21 Great Summer Books to Read in English

Jul 13, 2016 | How To Develop Skills

There’s nothing better than getting lost in a good book during summer vacation. But honestly, that is true at any time of year.

And if you want a list of great books to read in English, I’ve got you covered.

Reading is a fantastic way to:

  • Increase your vocabulary skills
  • Support your grammar knowledge
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Improve your memory
  • Help you think more in English
  • Activate your creativity and imagination in English

I’d love to support and encourage you in your reading efforts. If you choose to read a book from this list, be sure to share your plan in the comments section so I can check on you and support you.

My Recommended Books to Read in English

In this list, I have provided 12 books that I think are wonderful stories to read. The original list (from July 2016) included 9 books but I’ve updated this lesson with three new recommendations.

The books are listed from the easiest to the most difficult, from the shortest to the longest. The final books in this list are quite challenging, so they are best if you’ve read several books in English and have a high-level of vocabulary. 

I receive many requests from students asking for modern books, so I’ve included several modern English books on this list.

If you have never read a book in English before or if you are starting with an intermediate level in English, I recommend starting with one of the first two books on this list. You can then build your skills and follow the list of books as you improve.

And if you decide to read one of these books, I’d love to know!! Be sure to share your choice in the comments section. You can also ask questions or leave your own book recommendations in the comments.

The Little Prince

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is actually a French book that has been translated into many languages. It is a children’s book that was also written for adults and it’s wonderful to read in any language and at any age.

The story is about a pilot who crashes into the Sahara Desert and, while trying to fix his plane, meets the little prince. This young boy is visiting earth from another planet. Before visiting earth, he visited several other planets and met interesting people such as a king, a lamplighter, and a geographer. The pilot and the little price wander the desert to search for water and have some wonderful moments together. But then … you have to read to find out what happens to the little prince.

The vocabulary and grammar in the book are simple. It’s the perfect book to start reading in English. 

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White was one of my favorite books when I was young. It’s great for children and adults. And, if you have children who are learning English, this is a great book to read with them!!

It is the story of a pig and a spider who become friends as well as a young girl, Fern, who saved the pig’s life. One day Wilber, the pig, gets some terrible news and the spider helps to rescue him. 

Nearly every child and adult in the United States have read this book, so you can easily talk about it with American friends, colleagues, or neighbors. Everyone loves this book.

This book uses simple sentences and simple vocabulary for an easy, light read in English.

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry is a very popular novel and it won a famous book award called The Newbery Medal. 

The book is about a young boy, Jonas, who lives in a utopian community. It seems to be a perfect community where there is no pain, no injustice, no conflict. In many ways, everyone is the same and everyone seems content. 

But then something happens and Jonas begins to see some of the hidden dark sides of this community. He has to make some difficult choices to help protect someone else.

This book is written in mostly past tenses and it quite simple to understand. Another great choice for a first-time English book.

The OutsidersThe Outsiders

NEW! The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. This is a book that almost every American has read. It’s an older book (almost every child reads it in high school) but the theme of the book is timeless, which makes it still great to read today.

Any teenager and adult can relate to this book and the struggles of the main character.

You’ll find deep friendship, gangs, teenage anxiety, street violence, and a bit of mystery in this dramatic book.

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This is a beautiful story that I read several years ago.

It’s the story of a 14-year girl, Lily, whose mother died when she was young, so she is raised by her African-American nanny, Rosaleen, in South Carolina. The story takes place in 1960’s, during the time when Civil Rights were passed.

A serious event happens when the nanny decides to register to vote after President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Bill, so Lily and Rosaleen escape to a home of 3 bee-keeping sisters. This begins the story of learning about divine female power and Lily eventually learns about how her mother died.

The sentences and dialogue in this book are more complex than the previous books. It’s best for higher-intermediate level English speakers and for someone who is already familiar with reading in English.

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is the beginning of advanced-level books to read in English. Written for young adults, this book became wildly popular several years ago and recently became a movie as well.

It is the story of two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group. The relationship of this young man and woman explores the emotional highs and lows of being alive, battling cancer, and falling in love. 

The language in this book is more complex with higher-level vocabulary, phrasal verbs, and some colloquial (familial) and idiomatic expressions. It may be necessary to use a good dictionary or an idiomatic reference guide from time-to-time but it is a beautiful story and a great book to use to grow your everyday English vocabulary.

The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin HannahThis was one of my top 3 favorite books from the last year.

This story takes place in France during World War II. It is about two sisters, one who joins the French Resistance and the other who lives on her family farm while her husband fights in the war.

It is a story of struggle and heroism, passion and adventure, love and heartache. It is also a story about women’s durability during war and resilience. And it has a surprise ending.

While there is likely to be some new vocabulary in this book, you won’t want to stop reading this book.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. This begins our list of books that are very long and are best for advanced English readers. This book became very famous because it was on Oprah’s Book Club List in 2008.

This is the story of a young mute boy who has a special ability to communicate with dogs. His family lives on a farm and, after a tragic event, Edgar escapes into the forest with 3 puppies.  After surviving in the wilderness and much adventure, Edgar eventually returns home but, unfortunately, there is still more tragedy. 

Although this book is modern, it feels similar to Shakespeare’s tragedy plays, such as Hamlet. Although the book is very long, it is full of adventure which will keep it exciting to read.

