The best short stories in English
Published on March 5, 2020 / Updated on January 10, 2024
Learning a new language can be extremely overwhelming. How do you negotiate all the new words, the verbs, the tenses and the sentence structures? There’s so much to remember and, let’s face it, sitting in a classroom, with just a textbook to hand, can get a little bit boring. So, how do you spice it up and really absorb all that great stuff you’ve been taught? Simple. Start reading.
We’ve compiled a list of six sources of engaging, fun and diverse fiction and nonfiction, for beginners and intermediates. With a few bonuses for the pro’s among you.
Magazines are a fantastic source of information and new vocabulary for English learners. From gossip magazines, fashion, tech, science and entrepreneurship, there are endless numbers of content that you can subscribe to, to help progress your language learning. Of course, there are particular magazines that are more focused on providing you with the best tools and tips to learn English. Here is an example of both.
Just English Explorer – If you’re looking for something a little more focused towards English, Just English Explorer is perfect for beginners to pre-intermediate learners. An online subscription that is available for sole readers or group and class settings, this set of magazines features different types of articles from reports to biographies to instruction, including games and after reading activities. There’s so much to access and learn from. Then, when you feel your English is advancing, you can progress to Just English magazines, which are for B1 learners onwards.
The Reader’s Digest – A US staple, this magazine is full of everyday stories that range from jokes to health tips to articles about ordinary people. A great source for new words and relevant subjects that will be useful in everyday life.
Bonus: It is also available to read online.
Reading English literature can be a scary task. The biggest question many learners have is: Will I be able to read and understand fiction that native speakers are reading? Most fiction is written to a specific level that the majority of readers can enjoy. So while you may not understand every word, it’s a superb place to start and delight in the writings of celebrated English authors.
The theme of JK Rowling’s seven books is fantasy and so there are many invented words, which can prove a little tricky to recognise. However, the first two books were, in particular, written for a much younger audience and therefore are a lot easier to understand. If you like fantasy and mystery, give The Philosopher’s Stone a try. What’s helpful is if you’ve already read the books in your language! Either way, with a little perseverance you’ll soon be reading all seven books.
Denis Johnson is one of America’s greatest fiction writers and a true genius of dialogue. One of the best ways to learn English slang and the most used phrases is to read really strong fiction writers who write great dialogue. Nobody Move is a short, comedic thriller where Johnson’s skills at writing dialogue come to the fore. Perhaps not for beginners but always something you can dip in and out of.
Irish writer Emily Pine’s collection of essays is vibrant and hard hitting. This nonfiction selection of personal stories gives a wonderful, sad and funny insight into Irish culture and realities facing Irish women. It is more suited for B2 onwards, but always worth a dive in if you’re feeling brave.
Another excellent source for learning is the short story. From the flashiest of flash fiction (check out Ernest Hemingway’s story 6 Words) to “short” short stories and “longer” short stories (try your hand at Kevin Barry’s Fjord of Killary), short stories are the perfect gems to improve your English.
This fabulous site contains a large collection of short stories for adults and children. From English literature classics such as The Three Little Pigs and Snow White you can browse and read all the greats that are now out of publishing rights and available to read online. Start with the children’s story Jack and The Beanstalk and work your way through these fables until you feel confident enough to branch out into the adult classics
For a more contemporary read, this collection of modern day stories and poems is worth the investment. Released twice a year, it showcases artistic talents from around the world. Perhaps more enjoyable for when you’ve reached B2 level but definitely one to remember.
Have you reached C1 level or maybe close? Are you looking for a little bit of a challenge? Then this terrific site, home to all of the plays and shorts stories of Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, is worth a gander. Definitely not for beginners but an opportunity to really put your English to the test and, of course, enjoy some of the greatest works in English literature.
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