Lesson Transcript

Alisha: Hi, everybody. Welcome back to English Topics. My name is Alisha. Today I am joined again by--
Davey: I'm Davey.
Alisha: Welcome back, Davey.
Davey: Thank you.
Alisha: In this episode, we're going to be giving some reading recommendations. These are a few ideas that you can use in your English reading. The idea here is just to remind people that although we focus a lot on speaking and listening on this channel, reading is also an important and essential part of learning a language. These are a couple of ideas. If you're struggling to find something to read or if you just want something new to read, maybe, you can try one of the things that we'll suggest today, I hope. All right.
I guess I'll start because I chose one of my items that are actually quite general. This was something that I recommended in a different video recently, too. Just to start things off quite broadly, I've written "magazines specific to your hobbies." This could be books as well or maybe online magazines too. This I chose because, actually, this is something that I did that helped me when I was studying. I am studying now, but this actually helped me too. This was something, in my case, it was about music, I chose a magazine related to my hobby because I wanted to study the vocabulary words that were used for my hobby. I was also interested in the subject, to start with. Three, when I read the magazine, I would also find out about other things related to my hobbies that I might also want to know about but it was in the language I was studying. A real example, I had a band that I really, really liked when I was in high school. I looked online because I could not buy the magazine. It was a magazine in Japanese. I looked online, bought the magazine online, and got it sent to my house. Then, I would sit with the dictionary and try to read the interview of my favorite artists to understand what they were saying. Then, I'd look through the magazine and some of the other things in the magazine. It helped me, actually, get an idea of the other similar things in that subculture that I might be interested in in the language I was studying. This was very helpful for me in terms of vocabulary, in terms of learning about something I was interested in. This is something I would recommend. This is also something, I think, that's easy to do quickly, especially if there's a blog or something you follow.
Davey: Yeah. That's a good tip too, I think, because you'll be motivated to read if that's your hobby. If that's something you're interested in, you will be motivated to read that, you won't give up if it's difficult, you'll press on, you'll finish reading it. Also, if that's your hobby, you'll be picking up vocabulary that you will use if you want to go talk with people about your hobby in English, you'll be picking up vocabulary related to your hobby when you're reading and then you can use that.
Alisha: Exactly. I've used "hobbies" for this tip, but I think you could also do that for your profession.
Davey: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I agree.
Alisha: Yeah. That's just a broad open tip. I think you have some more specific ones.
Davey: I do. I took a little bit different approach from you. My first one here is "Harry Potter," the "Harry Potter" books, because when the first Harry Potter book was written, it was written for children of a certain age. When the next "Harry Potter" book was written, it was written for the same kids, when they were a year or two older. The "Harry Potter" books get longer and more complex and more difficult to read as you go through them. It's nice to start with a nice simple book that was written for a certain age. It will be easier for you to read if you are a language learner, if you're an English learner. As you get better, you can move through the books. Also, this is a nice package of extended reading. How many "Harry Potter" books are there, seven?
Alisha: Mm-hmm.
Davey: Seven. I've never read Harry Potter, actually.
Alisha: There's seven.
Davey: There's seven. There are seven books.
Alisha: There are seven excellent stories.
Davey: Altogether, that's a lot of reading. You will improve your reading skills a lot by just reading a lot. Even if you don't understand everything you're reading, that's all right, just press on. Maybe, you've already read "Harry Potter" in your first language or in another language, maybe you've seen the Harry Potter movies. Being familiar with the story and the characters and what's going on will help you fill in some of the gaps, if you don't understand something when you're reading the books. That way, you don't have to focus on understanding every single word or every single sentence, you can just focus on enjoying what you're reading and your reading skills will develop. You might not notice them developing but they will develop as you press on and as you continue reading.
Alisha: Yeah. I think your point about it being a known story, I think, so many people around the world have read "Harry Potter" in their native language that they know what to expect.
Davey: Right.
Alisha: I will say, however, because I tried the exact opposite. I ordered "Harry Potter" in Japanese to try to read it.
