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  • Ryoga

How to Start Reading English Books As a Non-Native Speaker

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Reading an English book

Reading English books as a non-native speaker can seem like a challenging task. Perhaps you want to enhance your English and gain knowledge by reading, rather than reading in your native language, or maybe some books are not available in your language.

I'm a non-native English speaker, and I didn't have the habit of reading books in my native language either. Until the end of 2022, I had probably read less than 10 books in my entire life. However, since the beginning of this year, I have already read 27 books, all in English.

In this article, I aim to guide you on how to start reading English books, especially if English is not your first language. I'll share insights from my personal journey, offering helpful pointers on enhancing your English skills and gaining knowledge through the joy of reading.

1. Choosing the Right Book

1.1. Picking a Book That Interests You

The first step in your reading journey is selecting a book. It's crucial to choose a book that aligns with your interests. If you read something that doesn't pique your interest, it becomes difficult to remain focused or comprehend the book's message. So, pick a book that stirs your curiosity.

First things first, choose a book with a topic that interests you. If you read a book that is completely outside your area of interest, it becomes difficult to concentrate on reading or digest what the book is supposed to tell you. So, pick a book that stairs your curiosity

If you're just starting to develop a reading habit, go for a book with fewer words per page or a smaller page count. This can make the reading process less overwhelming.

1.2. Should Your English Level Influence Your Book Choice?

Many people suggest choosing books based on our English proficiency. My opinion is slightly different. If your English skills are at an intermediate level (enough for daily conversation), I believe you should be able to understand most modern books and even some classics. Even if the content is somewhat advanced, reading can help you enhance your English, increase your vocabulary, grasp new phrases, and improve your grammar skills. Don't shy away from challenging content; it's a great way to improve your language skills!

2. You Don't Need to Research Every Word Whenever You Come Across Unfamiliar Vocabulary

As a non-native speaker, you might encounter dozens of unfamiliar words while reading, perhaps even as many as 20 unfamiliar vocabulary words on a single page. Researching the meaning of each word can significantly slow down your reading pace, leading to a potential loss of interest. Therefore, you don't need to force yourself to research every unfamiliar word. The primary purpose of reading a book is to gain knowledge or simply enjoy the process. You can often understand what the author is trying to convey by deriving meaning from the context. When a particular word is fascinating or frequently appears throughout the book, it's good to research its meaning. However, you can focus on the content of the book rather than getting bogged down by the meanings of every word.

3. Reflecting on Your Reading: Ask Yourself 'What Did I Learn From the Book Today'

At the end of each reading session, take a moment to contemplate what you've read. Ask yourself, 'What did I learn from this book today?' 'What was this chapter about?' and 'What was the key takeaway from today's reading?'This practice can ensure you absorb the author's central message and help you internalize the new vocabulary and phrases you've encountered.


Embarking on the journey of reading English books as a non-native speaker need not be intimidating. Remember, you don't have to understand every word. Instead, focus on enjoying the reading process and gaining knowledge. Reading is not just about language; it's about exploring new worlds, ideas, and perspectives. So, pick up that English book that's been sitting on your shelf and dive in!

Key Takeaways

  1. Choose a book that genuinely interests you.

  2. Don't research every unfamiliar vocabulary that disrupts your reading flow.

  3. Reflect on your reading to internalize the content and language.

  4. Don't limit book choices based on your English proficiency level.


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