Reading in English is easier than it seems - you just have to follow one important piece of advice: don't try to understand everything. Obviously, to start with it helps to have a book with a restricted vocabulary and a clear style. For beginners and lower levels there are many editions of "graded readers"; classic and well-known novels adapted to the appropriate level (see the "Penguin" page in the "self-study" section of this website). For the intermediate and higher levels, there are many novels that can be read without too many problems and without having to use a dictionary after the first few pages; once you are familiar with the words typical of the context and environment of the novel, you can put it away, no problem.

Some examples:

The Curious Incident with the Dog at Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith
The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Room by Emma Donaghue
Wonder by R.J. Palacios
The Outsiders by Susan E. Hinton

In class, we will use these books as a starting point for the essential practice of reading in English.

BOOK REVIEW QUESTIONS (For the first three books mentioned above):


Please write a few sentences in response to each question.
Note: whatever you do, don’t give away the ending!


- Why is this an unusual detective story?

- Where is the story set? (Country, place, etc.)

- How does the setting influence the story?

- Who are the main characters directly involved in the plot? Can you give a
brief description of their character and physical characteristics?

- Are any other people important to the story; even if they are not directly
taking part in the action?

- What was good/bad about the book? Did you enjoy it?

- Would you recommend this book to another student of English?

Enjoyed The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency? Here is one of the episodes. Apparently they have removed the first season of the series, due to copyright issues, so it doesn't exactly correspond to the book. But, if you enjoyed the stories and liked the characters, it is still worth watching.


BOOK REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR "WONDER" AND "THE OUTSIDERS" :


Please write a few sentences in response to each question.
Note: whatever you do, don’t give away the ending!


- Why is this an unusual "coming-of-age" novel?

- What character traits does the protagonist have that help him deal with the problems surrounding him?

- Where is the story set? (Country, place, etc.)

- How does the setting influence the story?

- Who are the main characters directly involved in the plot? Can you give a
brief description of their character and physical characteristics?

- Are any other people important to the story; even if they are not directly
taking part in the action?

- What was good/bad about the book? Did you enjoy it?

- Would you recommend this book to another student of English?

The Outsiders Finished the book? Now watch the movie!


BOOK REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR "I, ROBOT":


- What is the purpose of the stories; what is the writer trying to show?

- Can you illustrate this with examples taken from two of the stories?

- Describe Dr. Susan Calvin; what does she look like? What is she like? Why do you think she became a robot psychologist?

- Can you describe two of the places where the stories are set?

- Can you describe two other characters from the stories?

- Do you think that any of the behaviour displayed by the robots could happen in the future? Will technology ever reach this point?

- What was good/bad about the book? Did you enjoy it?

- Would you recommend this book to another student of English?


Once you have read one or even all of these books, you are ready for something a bit more challenging. Some examples:

"The Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham

"Driving over Lemons" by Chris Stewart

"Monsignor Quixote" by Graham Greene


Questions for "The day of the Triffids":

- Please draw a Triffid, based on the descriptions in the book; artistic skills are not important.

- What do you think of the protagonist of the story? Can you describe his character? Are his acts justified? Would you act the same?

- People are dealing with the situation in many different ways; give some examples!

- What kind of "society" do you think has the highest chance of success? Which one do you most identify with? (note: answers are not necessarily the same for both questions...).

- Taking into account that this story was written in the 1950's, what do you think this story is really about? (there is no one correct answer..)

- Did you enjoy the book? Would you recommend it other students, considering the level, plot, etc?




Questions for “Monsignor Quixote” by Graham Greene:

- Where is the story set? (Country, place, etc.)

- How does the setting influence the story?

- Who are the two main characters involved in the plot? Can you give a

brief description of their character and physical characteristics?

- Are any other people (alive or dead) important to the story; even if they are not directly

taking part in the action?

- The story describes two “journeys”, one real one and one spiritual one. Please give a brief description of both journeys.

- What was good/bad about the book? Did you enjoy it?

- Would you recommend this book to another student of English?





