‘The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.’ –Mark Twain
That’s the power of vocabulary.
A rich vocabulary gives you something to showboat.
But it offers a lot more.
A lavish vocabulary gives you the confidence to use the right words at the right place. It gives you the power to talk eloquently. The power to be more precisely expressive. The power to write with a velvety flow. And the power to think widely.
That said, what are the possible ways to improve English vocabulary?
There are many.
However, the most natural and enthralling of all is reading fiction.
And this, now, is also backed by research.
Testyourvocab.com conducted a research to find out the vocabulary improving speed of various individuals.
The study shows that reading fiction boosts the speed of vocabulary expansion to a considerable scale.
The best part about reading fiction: you get much emotionally attached to the words. If the words are a part of any of your favorite dialogues or are spoken by your best loved characters, you are more likely to retain them longer.
Besides multiplying your vocabulary, reading fiction delivers a number of other benefits. It is through reading fiction that a reader travels to a completely different world, sometimes a world that belongs to a different decade or century, without having to actually move.
The reader experiences the life of a character, related or unrelated to his own character. A reader gets an insight into various cultures, traditions, and rituals treasured in different divisions of the world.
‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.’– George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
I hope now you have enough reasons to start reading fiction. Though I believe each book that’s been written by a worthy author will help you enlarge your English vocabulary, the books mentioned below are some of the world’s most critically acclaimed ones.
Some of the best novels to improve English vocabulary:
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Emma by Jane Austen
- Guliver’s Travel by Jonnathan Swift
- Chronicle of A Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- Ulysses by James Joyce
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book was published in the year 1960.
An Academy award winning classic, To Kill A Mockingbird was not only an instant bestseller but was also critically applauded, all around the world.
Despite dealing with grave social issues like rape and racism, the book doesn’t lack humour and is an absolute unputdownable.
In 2006, British librarians voted it to be among the books that every adult must read once before s/he dies. And, even more interestingly, the book tops the list with The Bible holding the second place.
So, I see no reason that why anyone shouldn’t read such a masterwork, at least once.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The book that hardly gained any popularity during the lifespan of its penman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is now among the top 100 classics.
James L. W. West II, an English Professor says, ‘no work of literature is perfect, but Gatsby is nearly so. The prose is shimmering and the characters memorable.’
After 35 years of the books coming into existence, The Newyork Times reviewed, ‘ It is probably safe now to say that it is a classic of twentieth-century American fiction. It has not always been so, nor has “Gatsby” always sold at the rate of 50,000 copies a year, as it did last year. In 1937, when Fitzgerald wanted to give Miss Sheilah Graham copies of his books, they went from bookstore to bookstore only to be told again and again that there were no copies of any of them in stock.’
This book has been commended as well as scorned at various instances. However, my experience with this classic has been tremendous. I think everyone must read it, at least once.
Emma by Jane Austen
The name is enough.
She possessed the power to frame the otherwise long and tedious sentences beautifully, like a steady stream.
Though Austen is most known for Pride and Prejudice, Emma, arguably, is even better. The protagonist, Emma, is a young girl who is very graceful, talented, wealthy, and a little spoilt. She never plans to marry, but always overestimates her knack for matchmaking. She finds her only critic in Mr. George Knightley, who happens to be among her best friends.
Aesthetically written and full of rich vocabulary, this book is a must read.
‘Not as frothy as “Pride and Prejudice,” but for me, richer and more nourishing. The prose shimmers with irony and wisdom.’- says Jay Mclnerney.
Mclnerney also puts this book among the 10 novels that he would love to have with him while isolated in a desert.
Gulliver’s Travel by Jonathan Swift
Gulliver’s Travel is a political satire by Jonathan Swift. It is one of Swift’s most successful and sublime works. This book is a classic and is a favorite among people from every walk of life. The book has abundance of interesting and difficult words like lingua franca, inure, foment, schism, demesne, and declivity.
It is at number 3 of The Guardian’s top 100 novels of all times.
Chronicle of A Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Though anything from the pen of Marquez is equally good, I am a little biased with this book, for I’ve read it more than once and would love to read it again. Marquez, undoubtedly, is among the most prolific writers that the world ever had. He is also a noble prize winner.
The novel is the story of the murder of Santiago Nasar by Angela Vicario’s twin brothers. Angela Vicario is the sister of Pablo and Pedro Vicario. On her wedding night, her husband finds out that she is not a virgin. And returns her to her family. The twin brothers rage to kill the perpetrator, which they think is Santiago Nasar.
Like the title says, this is the story of a predicted murder. Each one of the villagers knows that the twin brothers are set to kill Santiago, but, no one does anything to stop it.
Marquez’s writing style and the mystery will keep you hypnotized till the end. Though the original book is in Spanish, the excellence is intact in the English version.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
‘Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.’
No matter how many time I read her words. Each time, I am awed. Charlotte Bronte is one of the greatest victorian era literary geniuses.
The book is the story of Jane, an orphan who had a difficult childhood. But, however poor and plain she was, she was never short of confidence, self-esteem, and talent. She falls in love with a wealthy man, Mr. Rochester, who loved her for her inner beauty, intelligence, and character.
Jane is an ordinary looking heroine that you’ll adore and awe for her strong character. Even in the most taxing of circumstances, she never compromises with her independence and honour.
Struggle. Self-worth. Feminism. Liberation. Romance.
And the writing style. There are lines that will make you stop and say- ‘beautiful.’
See also: 15 Amazing Self Study Tips
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Okay. So, this one is different from the others. It is not a goldie oldie, but, has an absolute potential to become so.
This one was released in 2007.
The book covers the story of Mariam and Laila, individually, and then together. Destiny brings together the two completely different girls, Mariam, who is ordinary, not educated, and has very low expectations from life, and Laila, who is beautiful, had a liberal family, especially a father who always encouraged her for obtaining education.
The tome provides an insight into the everyday life of Afghanistan, which is heart wrenching. Bombardment and rocket firing were already a part of their lives, and then Taliban emerged, which even worsened the circumstances.
The story might seem melodramatic, at times, but that’s how the life in Afghanistan is.
As said by Hosseini in his another book, And The Mountains Echoed- “Kabul is… a thousand tragedies per square mile.”
Ulysses by James Joyce
When we are talking about the best books to improve English vocabulary, we can never miss this one.
Though I haven’t read this book yet it tops my wishlist.
The book is among the hardest books to read. James Joyce has used 30,030 unique words in the tome. Isn’t that great for having a fabulous vocabulary?
But, I wouldn’t recommend this book if you are a novice reader. Because, it is very difficult to comprehend for even an average English reader.
So these were some of the best books to improve vocabulary.
Do you find the list intimidating?
Forget about reading eight books. Just focus on the one that’s description enticed you the most. Set a simple and easy everyday schedule. Even if you spend 15 minutes with this book, you’ll have a better vocabulary just after a few weeks.
So, basically, you do not have to read eight books. You have to start reading one. And then, you can just go with the flow. If you happen to have read all or most of them, don’t worry. The world has an enormous treasure of good books. So here are some other novels to improve English vocabulary:
- The Pot of Gold by Plautus
- Love in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolf
- Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
Good Luck and hope you have a monstrous vocabulary very soon. 🙂