Learn English Free

Choosing a book

The first rule is that there are no rules to follow in choosing a book. But you can follow these suggestions:-

It's important to have an idea of what you want to read about.

You want the perfect book: one that's not too easy, not too hard, that will hold your interest and will also inspire you to actually finish it.

Look at the book's cover. Usually, this will give you some idea of what the book is about. But remember, a nice cover doesn't mean great content.

Read the synopsis. This is usually found at the front or back of the book. This should tell you what the book is about.

Is the topic one that will interest you?

Is the writing clear and straightforward? 

Is the language used interesting and vivid?

Does the author have special knowledge about the subject of the book?

Is it the right level?

In the shop or library choose a page near the middle of the book and read it to yourself. Do you understand more than 70% - then it's probably the right level. Remember you are using this as a learning experience, don't expect to understand 100%.

Is it any good?

An experienced reader is able to make informed choices. The problem faced by any beginner is that it takes a long time to build up the depth of knowledge needed to interpret a book without reading it from cover to cover.

Ask friends, teachers or colleagues for recommendations. Failing this it's always interesting (and helpful) to see what other people have thought about a book they've read. Take a look at some online book reviews; Amazon prints short reviews about each book they sell, and people submit their personal reviews as well, you could do the same.

If you are looking for an English book to read and you are not completely sure of what you’ll enjoy the most, you have several things to think about.

Your first choice is:-

Fiction or non - fiction?


Fiction is written about imaginary characters and events that are generally not based on real people or facts.

There are different fiction genres, the main ones are:-

Action-adventure stories feature physical action and violence, often around a quest or military-style mission set in exotic or forbidding locales such as jungles, deserts, or mountains.

Crime fiction stories, centered on criminal enterprise, are told from the point of view of the perpetrators. They range in tone from lighthearted "caper" stories to darker plots involving organized crime or incarcerated convicts.

Detective fiction has become almost synonymous with mystery. These stories relate the solving of a crime, usually one or more murders, by a protagonist who may or may not be a professional investigator.

Fantasy fiction features stories set in fanciful, invented worlds or in a legendary, mythic past.

Horror fiction aims to evoke some combination of fear, fascination, and revulsion in its reader.

Realistic fiction tells a story about things that could really take place now. The characters are involved in events that could really happen.

Romance fiction generally features the mutual attraction and love of a man and a woman as the main plot, and usually has a happy ending.

Science fiction is defined more by setting than by other story elements. Stories of other worlds or set in the future qualify as science fiction.

Thrillers are stories intended to evoke strong feelings of suspense and danger, usually involving a high-stakes hunt, chase, or a race against time. Thrillers often involve espionage, crime, medicine, or technology.

Westerns are stories set in America's wild west, usually between the years of 1860 and 1900. Well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey from the early 1900s and Louis L'Amour from the mid 20th century.


Non-fiction books are based on the known facts. This could cover science, history, travel. The possiblities are endless. To other types of non-fiction are:

Biographies - These are the story of a real person's life, written or told by another person.

Autobiographies - These are the story of a real person's life, written or told by that person.

There are several British literary prizes and they can be a good way of selecting your reading material. You could start by learning about the following prize winners and nominees.

The Orange Prize - awarded annually for the best original full-length novel by a female author of any nationality.
The Man Booker Prize - awarded annually for the best original full-length novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland in the English language.
Whitbread Prize - awarded annually for the best of contemporary British writing.

Many publishers specialize in certain types of books, either by genre or literary style. If you find a book you like, search the publisher's site for similar titles.

If you find an author you like try and read some more of his/her books.

We have recommended lots of books on the website (see Recommended English books), and we try to recommend a new book every month on the English Magazine

If you are still stuck visit Which Book.

Finding a book

Book shops are an obvious place to go. They give you the chance to look at the book in depth and often the staff can recommend a suitable book for your level of English.

On line shops like Amazon don't give the same tactile experience, but they often allow you to read a couple of pages before committing to buy.

If you are lucky enough to have a library in your area see if they have an English language section, if they don't, make a simple suggestion.

Books in good condition are often sold on EBay and Amazon or you could just go to a second hand book shop or charity shop.

If you have English speaking friends on the internet, or if any of your family or friends live abroad, arrange a bit of book swapping.

Join book crossing and go hunting, you're not guaranteed success, but you should have a bit of fun.