More Graded Readers:

"Far From the Madding Crowd" by Thomas Hardy

1. Explain the title. Could you suggest a different title?

2. Please give a brief description of the following characters:

- Batsheba Everdene
- Gabriel Oak
- Frank Troy
- William Boldwood

3. Why were they given those names?

4. Should she have married Gabriel at the beginning of the story? Why or why not?

5. Would you recommend this book to another student of English?

"Vanity Fair" by William Thackeray

1. Explain the title. Do you think it's appropriate?

2. Please give a brief description of the following characters:

- Becky Sharp

- Amelia Sedley

- Rawdon Crawley

- William Dobbin

3. Who would prefer to have as a friend or acquaintance, Becky or Amelia, why?

4. What do you think of the ending?

5. Would you recommend this book to another student of English?

"This Rough Magic" by Mary Stewart

1. Explain the title.

2. Please describe the following characters:

- Lucy Waring
- Godfrey Manning
- Max Gale
- Sir Julian Gale

3. How did Spiro really disappear?

4. Why were the crimes committed?

5. Would you recommend this book to another student?

Links to sites that can help you improve your reading skills further:


Gutenberg This site allows you to read and download hundreds of books (copyright expired, so totally legal!)

Of course, new technology is forever increasing your chances of practice. With the appearance of e-books, it is now possible to not only download and read an infinite number of books, but also to listen to those books at the same time! Definitely worth the investment if you want to kill two birds with one stone.

The Local. Not into books or not enough time? Maybe articles or short news stories are more your kind of thing? It is good practice to read different newspapers and magazines, but not always that easy. The language used is not always suitable for learners and unfamiliarity with the culture and personae of the country where the paper is published can make it a bit of a struggle. "The local" can help you with this - it's all about Spain! Apart from that, there are many local "rags" published in English all around Spain. See also "links to your hobbies".


FURTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR READING


There follows a list of 20th/21st century novels that might be of interest to you. Any such list can of course only represent a tiny fraction of the existing literature. In this case, it is only meant to guide you through your (first) attempts at reading original novels, for which it is divided into different categories:

(1) Quite Accessible

(2) Normal

(3) Advanced



These categories are fairly subjective and there are no real arguments against selecting a book from a higher category than (1) to start with. Just remember that some of the category (3) books are rather advanced!


As a quick test, you can read a few pages of the book you are interested in (either on the internet, or in a bookshop) and count the words that you have never seen before. As a rule of thumb: more than 7/8 words per page means it could be a bit of a challenge, more than 12/13 could be a serious problem...


Remember that reading is first and foremost for enjoyment. The fact that you can acquire vocabulary through reading is no more than a pleasant side effect. Therefore, use a dictionary only for the first 10 pages or so. Every writer has his/her own favourite words and expressions with which you can quickly familiarize yourself. Write these words, and the words that are typical of the context of the story on a separate piece of paper and study them before continuing.

Afterwards, use a dictionary only for words that you have come across for at least 5 times and are still puzzling you, or words that are absolutely essential to your understanding of the story.


Taste is of course very personal. A book included in this list is not necessarily to everyone's liking. Certain "plots" might not appeal to you, or certain writers abundantly use words or expressions that turn reading into a real struggle for students unfamiliar with the kind of language used. So, if you get bored with a book for any of those reasons, simply stop reading it. Don't give up too soon, but once you do, don't take it as a personal failure; there are plenty more where that one came from!


ABBREVIATIONS

CR: Crime/Whodunnit
HI: Historical
W: War background
SF: Science Fiction
SS: Short Stories
CH: Originally intended as a book for children
HU: Humour
SP: Spies and Politics
!!: Strongly recommended

Category 1
"The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" !! John Boyne
"A Homage to Catalonia" !! George Orwell
"Animal Farm" ,, ,,
"Our Man in Havana" SP Graham Greene
"Monsignor Quixote" HU ,, ,,
"The Quiet American" W ,, ,,
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" W Ernest Hemingway
"A Farewell to Arms" W ,, ,,
"The Old Man and the Sea" ,, ,,
"Jamaica Inn" D. Du Maurier
"Billy Liar" HU Keith Waterhouse
"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" Alan Sillitoe
"The Spy who came in from the Cold" SP John le Carré
"The Time Machine" SF H.G.Wells
"The War of the Worlds" SF ,, ,,
"Tales of the Unexpected" SS !! Roald Dahl
"Winnie the Pooh" CH A.A.Milne
"The Wind in the Willows" CH K.Grahame
"Watership Down" CH Richard Adams
"The Pearl" John Steinbeck
"Driving over Lemons" Chris Stewart
"Death on the Nile" CR Agatha Christie
"The treasure of the Sierra Madre" Ben Traven
"The Eye of the Needle" SP Ken Follet
"The Curious Incident with the Dog at Night Time" !! Haddor
"The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency" !! A. McCall Smith
"Room" Emma Donoghue

