When you set out to learn a language, no matter how old you may be, the process can be quite challenging. You need to understand the grammatical construction, increase your vocabulary and improve your fluency gradually to be able to claim that you “know” a language. One of the easiest methods of picking up all of these nitty-gritties of a language is through literature, specifically easy-to-read works of fiction which are interesting enough to grab your attention while teaching you everything from sentence construction to narration.
Sounds like an age-old recommendation that’s outdated now? You may think so, but recent studies reaffirm the idea that reading interesting books is the best way to learn a new language, especially English. A study published in the Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies in 2021, titled Learning English Language Through Literature, revealed that reading works of fiction provided students with a strong motivation to learn English. It also provided them with an authentic context to place the language in, helped develop analytical and interpretive skills, and improved grammatical competence too.
Clearly, if you want to hone your English skills and pick up the language quickly, reading books is a good way to start. However, many people are put off by the fact that celebrated works of English literature are difficult to understand. Shakespeare may be taught in schools, but the language is anything but the one we use every day. Books by stalwarts like Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri and Salman Rushdie are popular, but not that easy to understand by a beginner.
So, where to start? Here’s a list of exceptional women authors who have written brilliant books in English that are capturing and easy to understand at the same time. Pick up any—or all—of them, and you’re definitely going to improve your English language proficiency.
Enid BlytonThere’s a whole generation of people across the globe who picked up Enid Blyton’s books as kids, and ended up learning English in the most engaging way possible. No wonder this English writer’s books are still bestsellers! Even if you aren’t a kid yourself, picking up her works like The Magic Faraway Tree, The Famous Five series or The Secret Seven books can take you back to your childhood and teach you that English can be quite a fun language. Since a sense of adventure and mystery is a mainstay of Blyton’s books, the fact that they were originally written for children doesn’t matter, and even adults can enjoy the books today.
JK RowlingRowling’s books about the boy wizard Harry Potter are bestsellers for a good reason. They’re deeply engaging, relatable, and influential to the extent that people across all ages claim to be Pottermaniacs even after almost 15 years since the last book was published. The language of the books are easy and yet, quite contemporary. Rowling has also written equally interesting books for adults under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. These include The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. If you’re done with the Harry Potter books, you could totally pick these up as well.
Agatha ChristieIs there anything more interesting to read than the story of a detective who is trying to solve a murder mystery? This is the simple reason why the 66 detective novels written by Agatha Christie are also some of the most-read novels in the world, and by persons of all ages and nationalities. Sure, the language might seem a bit dated (which is understandable since the books were written in the 1920s and 1930s), but you’re bound to improve your vocabulary and learn English well by picking up any book featuring Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. If you find short stories easier to read, then rest assured, because Christie has 14 collections of those to her name as well.
Sudha MurtyYou may know her better as the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation and a Padma Shri awardee, but Sudha Murty has many books to her name as well—and each of them are written in impeccable, easy-to-read and relatable English. Just pick up How I Taught My Grandmother To Read and Other Stories, and you’ll know what we mean! Gently Falls The Bakula, Mahashweta, Dollar Bahu and House of Cards are some of her works you must read. If non-fiction is more of your thing, then give Wise and Otherwise a try.
Diana Wynne JonesYou may have never heard of Diana Wynne Jones before, but if a stalwart of contemporary English literature like Neil Gaiman lists her as one of his favourites, there must be good reason for it. And there really is, because while Wynne Jones isn’t as popular globally as JK Rowling, her books have been quite influential in teaching children and young adults in Britain how to appreciate English literature. Just try any of the books from the Chrestomanci, Dalemark or Howl’s Moving Castle series, and you’ll see just how easy flowing and enchanting the English language can be.