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Key take-aways from this lesson

  • Choose a book that puts you a little outside your comfort zone, but not too much. If you understand everything, then you won’t learn very much. But if you struggle to understand the story, then the book is too hard.
  • Use the e-book preview on to see if the book is at the right level before you buy it. If you’re struggling with the first few pages, pick something a little easier.
  • Choose a book with language similar to the language you want to learn! Don’t pick classic authors like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Jayne Austen. These are good authors, but the language is old. You don’t want to sound like them!
  • Sometimes books that are not “great books” are good for learners.
  • Pick a book that interests you. Life is too short to read boring books! (Besides, you probably won’t finish a boring book.)
  • You can even pick a book that you’ve already read in your own language.

Video transcript

Now, let’s talk about how to choose an e-book to read. I’ll include several relevant links below this video and again in Module 4, so don’t worry about the links for right now.

There are several things I want you to keep in mind when choosing a book to read. The first is that this book should put you a little outside your comfort zone, but not so far that you get frustrated and give up. If you understand everything perfectly, that’s great—but maybe you’re not reading a difficult enough book. But if you just can’t get through it, then the book is probably too hard.

The good news is, any e-book has a preview online, so use the preview to make sure you understand most of the content, but that it still makes you a little uncomfortable. That little bit of discomfort—that little bit of unfamiliarity—that’s where your learning is going to take place.

Secondly, you want to choose a book with words and language that you want to learn. Many people recommend reading the classics, in part because many classic books in literature are free. All the Jane Austen books are free online. You can read famous authors like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, George Orwell, James Joyce, all without paying a cent! What a great deal, right?

Not right, unfortunately. Trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to walk around an American city talking like Charles Dickens. You don’t want to talk to a client on the phone sounding like Jayne Austen. These are great authors and I hope you read them someday—just not today. Today you need to focus on reading books with words and language that’s modern and that’s used by people right here in modern times.

That even means you don’t necessarily want to read the best literature. There are times I read books, even modern books, and I appreciate them as a work of art. I love literature. But even these books, even a lot of modern works of literature, are not right for you because that’s not how most people communicate.

Instead, you want to go for popular books that are written in a conversational style. The good news is, you don’t need to pay a lot for these. Amazon has deals for books that are free, $1, $4, $5. Even the expensive ones are only $10 or $15. I’ll include some links below, where you can get the discounted ones. Sometimes the average-quality literature is just what you’re going for.

I also want you to pick a book that you’re interested in. You need to like the story. It doesn’t have to be fiction, either. It can be about business, about science, about history, self-help, whatever your interests. I would recommend starting with fiction, but you can start with whatever book you’re interested in.

Here’s an interesting strategy: try picking a book that you’ve already read in your own language. Or, better yet, find an author you like in your own language–and read a book by the same author in English. You may find that you can enjoy one of your favorite books in a whole new way by reading it in English.​