"The Giver" Lois Lowry

"Wonder" by R. J. Palacios




Category 2
"The Outsiders" by Susan E. Hinton
"The day of the Triffids" SF !!! John Wyndham
"King Rat" W James Clavell
"On the Road" Jack Kerouac
"Cider with Rosie" L.Lee
"The Grand Sophy" HI Georgette Heyer
"A town like Alice" Nevil Shute
"On the Beach" ,, ,,
"The Young Lions" W !! Irving Shaw
"Cry the beloved country" Alan Patton
"Road to Wigan Pier" George Orwell
"Tobacco Road" E.Caldwell
"A Word Child" Iris Murdoch
"The Girl with Green Eyes" Edna O'Brien
"The Go-Between" J.P.Hartley
"The Great Gatsby" Scott Fitzgerald
"The Catcher in the Rye" !!! J.D.Salinger
"Good Behaviour" Molly Keane
"A Good Man in Africa" William Boyd
"A Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy" Douglas Adams
"Shogun" HI James Clavell
"A Kiss before Dying" Ira Levin
"Nice Work" David Lodge
"Changing Places" HU ,, ,,
"The Winds of War" Herman Wouk
"Lolita" V.Nabokov
"Brighton Rock" Graham Greene
"The Heart of the Matter" ,, ,,
"The Human Factor" ,, ,,
"The Grass is Singing" Doris Lessing
"African Stories" SS ,, ,,
"In Cold Blood" CR Truman Capote
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" SS ,, ,,
"Seize the Day" Saul Bellow
"The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" CR A.Conan Doyle
"The Hound of the Baskervilles" CR ,, ,,
"I, Robot" SF Isaac Asimov
"Alice in Wonderland" CH Lewis Caroll
"The Neverending Story" CH Michael Ende
"Decline and Fall" HU Evelyn Waugh
"Scoop" HU !! ,, ,,
"The Loved One" ,, ,,
"Doctor in the House" HU Richard Gordon
"The Inimitable Jeeves" HU P.G.Wodehouse
"Of Mice and Men" John Steinbeck
"Collected Short Stories" W.Somerset Maugham
"The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole" !! Sue Townsend
"The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole" HU ,, ,,
"The Millstone" Margaret Drabble
"The Spaniards" HI !! John Hooper
"The Graduate" HU Charles Webb
"Goodbye Mr.Chips" James Hilton
"Lucky Jim" Kingsley Amis
"Saturday night and Sunday morning" Alan Sillitoe
"The Naked and the Dead" W Norman Mailer
"The House of Sand and Fog" André Dubus

Category 3
"Lord of the Flies" William Golding
"The Power and the Glory" Graham Greene
"England Made Me" ,, ,,
"My Family and other Animals" G.Durell
"Dubliners" SS James Joyce
"Catch 22" W J.Heller
"To kill a Mockingbird" Harper Lee
"Room at the Top" John Braine
"The Grapes of Wrath" !!! John Steinbeck
"East of Eden" John Steinbeck
"Brave New World" Aldous Huxley
"The Fixer" Bernard Malamud
"A Passage to India" Foster
"Lady Chatterley's Lover" D.H.Lawrence
"Brideshead Revisited" Evelyn Waugh
"Lord Jim" Joseph Conrad
"The Heart of Darkness" ,, ,,
"The Godfather" CR Mario Puzo
"The Big Sleep" CR Raymond Chandler
"Turn of the Screw" SS Henry James
"The Hobbit" CH J.Tolkien
"Washington Square" Henry James
"Clock without hands" Carson McCullers
"The Ballad of the Bad Café" ,, ,,
"Hotel New Hampshire" John Irving
"The Cider House Rules" !!! ,, ,,
"A Prayer for Owen Meany" !! ,, ,,
"The King must Die" HI Mary Renault
"Hurry on Down" John Wain
"Voyage in the Dark" Jean Rhys
"Goodbye Columbus" Philip Roth
"The Odessa File" SP !! Frederick Forsyth
"The dogs of War" ,, ,,
"Treasure Island" CH R.L. Stevenson
"Even cowgirls get the Blues" HU Tom Robbins
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" Mark Twain
"Restoration" Rose Tremain
"Rule of the Bone" Russell Banks
"The Information" Martin Amis
"The Pillars of the Earth" HI Ken Follet
"The Crow Road" !! Iain Banks
"The War of Don Manuel’s Nether Parts" HU Louis de Berniéres
"Captain Corelli's Mandoline" ,, ,,
"The Alienist" CR Caleb Carr
"A Fine Balance" Rohinton Mistry
"The Poisonwood Bible" HI Barbara Kingsolver
"Life of Pi" Yan Martell
"One Day" David Nicholls
"We Need to talk about Kevin" Lionel Shriver

Enjoy!
Find your book In the unlikely case that the above list hasn't got what you are looking for, you can put technology at your service to keep looking..