Davey: Really?
Alisha: I would give just one word of precaution for fantasy stories. That is that there are a lot of nonsense words in fantasy stories, in fantasy books. "Harry Potter" is fairly light. It is make-believe and there are some words, just like "muggle," for example.
Davey: Sure.
Alisha: It's a word that we cannot use in everyday English.
Davey: That's a good one.
Alisha: I think, if you can keep that in mind, fantasy books are a great thing to read. They're so much fun. I love them, but they can be challenging, I think, to apply all of those words to your everyday life.
Davey: That's true.
Alisha: Yeah. I think, "Harry Potter is so well known and so well loved, and you can talk to people about it.
Davey: That's true.
Alisha: You can watch the movies, then, in English, as well. There's a lot of good stuff to do there.
Davey: For sure. And, read with subtitles, actually.
Alisha: Yeah.
Davey: That's a nice tip for improving reading skills, generally. We're talking about reading recommendations. A nice tip is reading watching a movie with the subtitles on and trying to speed read the subtitles is a nice little boost as well.
Alisha: Yeah.
Davey: You can do that after you read the book.
Alisha: Yeah, that's a great tool. Like you said, it's like this is the whole package. You have all that material to use.
Davey: A lot of content.
Alisha: For sure. Okay. Sounds good. I will go on to my next one, which is slightly less vague. I thought this might be useful for learners of all ages. Are you familiar with "Pearson English Readers?"
Davey: Yeah.
Alisha: Yeah. There are a lot of books for kids here, but there are also some materials, as well as audio materials, for adults. What is an English Reader, "Pearson English Reader?" Pearson's the company that makes these. They are graded stories. They are simplified stories or stories that are made to suit learners of different levels. If you know your level or you have an idea of your level. Actually, I think their website you can do a short level-check sort of thing to get an idea of the best level book for you. Based on your level, you can find books, you can find stories. Some of them are based, I think, on movies as well, famous movies. You can get these so that they're suited to your level. Then, maybe, you can also challenge yourself by getting books that are the level above you when you're starting to feel confident. These might be a good resource. They have kids' books, I know. Kids three to five can read storybooks in English, really simple ones. Then, as kids get older, they have more for 9 to 11-year-old kids, and so on. Based on your level, you can choose the book, and the story, that you feel would be best for you. That might be a good resource to check out, specifically created material.
Davey: Right.
Alisha: For different levels.
Davey: Absolutely.
Alisha: Yeah. That's an idea. Just for some examples, I checked their website before we started talking about this. For kids' stories, they had some common English language children's stories, like "Little Red Riding Hood," or "The Three Bears," or maybe children's adventure stories when children start to get a little older. A couple of the things I saw for adults, for example, the movie, "Love Actually." Apparently, there's a reader plus some kind of audio as well to go along with that story. There are some apparently famous movies that have also been turned into reading material and listening material for people. That's a resource that you can use as an educator, one, but also as a person learning English. You can check out their website, I think.
Davey: Nice idea.
Alisha: Yeah. Might be something to check into. Anyway, what's your next recommendation?
Davey: My next one is for more advanced readers, higher level English readers. That is to read something by Ernest Hemingway. Very famous Nobel Prize-winning. I think he won a Nobel. Yes, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Nobel Prize-winning writer, Ernest Hemingway, who was writing in the middle of the 20th century. He died in 1962 or something like that. I recommend Hemingway because he famously has a very simple writing style. Even though he's a very well-regarded, well-respected American writer, he wrote in a very simple way. He used very, very simple syntax. It's easy to understand his writing. Vocabulary might be difficult but it's easy to read a short story of his or a short novel of his and get the idea, get the gist of the story.
