One of my favorite ways to practice a language is through reading novels written in that language. Reading books is a great way to get more involved in your language acquisition, helping you gain new vocabulary and becoming more familiar with English as it is naturally written. The City College of San Francisco and Spokane Community College have compiled some useful lists to help you figure out which books to consider, and I’ve included a few of my personal picks for ESL learners.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a short and easy to read American classic often taught in high schools. The story takes place in early 1920s New York from the point of view of Nick Carraway, who has recently moved next door to a mysterious man by the name of Jay Gatsby, who throw legendary parties, is incredibly wealthy, and is hopelessly infatuated with a woman he shouldn’t be.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a delightful nonfiction book about a man’s visit to his old college professor and his insightful outlook on life. Inspiring and heartwarming, this book is sure to encourage any reader to live life passionately and to never give up on the things they love.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a young adult series that, over the past few years, has acquired many passionate followers for its engaging storyline and powerful female protagonist. These books are a major part of America’s pop culture and have even been made into films. Start off with the first book, The Hunger Games.
The books take place in the future, where, after a major period of destruction, the nation of Panem is formed and divided into twelve districts ruled by the Capitol. Back in Panem’s history, the districts once revolted against the Capitol and lost. The annual Hunger Games was created as a reminder of the Capitol’s ultimate rule and punishment for the revolt. So every year, one child between the ages of 12 and 17 from each district is randomly chosen to compete against one another to the death in a location designed and controlled by the Capitol’s gamemakers. The stories follow Katniss Everdeen as she fights for survival against the Games and the Capitol.
Harry Potter by JK Rowling is a household name worldwide, with the series translated into 68 different languages worldwide! The series is one of my personal favorites, even though I’m not usually a fantasy fan. I’ve read the books multiple times in English and read the French translation to practice my own language learning.
Reading a book you know in English helps with your comprehension, so it can be helpful but certainly not necessary if you’re already familiar with the story.
Young Harry Potter, a scrawny orphan neglected by his guardians, finds out that he is a wizard and will be taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, following the footsteps of his parents. He struggles with classes, plays Quidditch on a flying broomstick, and meets best friends and mortal enemies all within is first year in the wizarding world. Start with the Sorcerer’s Stone and you’ll be addicted before you know it.
Photo Credit: Simon Cocks