Finding books for intermediate readers


in Spotlight, Tools & Techniques

Many English learners would like to read to improve their English, but they can’t find books that are easy enough to understand. On the ESL Podcast blog, Lucy Tse has written an excellent post about choosing intermediate-level reading. I’d like to add some additional ideas and recommend some books my adult students have enjoyed.

Reading and listening are the best ways to improve your Engish. When you read or listen to things that are interesting and easy, you acquire, or pick up, more English. The problem when looking for books is to find the right combination – interesting + easy. Books written for young adults or teens – the subject of Lucy’s blog post – may help solve the problem.

Finding the right book

The Internet makes finding a good book easier than it used to be. One of my favorite places for book-searching is the Barnes and Noble (B&N) web site. Here is the link to the fiction and literature section of the B&N site.

On the B&N web site, most of the books Lucy wrote about are called “teen” or “young adult” books. Teen books have their own starting page. When you go there, you’ll find different categories on the left side of the page. The most popular – best selling – teen books are listed on the right side of the page. This is a great page to begin to explore for good books. And if you don’t know where to start, try using the best-seller list.

If you want to look at a specific book or a category of books, like young adult books, use the search window. Put the title of the book or “young adult” in the window and click on “Search.”

When you find a book that looks interesting, click on the cover picture or title of the book. Here is the page for Holes, one of the books Lucy recommended. Below the picture of the book you’ll see a link that says “See Inside.” If you look inside, you’ll discover that you can actually read the book at your computer.

Below the picture of Holes, you’ll also see a link that says “Read an Excerpt.” An excerpt is a small part of the book. Almost all of the books have either a “See Inside,” “Read an Excerpt,” or “Sample Chapter” link, so you’ll be able to tell if a book looks interesting and if it’s easy enough for you to understand and read.

Some of my students’ favorite books

My adult students have read and enjoyed many of the books – like the Newbery Medal books – Lucy suggested. Here some other suggestions – some of my students’ favorites:

Good news – many choices

When you buy a book today, you can choose from many formats, or forms. You don’t have to choose between only the traditional hardcover and paperback books. Most of the teen and young adult books are also available as eBooks, audio books on compact discs, and as MP3 books that you can download to your iPod or other MP3 player.

More information about choosing books

If you’d like to learn more about choosing books, read Using popular fiction to improve your English.

Warren Ediger

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Rodrigo September 29, 2010

That is exactly what I have been looking for! Thanks Warren! As always your articles are of much help! They are sort of a map for me in this hard but exciting journey!

Andreu Martínez September 30, 2010


First of all thank you very much for your help and good advices!

I would like to explain and strategy that I use when I want to select a book in English. In fact I’m reading only books in English more or less for almost 4 years.

My strategy is to open the book randomly for one page and read the page. Then I close and open again by other page and read the page again. If you are able to understand the pages that you read, you can understand the book.

I don’t know if this could be a good method or not, in any case I learnt it from a friend who has a very good level of English and he used to use the method (now he doesn’t need it).

I would appreciate a lot your sincere opinion about this strategy.

Best regards,

Warren Ediger September 30, 2010

Rodrigo – Thanks! If you find the right books the journey will be much more exciting than hard!
Andreu – Yes, that’s a good method for deciding if a book is right for you – if you can find the books to look at.

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