He wrote a lot. He's famous for certain novels like "The Old Man and The Sea," "For Whom the Bell Tolls." He also wrote a lot of short stories. That's a good place to start. You could buy a collection of his short stories or find some online. I'm sure you can find some of his, like Nick Adams Stories, or other stories online to try reading for free. That's a good place to start. If you like what you read, then, you can read more. I said, he wrote novels. He also wrote a lot of short stories. I don't know if I have one specific favorite short story. He has a series of or a collection of his stories that are called "The Nick Adams Stories." They all feature one character named Nick Adams. The first Nick Adams story is when Nick Adams is a young boy and he's 5, or 6, or 7, or 8 years old. We see Nick Adams grow up through these stories. A lot of these stories are also about fishing. Nick Adams growing up in Illinois, I think, which is also where Hemingway is from. Stories about Nick Adams's just going fishing. I grew up in a fishing family, so I really liked those stories. They're simple. They're easy to understand. They're just stories about a young guy going fishing. It might sound really boring but they're very beautifully written. They're very nice stories. They're easy to understand.
Alisha: I didn't read much Hemingway. I read some here and there in high school.
Davey: Sure.
Alisha: I think, in my case, I was always more drawn towards the fantasy and science fiction genre. That always held more appeal. There were some authors, I think, from around the same time period as well that gained notoriety for that style that you're describing. It was simple situations and simple phrasing but an ability to create these just picturesque images. Who wrote "Walden?"
Davey: "Walden" was Thoreau.
Alisha: Thoreau. I remember that. That's the one about the guy who just lives in the forest.
Davey: It's a journal.
Alisha: By himself.
Davey: Yeah.
Alisha: That's one that really stood out to me too. There was nothing necessarily complex about that story, on the surface. That was one that made you think about just the pace of everyday life. It wasn't so difficult to read. We were reading it in high school.
Davey: Right, yeah.
Alisha: There are a lot of writers, I think, that have something similar. I was also thinking when you were talking about Kerouac as well, Jack Kerouac, who did travel stories.
Davey: They're stream-of-consciousness, a lot of them. "On the Road" is very stream of consciousness. The senses that go on for a page.
Alisha: I see. I see. I was thinking in terms of material, in terms of topic.
Davey: Sure.
Alisha: And in terms of vocabulary use and so and so, but that doesn't make sense because they are all rambly.
Davey: Yes, Kerouac might be hard.
Alisha: In general, perhaps, a high school reading list might not be bad.
Davey: Yeah, absolutely.
Alisha: Well, I shouldn't say that, actually. That's not true.
Davey: It depends in terms of reading.
Alisha: That's like Homer as well, like "Iliad" and "Odyssey." I do not recommend those.
Davey: Yes, stay away from the "Iliad" and "Odyssey." Stay away from Faulkner.
Alisha: What else is not good?
Davey: Those things are going to be hard. I like Faulkner, but that is not an easy author to read.
Alisha: I'm trying to think of in that same vein and those adventure-ish stories William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." That one was an exciting adventure story, for sure. It gets dark as well too.
Davey: It does. There's a movie.
Alisha: Oh, is there?
Davey: There is.
Alisha: Okay. All right. Well, anyway, those are some things that stood out to me from my high school list.
Davey: Sure.
Alisha: I don't know what people are reading in high school these days. I'm curious.
Davey: Probably a lot of the same. There's a lot of things in the Canon.
Alisha: A lot of historical stuff too. I remember reading "The Plague." I can't remember who wrote that. Not Cheery.
Davey: Camus.
Alisha: That's right.
Davey: French.
Alisha: You're good at that. You're good at remembering authors. I am not.
Davey: I was a Lit major.
Alisha: That makes sense. Yeah. That's a dark story about the plague, the black plague.
Davey: Yes, it is.
Alisha: Happy times.
Davey: And murder. "My man died today. Maybe it was yesterday."
Alisha: Oh, man.
Davey: That's the first line.
Alisha: I don't remember. I don't remember these things. Anyway, I'll go to something that came to me because I was thinking about adolescent level books, actually.
Davey: Sure.
Alisha: I feel as a learner, second language learner, adolescent level books are nice because they're not too hard and they're not too easy, and the subject matter often has a little bit of drama to it. Anyway, I chose two things here actually: "Nancy Drew" and "The Hardy Boys."
