One student asked me today about some novels that I could recommend for him to improve his English. I thought that was a fantastic idea.

I think two approaches are clear at first thought. The first approach is to read something easier or below your level of English. You may enjoy the story and process of reading below your level more because you can concentrate on the story, and not have to learn too much new vocabulary on every page. You can finish a book like this much easier and be confident about your ability to understand the story. This easy approach also helps to reinforce and solidify basic grammar and even increase your ability to be a good writer. I definitely recommend reading things that are below your English level. Think about it: most native English speakers spend their whole lives reading things that are below their ability level just for the thrill of the story. It is very enjoyable to read a good story!

The second approach is to challenge yourself by reading some thing at, or above your English level. This may take much more work, you may require a teacher to help with the difficult parts, but you will learn new vocabulary.

You can of course try both. Read a book that is below your English level and a book that is above to see which one you enjoy more, and which one you learn more from. The following links will take you to a PDF file, and an internet site respectively which list many intermediate books which have been recommended for ESL & EFL students. You can even read a brief synopsis of each book so you know what it entails. In part two of this article I will go to the library in Taichung City and review some of the books that are there in the library. That way you can go to the library and check out these books for yourself and read them without having to pay for a book you might not like. Basically, it’s less financially risky to go to the library and borrow the books there than going out to buy every book I recommend.

Here are the links I mentioned above:

Here is a brief list of books that I recommend personally which can also mostly be found online through the links provided:

1) Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (difficult):

** A scary story about a detective and a ghost that haunts a small town.

You can read it online in full text here:

2) Lord of the Flies by William Golding (intermediate)

** A class of student’s plane crashes on an island and they are forced to live there and try to survive on their own.

You can read it online in full text here:

3) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (easy)

** A fun children’s novel about a spider who tries to save a pig from being sold at the fair and turned into meat.

4) The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (intermediate)

** A classic novel about a student who faces his coming of age, and matures during his trip home to see his parents.

You can read it online in full text here:

5) The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry (easy

** A fun spiritual novel about a man whose plane crashes and he sees a little angel boy in the desert.

You can read it online in full text here:

6) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (intermediate)

** A classic novel about life and the law in the Southern United States.

You can read it online in full text here: