October 10


6 Books To Learn English That Are Easy To Read

By Gordon Gaffney

October 10, 2021

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

When we talk about books in English that are easy to read the great thing is that this doesn’t mean the books are of poor quality or that they are books exclusively written for children.

Some world-famous, critically-acclaimed and prize-winning books are very easy to read and are suitable for students of English as a second language. Most of these books will be translated into other languages so they are already probably familiar to you and available in your language in your local bookshop. Many of these books have also been made into famous movies.

Some students might be surprised to learn that the books of Ernest Hemingway are very easy to read.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954 and we might think that books that win the Nobel prize will be very difficult to read but thankfully his books are not. 

4 Rules to Write in English by Hemingway

Hemingway famously had four rules for writing English and two of them are the most important for students trying to find easy English books to read.

1. The first rule is that the writer uses short sentences.

2. The second rule is to use short paragraphs.

3. The third rule is to use vigorous English, which means that you write with passion and focus.

4. . The fourth rule is to focus on the positive not the negative, so that you say what something is rather than what something is not.

To use some examples, you don’t say something is “unclear”, a negative or something it is not, you say that it is “confusing”, a positive or something that it is. 

Easy Books to Read in English: 1. The Old Man And The Sea

Hemmingway won the Nobel Prize in 1954 and his most recent work at that time was “The Old Man and the Sea” which was published in 1953.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

It is a short book and was the last work published in Hemingway’s lifetime. It tells the story of a Cuban fisherman struggling to catch a large fish called a marlin.

This book also won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1953. The Pulitzer Prizes are like the academy awards or Oscars for North American writing. They acknowledge the best writing in the English language in various categories such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism.

Hemingway’s philosophy on writing reminds me of another expression which is “sorry for the long email/letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one”. This means that editing your writing to make it as clear and concise as possible requires more effort than writing very lengthy text.

Easy Books to Read in English: 2. Animal Farm

Another good choice is Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

On the surface this might look like this is a very simple children’s story about animals living on a farm, in fact the original title was “Animal Farm: a fairy story”

However, most people know that this story was an allegory for the Russian revolution, the start of communism and life in the old USSR under Stalin.

It was written between November 1943 and February 1944 in the middle of World War II, when Orwell’s native Great Britain had an alliance with the USSR, who were led by Stalin at the time.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

George Orwell

He used the allegory of animals on a farm to avoid censorship but he struggled to get the book published. This short book was made into a famous animated film in 1953 and another more recent version was made in 1999, but both versions made changes to key events in the book.

I studied this book in 6th class in primary school in Ireland, when pupils are around 11 years of age so the English is at a level that children of that age can understand.

Kurt Vonnegut is another world-famous author who uses a similar style to Hemingway of simple English in short sentences to tell his stories. 

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut worked as a journalist and the requirement to communicate effectively and concisely was also seen in his books. He uses very short clear sentences and paragraphs and a conversational style.

Easy Books to Read in English: 3. Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five is perhaps his most famous work and is an anti-war book written during the American war in Vietnam.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

Children’s books are another good option and I don’t mean books aimed at very young children but perhaps those written for what are now called tweens, that is children between 8 and 13 or 14 years old, but also older teenagers.

Many of these children’s books will be hugely popular among adults, probably the best example of this are the Harry Potter books written by JK Rowling.

Easy Books to Read in English: 4. Harry Potter

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read
6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

J.K. Rowling

When students ask me what books they should read, I tell them to read books they will enjoy, not just to improve their English, and the Harry Potter books are probably the best example of this. We don’t want learning English to become like work, we want to enjoy it as much as possible.

Another children’s author, who was hugely popular when I was a child, is Roald Dahl.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

Roal Dahl

Almost all of my classmates in school read his books which were stocked in all bookshops and you are probably already familiar with his work. Many of them are so popular that they have been made into movies.

In general his stories are slightly dark, the characters can be nasty, in particular the adults, and some horrible things can happen in the book.

However, Dahl believed that children were resilient and they enjoyed these darker, horrible stories. 

You can discover some of his best poems to learn english here soon.

Easy Books to Read in English: 5. George’s Marvellous Medicine

One of my favourites of his which was not made into a movie is George’s Marvellous Medicine which is one of the shorter Roald Dahl books.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

I found this to be a hilarious book with some nasty characters and dark scenes that I would still find funny as an adult.

Easy Books to Read in English: 6. The Hobbit (Not The Lord of The Rings)

However not all children’s books are easy to read, sadly the extremely popular Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien is quite difficult to read as it has a lot of descriptions and long sentences, which we want to avoid.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

The Lord of the Rings (Hard)

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

The Hobbit (Easier)

However Tolkien’s other famous work, The Hobbit, is a lot easier to read and is written for a younger audience.

One author to avoid completely is the Irish writer James Joyce. In many ways Joyce is the exact opposite of Hemingway or Vonnegut.

His books, and in particular Ulysses, are regarded by critics as the greatest novels in the English language. Ulysees is a huge book and takes place over 24 hours in Dublin.

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

Very hard!

6 Books to Learn English That Are Easy to Read

James Joyce

However it is incredibly difficult to read, even for a native speaker, and very few native speakers actually complete the whole book.

It contains a lot of stream-of-consciousness text, frequently a sentence will be a paragraph long and it will contain many, many commas which in a way makes it similar to how some Portuguese literature is structured. 

You might also be interested in our video course on sale on Udemy for €29.99/69.99R$ "Eliminate the Mistakes that Portuguese Speakers Make in English". 4 hours of video exclusively for people that speak Portuguese. You can read more about it and watch free videos here.

Have you ever read one of these books? What's your favorite? Leave it in the comments below!

Gordon Gaffney

About the author

Gordon is The Irish English Teacher, creator of this blog and many products to help all students learning English as a second language, but with a focus on Portuguese speakers.

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