English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 10

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

No. 10 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

This is the last in my series of British novels and it is by far the most recent. As this book (the first of seven) was only published in 1997, it would be surprising that it has already given a word to the language were it not such a hugely popular series.

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English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 8

British Novels Which Have Added To The Language

No. 8 Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift

Gulliver goes on a series of sea voyages. On the first trip he’s shipwrecked and ends up on the island of Lilliput where he is imprisoned by tiny little people who are at war with their neighbours over which end of a boiled egg is the correct end to crack. After he escapes and returns home he goes on a second sea voyage. This time his shipmates abandon him on the island of Brobdingnag, an island of giants. On Gulliver’s third sea voyage his ship is attacked by pirates and he visits four more fictional places and Japan, he meets magicians, ghosts of famous historical figures and an Emperor. Undeterred by his previous misfortunes, once Gulliver returns home he decides to go to sea again. He is given the post of ship’s captain but his crew mutinies and abandons him on an island ruled by talking horses and peopled by deformed savage humans called ‘Yahoos’. Eventually he returns home where he spends the rest of his days talking to his horses. Published in 1726. You might like to try an abridged version as the language is rather archaic (see excerpt below).

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English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 7

British Novels Which Have Added To The Language

No. 7 Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is a short novel published in 1886. Part horror, part detective story, I can’t say any more about the plot in case you don’t already know the story.

Themes It is about good and evil, the conscious and unconscious mind, Victorian respectability, and an early interest in multiple personality disorders.

Words & Phrases

Jekyll and Hyde \ˈje-kəl-ən-ˈhīd also ˈjē- or ˈjā-\ used to describe a person who changes completely from one situation to the next: The rally was the latest example of Trump as a Jekyll and Hyde public performer, coming just 24 hours after a sober speech to the military setting out future strategy in Afghanistan.

 

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English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 6

British Novels Which Have Added To The Language 

No. 6 Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

The story of a man – Robinson Crusoe – shipwrecked in the Caribbean. Much of the action centres on his efforts to survive on a deserted island, while much of the narrative is concerned with Crusoe’s relationship with God and the possibility his predicament is punishment for being a slave trader.

At some point Crusoe rescues a man from cannibals and the man stays with him as a servant). Crusoe names the man ‘Friday’ and teaches him English because it doesn’t occur to Crusoe to learn the man’s actual name or language.

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English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 5

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

No. 5 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

An enduringly popular gothic horror story published in 1818. It has been claimed that this was the first proper science fiction novel. It’s the story of a sea captain who sets out to explore the North Pole and meets a chemist called Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein tells him of a creature he made and brought to life which turned out to be a hideous, murderous monster (or possibly just very misunderstood). You may prefer to read an abridged version as the original uses rather a lot of old-fashioned English. 

Themes Quest for knowledge, dangers of knowledge, nature vs nurture. 

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English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 4

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

No. 4 Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carol

This 1865 fantasy novel was written by an Oxford don, it is a children’s classic and a must-read if you are visiting Oxford. Alice is a little girl who follows a white rabbit and falls down a rabbit hole into a Wonderland of nonsense. The book is filled with nonsense characters, figures from English nursery rhymes, riddles and wordplay. Although written for children, it was reportedly one of Queen Victoria’s favourite books and everyone knows something of it. 

Words & Phrases:

A Cheshire Cat smile/ To smile like a Cheshire Cat /ˌtʃeʃə(r) ˈkæt smaɪl/ (idiom) To smile very broadly, to grin. 

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English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 3

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language 

No. 3 A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Conan Doyle wrote 60 Sherlock Holmes stories. It doesn’t really matter which one you read as neither of the phrases these books have given the language actually appeared in his writing. You may as well start with the first: A Study in Scarlet. Written between 1887 and 1927, the stories are set in Victorian and Edwardian England and provide an interesting portrait of the manners and mores of the time – a time from which, arguably, many British stereotypes originated. Holmes is a great detective who solves many overcomplicated crimes with his partner, Dr Watson. 

Themes Crime, detection, justice

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English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 2

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

No. 2 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Most of Dickens’s novels are considered classics. A Christmas Carol is the shortest and has always been the most popular. Set in Victorian London it tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an awful miser, who is financially rich but spiritually and emotionally poor and his path to redemption via three ghosts. 

Themes: Poverty, inequality, injustice, friendship, family, ghosts. Dickens was a social campaigner whose novels highlighted the terrible poverty in Victorian London and brought it to the attention of the wider public. This book also had a great influence on shaping the traditional English Christmas. 

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English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 1

 

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

Fiction or factual, poetry, newspapers or magazines, lengthy books or short stories – they can all help improve vocabulary, grammar, writing and, ultimately, speech. However, while all books may be equal in this respect, some books are more equal than others!* 

Here is the first of my top ten books which have contributed to the English language. While it isn’t strictly necessary to read the books to understand the meaning of the words or phrases they have given English, you’ll probably find them easier to remember and use if you do (and, who knows, you might even enjoy the books!).

No. 1 Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Intro: Orwell wrote this in 1948 after becoming disillusioned with the Communist regime in Russia. The novel is set in a future dystopia in which people’s lives are almost wholly controlled by The Party. It is regarded as a classic and its themes are as relevant today as they were in 1948. So relevant, in fact, that this book has given more words and phrases to everyday English than any other work of fiction I can think of.   Continue reading

How to learn English

Mind Map GuidlinesTo teach (verb) from the Old English ‘taecan’ meaning ‘to show, to point out’.

To learn (verb) from the Old English ‘leornian’ meaning ‘to study, read, think about’.

We tend to see teaching as an active, dynamic activity and learning as a passive one, as if the learner were just an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge. But perhaps, if we look at the etymology of these words, we have not always seen it this way.
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