Immersion in the any language is one of the best ways to learn the language. This means that language students not only need to speak as often as possible, but they need to practice reading and writing. While grammar books and textbooks offer opportunities to practice language skills through drills and other activities, nothing can replicate the language acquisition that occurs when language learners read novels in the language they are studying. Non-native speakers are able to see native speakers write in their natural language, so those language learners glean new vocabulary words and they learn about the nuances and style of the language, too.
When people are learning English, one of the biggest challenges comes from the idioms that native speakers use. Many novels include these idioms, so the challenge for English students is to find books that are written at an appropriate level so the content of the book is understandable without having to struggle through the idioms. Some novelist clearly explain the idioms through vocabulary development techniques, while others completely avoid any type of help for readers who might struggle. The following list contains books and/or authors that are suggested for people who are intermediate English language learners; the books are novels with chapters with language that is written clearly without overuse of idioms and slang. The content should be acceptable for teenagers and older.
1. Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. This is a fishing story about a Cuban fisherman and his struggle to catch a marlin. Hemingway was known for his clear and concise writing, which makes him a favorite for language learners. This short novel is a good introduction to Hemingway. Plus, there is a movie based on the book, so language learners can watch that to check for understanding at the end of the novel.
2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It is hard to not like this book. It is a classic story about the struggles between the rich and poor as well as the challenges of growing up. The main characters are brothers from the poor side of town. The book is another short one. S.E. Hinton has several other titles that are popular with her readers.
3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. This novel is actually written by a Nigerian man, but the English is clear and easy to follow. The biggest challenges for many readers is keeping track of the names. It is a powerful book about the Nigerian culture and what happens when cultures collide. This is the first of a short series.
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. This is another short novel, but the story is big. There are not many characters to follow, but they are developed enough so readers care about them. It is the story of two men who find work on a farm during the Great Depression. The language is simple to follow and the descriptions of the landscapes are beautiful. The idioms are from the 1930s, so they are unusual even to native speakers today; however, the book remains a favorite for many readers.
5. Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. This is another book that was turned into a movie. The book is written in very simple language. The biggest challenge for English language learners is the fact that the book does have a large focus on football – American football, so language learners who think of European football, will have to adjust their way of thinking. This is an endearing story that is difficult to put down.