Reading is a rather pleasant past-time, and when learning English, reading is an amazing way to expand your vocabulary, learn new phrases, and even become familiar with slang. Obviously, it’s best to try find books that best cater to your proficiency level, which I’m aware is quite hard. As someone currently trying to learn Bahasa Melayu, my options are rather limited to kindergarten books, which while at my level, aren’t the most riveting.
But, for those at intermediate to advanced, if you’re ever interested in some good reads, I have a few suggestions. A caveat before we start though: a lot of the books on this list are very seminal and historic novels, and usually show up on most “Top Ten Books” lists. That’s because they’re usually rather good, though at times they may also be a bit dated, as they were written at times where things like human rights were up for debate even more so than they are now. So just keep that in mind when reading this list, and select books you think would suit you the best.
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
So, this is probably one of the most seminal historical novels on this list, and also definitely more for advanced readers. The entire book is written in “Accented English” and employs a rather large amount of slang. The story is based in the American South (USA) back at the start of the 20th century (a rather tumultuous time in history) and is from the perspective of a little girl named Scout, recounting the events of when her father undertook a legal case for an African American man accused of assaulting a white woman***. The book looks at race relations and the illusion of parents from a child’s perspective, and while it seems shallow due to that perspective, it is extremely well-written, and there’s a reason it is widely touted.
- Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
If you’re looking for a fantasy book that isn’t just Harry Potter again, may I suggest Mistborn? This is a story set in a fantasy world, ravaged by an evil emperor. Our main character is one of the rare Mistborn, individuals who have the ability to manipulate metals by consuming different alloys. The story follows our main character as she seeks to overthrow the emperor of this land with the aid of a band of other ne’er do wells and vagabonds. That’s about as much as I can give away about the story, and needless to say, I don’t feel as though I did it justice. If you’re looking for an amazing magic system, wonderful characters, and intriguing world, and terrifying mystery, Mistborn is a fantastic choice.
- Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
This book is disturbing. But in a good way. Trying to give a synopsis for the story is rather difficult, and would spoil the content, but it is very well written. The world is unsettling, the characters just a bit off, and the concept rightly horrific. That isn’t to say the book is a horror (at least I wouldn’t), but it is unnerving.
- My Sister’s Keeper – Jodie Picoult
This is a book I’ve reread a lot, to the point where my copy is no longer fully together. It’s a story about a family with a daughter who has leukaemia, and their youngest daughter who acts as the donor to her sister. The inciting incident of the story is when the youngest daughter enacts a lawsuit against her parents for emancipation of her body. From there we get a story of a broken family, with perspectives from each member, and even people outside the family, with a very impactful ending.
- 11/22/63 – Stephen King
This book is huge. If you ever need a long read, this one is it. But it doesn’t feel long – which is testament to how much the story draws you in. For anyone familiar with Stephen King, please note this is not a horror book. The story is actually about time travel, with a rather unassuming teacher travelling back to the 1950’s, and essentially screwing everything up. The story is extremely gripping, with enjoyable characters, suspenseful events, and a memorable ending. The take on time travel here is rather unique, but the book does not overexplain, allowing for an air of mystery surrounding the entire concept. Again, I do stress it is a very long book though, and does contain quite a few dark turns, including several murders. Still a very good read, it’s rather difficult to go wrong with Stephen King.
And that’s the list. There are countless other books out there, but these are just a few from different genres that you might enjoy. There are new books coming out every day, and whether they’re historical classics, or convenience store paper backs, getting in reading as much as possible is the best way to advance and maintain your skill in English.