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  • Forfatterens bildeRebekah Olson

English Starter Novels

Through reading, we acquire new vocabulary, explore different points of view, discover expressions, and develop a feel for language, whether our own or one we're learning. Knowing which books to start with when learning a new language can be difficult though. Luckily, that's just what this list is for🙂

Reading is one of the best ways to improve language skills. So get started!

Lord of the Flies Cover

1. Lord of the Flies

William Golding

All American high school students have to read this book. Because of that, it is continually referenced throughout US culture, media, and news.

Lord of the Flies used to be the text used for the Cambridge Advanced Exam, so that's a good sign that it's a helpful read for those wanting to study English.

Summary: A plane crash leaves a group of boys marooned on an island. All alone, they elect a leader and create their own society. Things go horribly wrong and war for power breaks out. The boys turn savage. They form two rival tribes and panic, fear, and ultimately death ensue.

This classic will make you contemplate the goodness, or lack thereof, in human nature.


2. To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is another classic American novel that students in the US read during middle school or high school (ages 12-18).

Summary: The book is set in the United States and follows the story of a crime in a small, rural town. It's told from the point of view of a child, so the language is not complex, making it a great novel for English language beginners.

This book handles issues important to the American identity, history, and way of life: racism, coming of age, sexism, the failed court system, and classism.


3. The Outsiders

S.E. Hinton

This short novel is perfect for English language learners. It has modern themes and universally understood teenage issues. With short sentences and non-complex vocabulary is also very easy, The Outsiders is a good starter novel.

Summary: Two groups of teenage boys from rival gangs struggle to live in the same town. The members of both groups are poor and live hard lives, and yet they cannot see their similarities.

The gangs fight throughout the book, and eventually, a member is accidentally killed. A trial is set and a judge has to decide the fate of the one who did the accidental killing. Is he guilty or not guilty?

The question: how much is something the fault of a child when the system that is supposed to create equality for all, has failed him?


4. The House on Mango Street

Sandra Cisneros

The House On Mango Street makes for a fascinating yet fun read. Written from the point of view of the writer, you can really feel what the protagonist feels. The language is descriptive and full of context clues to help you through any difficult vocabulary.

Summary: A young, Mexican girl grows up in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. The story follows her life as she makes friends, her body changes, and she begins to have feelings for a boy. She writes poetry to get through difficult times, she goes on adventures with her friends, and she traverses life as a poor teenager in America.

This novel will bring you a perspective you probably haven't yet engaged: that of an impoverished person, a child of immigrants, a young girl, and a Latina.


5. Your Favorite Book

Your Favorite Author

The best book you can read in English is a book you already know and love in your native language. Finding something comforting, something familiar, and then revisiting it in a new language is fun and a great way to study language.

When I lived abroad for the first time, the only book my local library had in English was Twilight. At first, I thought my Norwegian was nowhere near good enough to read a novel that size, but since I knew the book so well in English, it ended up being relatively easy for me. I devoured it! I went on to read the whole series and it undoubtedly made my language skills better.

So what book is your favorite? Could you imagine reading it in English? Support your local bookstore by reaching out to them for a copy and give it a go!

The Abbey Bookstore, Paris, France
The Abbey Bookstore, Paris, France

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