Due to its length, complex grammar, and high-level vocabulary, this book is best for someone who has already read several novels in English.

The Light Between Oceans

NEW! The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. I have to admit, I didn’t love this book right away. A good friend recommended it to me, so I was committed to reading it.

But halfway through the book, I couldn’t stop reading.

In this story, a young couple in Australia lives on a very isolated island. The husband is the lighthouse keeper on the island and they are the only people who live there.

One day a boat crashes nearby and they find a baby. She’s alive. They assume her parents are dead and they decide to keep her. They always wanted a child but couldn’t have one.

But then the surprise comes. And so does all of the emotion.

Big Little Lies

NEW! Big Little Lies by Liane MoriartyThis book recently became a short TV series on HBO in the United States and it was hugely popular. If you think you’ll watch the TV series, I recommend reading the book first.

This book starts with a very unexpected death. A murder. But you won’t know who did it or how it happened until the very end.

The main characters three close friends who live in a small community and deal with the pressure of children, schools, husband’s, ex-husbands, gossip, rumors, and so much more. Definitely worth reading on a summer vacation!

Eat Pray Love

Eay Pray Love by Elizabeth GilbertThe only non-fiction book in my list, this book is a memoir and has been very popular for 10 years. It also became a popular movie.

It is the story of Elizabeth’s one year of travel after a painful divorce. She decides to take one year to eat and enjoy life in Italy, be devoted and pray in India, and then she finds something unexpected in Indonesia. 

For anyone who loves travel and learning about other cultures, this is a wonderful book. 

Again, due to its length, complexity, high-level vocabulary, familial and idiomatic expressions, this book is recommended for advanced English readers.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is one of my absolute favorite books and is great for anyone who loves reading and learning. 

This is the most challenging book on the list and is also quite long, but it is worth reading. It is a beautiful story of a young woman who grows up in New York in an immigrant family during the first two decades of the 20th century. 

In 1912, France is 11 years old. She loves reading, learning, and people watching. The story follows her life. Although she grows up in poverty, Francie is very optimistic. After the 8th grade, she wants to go to high school but her family needs her to work and help the family. Eventually, she is able to go to college, even though she never went to high school.

It is a story of resilience and hard work. And it provides a beautiful story with a picture into the lives of immigrant families in the early 1900s. 

This book is recommended for advanced English readers due to its length, its complex grammar, and colloquial language.  

Recommendations from the Confident English Community

I’ve provided you with some of my favorite book recommendations but now I’m THRILLED to share with you book recommendations from the Confident English Community. Here are their favorite English books in their own words.

(A HUGE thank you to Tanya, Shatha, Victoria, Rafif, Yulia, and Maria for sharing some of your favorite English books and why you liked them!)

Tanya from Ukraine recommends … 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It was my first book in English, so it deserves to be my favorite! And I really love this novel!

This novel is about real feelings, real love that can overcome all difficulties and fears, and live forever! In my opinion such feelings like love and friendship are the most valuable in our life! And those people who find them are really lucky!

Victoria from Ukraine recommends … 

An Inspector CallsI am fond of reading. I read The Portrait of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wild. I liked this book so much it’s one of my favourite but to tell the truth it’s a little difficult for reading.

An Inspector Calls by John Priestley. It’s a play and it’s very interesting and unpredictable ending. The author opens social problems and human nature. I recommend to read this book for those who likes detective stories and drama. It’s very easy for reading. It was one of my first book that I have read and I even didn’t use dictionary.

Rafif from Jordan recommends … 

AlechmistI read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The vocab is easy and simple, an interesting story even it contains supernatural powers, but it has a deep message.

Shatha from Jordan recommends … 

The Old Man and The SeaActually, there are lots of novels I recommend to read. For me, my first novella was The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Also, I love Pride and Prejudice by Austin. Weathering Heights by Bronte.

If I can add to my list one of the greatest novels from my point of view is Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. It is a great example of feminist literature.

Yulia from Russia recommends … 

Joy of CookingI read two types of books in English – about science journalism because we have not something about it in Russian and cookbooks! I have a few books by Jamie Oliver, The Joy of Cooking, The Way to Cook by Julia Childs and a lot of cookbooks from different countries in English – from Finland to Vietnam.

And I don’t only read them, I use it in my kitchen and you can see it because some of them have spots of sauce or other marks. Usually, I try to keep my books clean, but I think that cook books should have some exceptions because they have to be used.

Maria from Ukraine recommends … 

Shopacholic AbroadSophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic Abroad is my favorite so far, it’s very amusing and funny!

But I do love detective stories, the last I read was Kiss by Ed McBain, the ending of the story is very unexpected…!

Now I’d love to hear from you!

  1. Do you have any favorite books in English? If so, share your favorite with me. I’d love to know about it.
  2. What is on your reading list this summer? Share a book that you plan to read.
  3. And finally, do you have a book to recommend to others in the Confident English Community? If so, what is it and why did you love it?

And if you read a book from this list, tell me about it! I’d like to support and encourage you. Share your reading plans or ask questions in the comments section.

The best place to share with me and get feedback is in the comments section at the end of the lesson. I look forward to hearing from you.

I wish you a wonderful summer of reading!

~ Annemarie

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