I have had English in school, but I have mostly learned English by reading books. I never did homework, never learned grammar or vocabulary, but rather, similar to a native speaker, I took up the words, their meaning, and how they were used from the texts that I read.

This approach worked for me, because I was extremely motivated to read the books I read. It didn't hold me off that I had to look up words in a dictionary in almost every paragraph. But not everyone learning English is as motivated as I was to read books that were written for native speakers and require much effort from beginning or intermediate learners.

Not all books written for native speakers have the same complex grammar and use the whole range of English words. Even for native speaking adults, there are books (like popular fiction) that use a somewhat simpler language, and books for children and middle grade readers often use simplified language as well.

Now the problem is that native speaking pre-schoolers already have a vocabulary that is much larger than that of adolescent learners of English, and adolescents might not be that interested in reading childrens' books. So what I'm wondering is how I could identify books written for native speakers that have a limited vocabulary that doesn't overwhelm English learners of a certain level.

Is there some list or database that orders books by the extent of their vocabulary? Or is there another way to find books that don't require a demotivating perusal of a dictionary?

I know that there are books specifically written for language learners, but most of these only cover the first two or three years of language learning, the selection is quite small, and most of the books aren't all that exciting to read.


2 Answers 2


Booksellers (publishers) classify books by subject matter and age group.

Science, history, nature, fiction,non-fiction, etc.

Age groups are usually: children, young adult, adult

Many libraries also use this classification.

Young adult fiction such as the books of Madeline Engle like A Wrinkle in Time are a good place to start.

Here is a website to get you started:

Young adults books

When you ready, you can also read book by Ernest Hemingway, who writes for adults but whose language is easy to grasp.

Also, try young adult audio books. That will help your pronunciation and spoken English.

[Of course, Harry Potter is great but the language gets difficult at times.]

  • 1
    Great answer. Many young adult books are thoroughly entertaining even for adults. Of course, the Harry Potter series has been devoured by the masses, but there are many other hidden gems that are equally enjoyable. Saffy's Angel, Holes, The Secret of Platform 13, and Janice Hardy's Pain Shifter triology are a few I remember enjoying as I read them to my teenagers. Even Mary Poppins is a great book. If the OP has access to an English library, I recommend browsing through the Young Adult fiction section. Bring home several books; if you don't like one, return it and start the next.
    – J.R. Mod
    Sep 13, 2020 at 3:03
  • Books written for younger ages are often easier for language learners, but you yourself gave an example for books that are easy to read despite not being written for children (Hemingway). And that is exactly what I am asking for. Not all beginning learners want to read children's or Middle Grade fiction. So how can I identify books appropriate for a specific learning level without resorting to books written for a specifig age?
    – user121711
    Sep 15, 2020 at 17:33
  • @fluctuatingpsychosis The point is this: what are you trying to avoid? complex dialogue? literary vocabulary? Try the plays of Samuel Becket. Frankly, I don't understand why someone like you wants to avoid more complicated language and ideas. I have yet to see one error in your English so maybe it's time to move on. Your level is obviously advanced plus. There is no way to identify "easy books" per se. You have to try them out. I don't recommend Finnegan's Wake. I do recommend Agatha Christie, good dialogues.Good English.
    – Lambie
    Sep 15, 2020 at 18:42

Personally, I recommend the Harry Potter series.

It is simple, and whilst considered children's books; it is loved by many adults around the globe. It incorporates the subtle and more complex writing features in a way that is easy to read, more motivating and useful for expanding your vocabulary.

  • Harry Potter is most definitely not simple. Think of the title: Deathly Hallows.
    – Lambie
    Sep 14, 2020 at 16:01

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