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5 English Books to Read to Improve Your Vocabulary

Do you ever feel like your English is pretty good, but you need to increase your vocabulary?

This is a common issue for English learners. You might be comfortable listening, reading, and even having a short conversation. But you may find yourself struggling to describe everyday items, situations, or feelings. 

Try reading books!

We’re not talking about grammar textbooks—rather, short stories and novels. Reading a variety of English books will give you insight into some useful language to add to your word list.

There’s a variety of book genres intermediate English learners can choose from. Here are a few of our favourite books to get you started!

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams’ book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is a 1979 comedy science fiction novel. Adams uses lots of puns and plays on words, as well as made-up vocabulary (great for testing yourself by trying to identify the fake words). This book may be a bit of a challenging read, but it’s not too hard to understand—and it’s definitely worth it!

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Told from the perspective of a young boy with autism, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a mix of comedy and mystery. It has short sentences and the chapters are only one to five pages long. The grammar and vocabulary are also basic and easy to understand, yet you’ll still learn lots of new vocabulary. 

3. A Very Short Story by Ernest Hemingway

This one isn’t technically a book, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. At just over 600 words long, Hemingway’s “A Very Short Story” is a great starter story if you’d like to get into the famous American writer’s work. It describes Hemingway’s experience in World War I. The sentences are mostly short and straightforward but have lots of useful vocabulary. 

4. Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder is the story of Auggie, a 10-year-old boy who looks different from other people. The story describes Auggie’s experiences in his first year at public school. With themes such as kindness, friendship, and empathy, this book will make you laugh and cry. It’s also full of figures of speech like idioms, similes, and metaphors, which is great for your English practice.

5. Holes by Louis Sachar

In this story by Louis Sachar, a boy named Stanley is wrongly accused of stealing and is sent to a youth detention camp. At the camp, Stanley and the other campers are forced to dig large holes every day—for an unexpected reason. The main plot of Holes is told with clear language and humour, and includes lots of surprising twists. You’ll definitely be entertained by this story as you build your vocabulary! 

Pick up a book to boost your vocabulary

The great thing about reading is that you’ll build your vocabulary no matter what type of book you choose. From mystery to comedy to science fiction, you’ll find a lot of useful words and phrases. So pick up one of the books above, and watch your vocabulary grow! 

Andrea is a Gabby Academy coach and education technolgy writer based in Vancouver, Canada.