always something new you can try, to push yourself to improve!
Our Recreational Library has over 12,000 English-language books to choose from. Keep reading below for 7 reading tips, and 12 book suggestions….
Tips for reading Fiction books while learning English:
Go at your own pace
Unlike watching movies or listening to podcasts, you can read books at your own pace: as fast as you like, or as slow as you’d like. It can be intimidating to start a long book – but you can enjoy reading novels if you’re willing to go slowly, use resources, and re-read difficult sections.
Find helpful apps & tools
There are lots of apps and websites to help you search new words and phrases. For example:
- if you are using our ebooks reader, simply tap on a word for a dictionary definition
- with google lens, you can take a photo of the page and upload it to google translate
- there are lots of apps for you to collect and save new words in a vocab list. With My Word List, you can search for example sentences, and even see how common or frequently-used the words are. With vocabulary.com, you can build a learning plan specifically for those words
- for help understanding a new or difficult sentence structure, tools like the LinguaKit Syntactic Analyser might be helpful
Go with the flow
It’s useful to have dictionaries and resources to search for word definitions – but actually, you don’t always have to look up every single word. Sometimes a good way to learn is to read the whole sentence/paragraph first, get the ‘flow’ of the writing, and use context clues to understand new words & phrases. If you stop at every word to search a translation, it will be difficult to enjoy or follow the story.
Read in parallel
If you have a favourite book in your first language, look for an English translation to read it again! Or, you can read a ‘parallel’ or ‘dual language’ book, which has 2 languages side-by-side(for example, this book of Short Stories in Chinese & English).
This can make reading easier, as you will already understand the plot, and can compare the two books.
Know your slang
Reading books with a lot of dialogue can be an awesome way to improve your vocabulary, and learn modern slang. But it’s important to realise that some books don’t show how people actually talk in real life!
For example, some ‘classic’ books might use old-fashioned words (e.g. Gulliver’s Travels; Great Gatsby) that are no longer common; and some books even use fake slang or new words (e.g. 1984; A Clockwork Orange). If you are reading for fun, that’s no problem – but if you are reading specifically to learn new phrases, it’s a good idea to research beforehand.
Talk about what you’re reading
If you read the same book as your friends, you can discuss ideas, or clarify sections you didn’t understand. Talking about books is a great way to practice your English, and use some of the new words you’ve learned! You can also practice this at some of our Book Club events in the library.
Find books you enjoy!
There are lots of wonderful books written by famous English authors, but you don’t have to read Shakespeare, or Charles Dickens, or Emily Bronte. Just find a book you will enjoy reading! You can read a cute book about romance, or a cool book about time travel – choose whatever genre will make you keep reading, keep learning, and keep smiling 🙂
Check out some book suggestions below…
Recommended fiction books for EAL readers
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
This is an iconic piece of American literature. It is a fable-like story about old fisherman from Cuba, and his long battle with a giant fish. The language is powerful but simple, with short, clear sentences.
Books by James Patterson
James Patterson has written over 100 books for adults and teens, mostly in the crime/thriller/mystery genre. His books are mainly written in simple past tense, and have a lot of good action words to learn. His dialogue is realistic and often funny, giving lots of great examples of casual conversations and sarcastic tones!
The ‘Harry Potter’ series by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter, about a young boy wizard, is the best-selling fiction book of all time. The writing is descriptive but not complicated, and the stories are easy to follow with very likeable characters. The books have been translated into 80 different languages, and you can also find Harry Potter-themed language learning exercises and resources online. Beware of made-up words in these books – you might want to consult the official Harry Potter Dictionary!
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Le Petit Prince is a classic French children’s book, about a little boy who has left his home planet and is traveling around the universe. It is a beautiful story about childhood, imagination, and learning. There is some metaphorical language, but the grammar is simple and the book is quite short. It’s also one of the most widely translated stories of all time, with copies sold in 300 languages!
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
This is a classic ‘coming of age’ story about two rival gangs. It is written in first-person perspective, with short sentences, and has a lot of realistic dialogue. It does have some 1960s slang but you will easily find definitions online, and you don’t need much background information to understand the story.
The ‘Stephanie Plum’ series by Janet Evanovich
This is a fun, contemporary adventure series about Stephanie, a young woman who becomes a ‘bounty hunter’ – a job where she has to search for missing criminals. The books are fast-paced and easy to follow. They are written in first-person narrative, with a conversational tone and realistic dialogue including some modern slang words.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm is an important political allegory, and contains complex ideas about power and freedom. The writing style, however, is a fairly simple narrative with straight-forward sentence structures. It is also a short book, with around 100 pages, and is often taught in schools, so you can find lots of resources online explaining and analysing the book.
The ‘Shopaholic’ series by Sophie Kinsella
This is a funny, lighthearted series of books with a loveable character. Becky Bloomwood is an intelligent journalist, who also loves fashion and keeps buying more clothes that she cannot afford. The books are in first-person perspective, with casual language that mimics how people actually talk. If you enjoy this series there is a movie based on the first two books!
The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
This is a very intriguing story about a young girl living in a strange science facility. It is sort-of horror and sort-of science fiction. This novel offers you the opportunity to read something a bit different, because the writing is in the present tense. It contains interesting detailed descriptions, including lots of similes and metaphors. A movie version was made in 2016.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver is a good example of a ‘dystopian’ novel. Jonas lives in a world that seems perfect, but he starts to learn dangerous secrets about the past. This is a relatively long book with complex ideas, but most of the writing is past simple and past perfect, and the sentences are short. There is also a movie version you can watch!
The ‘In Death’ series by J.D. Robb
This is a series of 50+ novels and short stories about police officer Eve Dallas. The genre is an exciting mix of crime, mystery, and romance. The books are mostly dialogue, and the sentence structures are easy to follow.
The ‘Hunger Games ‘ series by Suzanne Collins
In The Hunger Games, teenagers must fight for their lives as part of a strange, cruel reality TV show. This hugely popular trilogy has been translated into 26 languages, and turned into a major film series. It is written in first person and has realistic dialogue. The writing is descriptive but not too metaphorical or elaborate.
We hope you find something fun to read!