“I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself, and falls on the other.” – MacBeth(Act I, Scene VII).

Reading books in English will……

  1.  improve your ability to read in English
  2.  help you learn / remember words that you see in the books


if you read Shakespeare, like the line from MacBeth above, it is  probably going to be hard, have strange words, and will be language you won’t use for speaking……… so it’s not that useful for English, unless your priority / short-term goal is to read Shakespeare:)  If your priority is not just to improve reading of Shakespeare, but improve reading and even speaking, keep the following in mind

  • listening will help more with speaking than reading books

Children learn to speak without reading, because speaking is using combinations of sounds. If you listen you hear these combinations, it is easier for your brain to re-use them for speaking. If you’re not watching TV series, online videos or movies in English, think about developing this habit before developing the habit of reading books.

  • books about your “profession” are better for speaking about your profession

If you work and need to improve English for your work, then you need specific business English. Books that aren’t about your area will not have this specific English. So if your FIRST goal is to improve your specific business English, read books connected with this FIRST. When you’re happy with that, start with “general” books.

  • choose a book that is interesting

It can be a book for children, a detective, a silly book, a strange book, a normal book. Japanese manga even!!! It is important for you to find it interesting. The more interesting it is, the more often you read, and the more deeply things go into your mind.

  • develop a habit of reading for pleasure / enjoyment

One type of reading is “intensive”. This is when you want to understand all the details, so you need to know almost all the words. This is ok for short texts like articles, but not possible when you start reading books. With books, develop the habit of “reading quickly for the general idea” (extensive reading). I know it may be difficult at first, but the advice below should help……..

  • you can miss parts!

You do not need to understand every word! Be happy at first with the general idea. If you look up all the words you do not know, it will become annoying and you will stop. So try not to use a dictionary. If you do not understand a word, guess from the context. If you do not understand a sentence, keep reading the next one. If you do not understand a paragraph, keep reading the next one. Even a page, miss a page if you want!

If you go through 20 pages in 60 minutes, you will “see” a lot more English than if you go through 2 pages in 60 minuntes, even if you miss 20%-50%. Looking up words takes a lot of time!! !  If you see a word three times and are really interested, then use a dictionary. If you want to stop reading the book after 20 pages, stop. Choose another one that is easier / more interesting.  You can come back to the first book later.

The more you read in this way, the better you get at reading, the more vocabulary you see, the more vocabulary you learn, and, in the end….you will miss less and less

  • it can be difficult at first, keep it easy

If it’s difficult, it’s bad. Because you are less likely to do it. Even if you have motivation now, you’ll lose it. So, if you want difficult, read a short article in magazines or newspapers with a specific topic. But with books, the following are easier and therefore generally better

– shorter books(or with short chapters)

–  easier language (start with adapted books if you need to)

–  familiar stories (if you have an idea of what the book is about, if you’ve read it in your language, if you’ve seen a movie, or if you’ve read about “the first half of the book” on wikipedia, it will make it easier for you. If you haven’t, then think about reading a summary of the book on wikipedia [but not all] or watching a bit of the movie)

– more dialogue, less descriptions (dialogue is easier to follow)

– author with an easier style

– more modern authors (I recently looked at Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer”. It had a lot of words I had never seen before, they were specific to that time, and place, not useful for now.)

– mini-dictionary at the back / at the bottom of the page can help, so can translation into your language on every second page. This is ok at first, but it does stop you increasing your ability to read quickly for the general idea.


Remember, focus on developing the habit by minimizing negatives (time, difficulty) and maximizing positives (interest, relevance)