Davey: "Baby-Sitters Club." Okay.
Alisha: No. I never read "Baby-Sitters Club," actually. I was just never into that sort of thing, but I did read Nancy Drew. I included both of these here. Basically, both of these, Nancy Drew is the story of a young girl. She's a detective. That's the story here. "The Hardy Boys," they are two boys. Their last name is Hardy. I think they're brothers. Yeah, of course, they're brothers.
Davey: They are.
Alisha: They are detectives also. These two, it was a detective series led by a girl and a detective series led by boys. I thought these could be nice because these are huge like.
Davey: So many books, yeah.
Alisha: There's a lot of books in both of these series. When I was thinking about the genre of a mystery story, I was thinking about the different types of grammar that get used in these stories, like stuff that you might not use so much in everyday conversations, like "he would have been able to," or, "he might have been able to." Then, we could maybe these weird future possibility or past possibility sorts of things that can get discussed in these mystery stories. They're made for teenagers, essentially, but that doesn't mean that the stories aren't interesting. I remember really enjoying "Nancy Drew" when I was a teenager. Did you ever read these?
Davey: I think, I tried reading one or two Hardy Boys books when I was a kid and I didn't really get into them.
Alisha: I see.
Davey: But I did, similar to those kinds of books, I really liked an author called John Bellairs who wrote similar kind of mystery books for young readers, "The Mansion in the Mist," and these sort of weird spooky baroque mystery books for children.
Alisha: Okay.
Davey: That were really good. John Bellairs, I recommend. He's a nice good author too.
Alisha: I see. Did you read those Choose Your Own Adventure type of books?
Davey: Yes. That's a great one. Those are really fun.
Alisha: The one thing that I would caution about with those books is those books are often written in second-person, meaning the subject is "you." Those are a rare style of book in that respect.
Davey: That's true.
Alisha: What we're talking about is a Choose Your Own Adventure. I had the "Goosebumps Series" when I was little. It's scary stories. When the book is a Choose Your Own Adventure book, it means you, the reader, are the focus of the story. As you read, you have to make decisions in the story. If you choose "A," you turn to this page; if you choose "B," you turn to a different page, and you read what happens to you next. You are choosing your story as the character in the story. The way the story is written is different from typical stories. The focus in the story is you go to the haunted house, you see a ghost, what do you do next. That's not very typical, not the way most stories are written.
Davey: No. They're very interactive and very fun, and, also, very simple, because you're reading just a few sentences per page and then making a decision. They're easy to read.
Alisha: They are. As long as you can keep that in mind, it's called second person, the way those stories are written. Those are fun, for sure.
Davey: Absolutely.
Alisha: I always got scared. I would hold the different pages and if I died in the story, like, "No, no, no." I go back and then I choose the one where I lived and I escaped the haunted house thing.
Davey: Yeah. Turning back. Yeah, of course. Of course.
Alisha: I didn't like to lose.
Davey: Actually, another nice thing about those books is you will read them again and again because you want to discover the different possibilities. Rereading something, it gets easier to read and it's good practice for you.
Alisha: Yeah, Choose Your Own Adventure books. Yeah. What was the series that you read of Choose Your Own Adventure?
Davey: I don't remember. I remember it was an adventure series. It wasn't "Indiana Jones," but it was that style of adventures, like you're a treasure hunter in the jungle, stuff like that. I remember reading ones like that.
Alisha: I see. I'm not sure what other ones there are. I only had "Goosebumps."
Davey: I'm sure there's a lot. Those are very good.
Alisha: Nice.
Davey: Nice idea.
Alisha: Okay. All right. What's your next one?
