Reading is a great way to improve your English, vocabulary, and language skills!
Do you like poetry? I do. Poetry was my "first love" when it came to reading; I fell in love with it when I was introduced to Shel Silverstein's poems as a child. Here are some great poets that will make you laugh, cry, think, and swoon:
Christina Rossetti: Christina Georgina Rossetti was an English poet who wrote beautiful and often melancholy poems during the Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian eras. Her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was a painter. Her family upbringing was unusual in the sense that her talents and aspirations were encouraged and supported by her family--although her brother received greater recognition at the time. She published several collections but lived a mostly reclusive life due to ill health. My favorite poems of hers are "A Birthday" and "Remember".
W.H. Auden: Auden was born in England and later became an American citizen. His poems deal with such themes as love, death, politics, and religion. In addition to his role as a poet, Auden was a prolific essayist, playwright, and editor. I love many of his poems. "As I Walked Out One Evening" is especially meaningful.
Other poets you should check out: Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Rupert Brooke, Adrienne Rich, Gwendolyn Brooks, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Nikki Giovanni
OTHER GOOD READING:
The Omnivore's Dilemma: Michael Pollan (UC Berkeley Professor Michael Pollan "looks at how basic questions about what to eat got so complicated, traces the rise of nutritionism, and reveals a great deal about the institutional imperatives of the food industry"(http://michaelpollan.com/article.php?id=87).
To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee (An American classic. I never tire of this novel, and it brings me joy when my students grow to love it, too. Did you know that the character Dill is based on Truman Capote, Harper Lee's childhood friend?).
Dreams from My Father: Barack Obama (A beautifully crafted memoir by our President, Barack Obama. A story of race, inheritance, and Obama's quest for identity.)
The Dogs of Babel: Carolyn Parkhurst. (When linguist Paul Iverson's wife mysteriously falls to her death from a backyard apple tree, he becomes consumed with grief and a desperate need to know what happened. The only witness to his wife's death is the family dog, Lorelei, so Paul sets about attempting to teach Lorelei to talk. What unfolds is an unforgettable portrait of love, life, grief, and death. One of my favorite books of all time and one that I truly enjoy teaching!)
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Edward Albee (Set on the campus of an intimate, East Coast university, this play examines such themes as love, marriage, relationships, loyalty, and jealousy.)
The War of the Worlds: H.G. Wells (Before Tom Cruise tackled this plot on the big screen, it was a novel written in 1898 by famed science fiction writer H.G. Wells. This book is an extremely gripping page turner and well ahead of its time.)
Me Talk Pretty One Day; Barrel Fever; Naked: David Sedaris (These three collections of short stories are probably some of the funniest I have ever read. Sedaris is a comic genius, and you won’t be disappointed by his sharp wit and twisted sense of humor).
Truman Capote (I recommend any of his works. He is most famous for his "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood, which details the murder case of the Clutter family in the 1950's).
Like Life: Lorrie Moore (A collection of witty, weird, and memorable short stories. If you like this one, try her novel, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?)
Blindness: Jose Saramago (An epidemic of blindness befalls 99 % of the population; mayhem ensues as a quarantine is forced upon the city).
The Corrections: Jonathan Franzen (A look at the separate but intertwined lives of a quirky and bitter American family: an elderly retired couple and their three adult children. Darkly humorous, tragic, and very enjoyable).
Short Cuts; Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories; What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories--Raymond Carver (Carver’s wit, humor, and his sometimes depressing look at everyday life makes him one of my favorite writers of all time. He is a MUST read. The movie “Short Cuts” was based on his short stories.)
The Matisse Stories--A.S. Byatt (A collection of short stories; each one incorporates a Matisse painting. Memorable, sentimental, and beautifully crafted.)
The Complete Stories: Flannery O’Connor (O’Connor was an American writer; this collection showcases her many quirky and memorable short stories).
Disgrace: J.M. Coetzee (In Disgrace, an aging professor must come to terms with the abrupt and violent changes in his life after he is fired from his job. If you like this one, try some of his (many) other novels. I particularly loved Slow Man and The Life and Times of Michael K.).
Rebecca: Daphne Du Maurier (A fascinating story entwined with suspicion, fear, and an overwhelming love. A young married woman must confront her husband’s past and his apparent obsession with his first wife, the beautiful Rebecca, who died mysteriously in a boating accident. An engrossing mystery).
The Haunting of Hill House; We Have Always Lived in the Castle--Shirley Jackson (Two novels full of suspense, mystery, and ghostly tales! In The Haunting of Hill House, four people spend a weekend in a dilapidated old mansion hunting for ghostly phenomena when the house seems to come to life and chooses one of the four to make its own. We Have Always Lived in the Castle tells the story of two eccentric sisters confined to their family home by a disturbing family secret.)
We Were the Mulvaneys; Black Girl, White Girl: Joyce Carol Oates (Oates is such a prolific writer, it is hard to pinpoint a couple of novels to recommend because EVERYthing she writes is riveting and wholly unique. In We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce explores the story of an All-American family, the Mulvaneys, who try to cope with a family tragedy and fall apart in the process. Beautifully written and wonderfully told. Black Girl, White Girl is a recent novel about a relationship forged between two college freshmen at an elite women’s college in the 1970’s after one woman, Minette Swift, becomes the victim of racism).
I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project: Paul Auster (a collection of 180 true stories from people from all walks of life: very entertaining. Each story is 1-2 pages in length, which makes this collection a great read that you can pick up and put down time and again).
Love in a Blue Time; Midnight All Day; Intimacy; Gabriel’s Gift; The Buddha of Suburbia: Hanif Kureishi (I love Hanif Kureishi for his frank and candid study of relationships, love, marriage, and the human spirit. The first two books are short story collections, and the latter three are novels).
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America: Barbara Ehrenreich (A non-fiction account in which the author goes undercover and takes a number of full-time, low-wage jobs around America to experience what it’s like to be part of America’s “working poor”: “the millions of Americans who work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages”(back cover).)
The Little House Books: Laura Ingalls Wilder (I recommend this series to my students who are just learning English, or to those of you who want to learn about American history. These gorgeously written novels--children's literature classics--were my favorite books growing up; I read them over and over, enthralled by the lives of Laura and her family. The series chronicles the author's true life pioneer experiences during the 19th century. I particularly loved The Long Winter, but one should really read the entire series, in order, to understand the historical impact these novels have had).
The Highest Tide: Jim Lynch (This coming-of-age novel chronicles one summer in the life of 13 year-old Miles O'Malley, a self-proclaimed insomniac and naturalist. When he makes a startling discovery on Puget Sound one night, his life is turned upside down).