Davey: My last one is also, maybe, more for advanced or intermediate learners. It's the "New York Times." Bear with me. I know you might be thinking, "Oh, that seems here difficult," but I recommend the "New York Times" for a few reasons. One, it's always nice to stay up on current events and reading about the news and current events in English, things that are happening now in English. You'll be able to, then, go talk about them in English. The second reason that I've recommended the "New York Times" is, similar to your first recommendation, you can find something to read in the "New York Times." If you don't want to read the news, read the Travel section, read the food section. There are different sections of the "New York Times" that you can read based on your interest. The third reason I've chosen the "New York Times" is because the New York Times Online has a very cool feature. You can double click on any word that you don't understand and it will give you the definition. For learners, it's very useful. If you're worried about understanding all the vocabulary in an article or improving your vocabulary, this is a very, very easy way to do it. You don't need to sit there with a dictionary open while you read, you just need to double-click on the word, a little pop-up window will tell you the definition. You can close the window and keep reading. It's very, very useful for vocabulary building.
Alisha: That's cool. That's way cool. As an extra bonus, for extra advanced learners, you can try the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.
Davey: Yes, you can.
Alisha: Crossword puzzles are great vocabulary practice games, I guess.
Davey: Absolutely.
Alisha: It is essentially a game. "New York Times," though, it's infamously difficult, the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.
Davey: They get harder through the week.
Alisha: Its Sunday crossword is the most difficult.
Davey: The most difficult. I went through a phase a couple of years doing the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. I just wanted to get good at it. I could complete through Wednesday pretty easily. Thursday, maybe. I never really made it past Thursday. Friday, I couldn't really do. Weekends were like, "forget it."
Alisha: For reference, a crossword puzzle is a word game. A crossword puzzle, it's like a grid of lines and columns. There are empty boxes. Each line or each column, there's a word hint, there's a clue, about which word fits in the boxes. You have to choose and spell correctly the word. You might need to erase the word or you might need to try a few different words. It's a test of your spelling, for one. It's a test of your vocabulary, two. For more difficult crossword puzzles, it can be a test of your knowledge of other subjects. It's not just words, it's also history and science, and literature. There are so many different things that go into the clues for crossword puzzles. Those are really, really good ways to test your knowledge. They're difficult even for native speaker.
Davey: Absolutely, yeah.
Alisha: Totally difficult. If you want to try, definitely Google for some English crossword puzzles. You can search for easy ones, also.
Davey: Yes. They make crossword puzzles for English learners. A lot of those are graded to a specific level, or they're on a specific topic. You could do a crossword puzzle on the ocean and learn vocabulary related to the ocean, for example. There's a lot of different crosswords that you could find for your level.
Alisha: Yeah. That could be a fun way to practice reading and to practice spelling as well. Fun stuff. All right. Those are a couple of different reading recommendations. There's quite a lot to choose from, but I think as long as you're interested in what you're reading, that's maybe the hardest part, at least, for me.
Davey: Yeah, absolutely.
Alisha: Just find a thing you like.
Davey: Find something that's interesting and you will stay motivated to read it.
Alisha: Agreed. Agreed. Are you reading anything now?
Davey: I am reading something now. I am reading a book by David Mitchell, who is a very wonderful author, who is, maybe, most famous for "Cloud Atlas," which they made into a movie. I'm reading Number--No, what am I reading? Not "Number9Dream." I bought two books of his, recently. I bought "Number9Dream" and "Black Swan Green." That's what it's called. "Black Swan Green" is the book I'm reading now by David Mitchell.
Alisha: I see.
Davey: It is a good book.
Alisha: Cool. I've gone back into history. I told you about this the other day. I'm reading "Letters from a Stoic," at the moment, by Seneca, the old stoic philosopher for just interesting essays and advice, life advice.
Davey: Just showing off.
Alisha: I'm not showing off. It's a common book. It's a very common book.
Davey: Sure. Yeah. I've got Seneca on my nightstand as well.
Alisha: I don't read the things that you read. It's to show everybody has something different.
Davey: Find something you like and read it.
Alisha: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, that's the point here. All right. Those are quite a few recommendations. Thanks very much for watching this episode of English Topics and we will see you again next time. Bye-bye.