Books to read for the C2 level

It is no secret that the best way to improve your English reading skills is simply to read. Reading a variety of different texts, from different genres, by different authors, written at different times will improve your knowledge of different grammatical structures, increase your lexicon, and allow you to become more accustomed to reading in English at an appropriate pace for when the time comes to sit the exam. The books below are a great starting point to help you on your quest to improve your English reading skills…

Northanger Abbey
An excellent book to start with when wanting to improve your reading in English skills would be Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. This is because it is one of the set texts for question 5 in the 2022/23 writing proficiency exam. It is a coming of age novel split into two parts, book 1 and book 2, in which Austen attempts to parody the gothic literature that the protagonist is so obsessed with for comedic effect. The story follows Catherine Morland as she tries to navigate the tricky world of upper class Britain in the 19th century. The overwhelming theme throughout this book is youth and naivety: Catherine is only 17 years old and faces the struggles that accompany being a teenager: peer pressure, first relationships, navigating difficult friendships to name a few. Deceit is another common theme in this book. The reader witnesses all the lying and scheming that members of this high class society undertook for their own gain. A book for everyone thanks to all its satirical devices.

Award winning book Us by David Nicholls is another great choice for improving your English reading skills because, again, it is on the set text list for the proficiency exam. The protagonist is Douglas Petersen, a 54 year old man who, with his wife and son, sets out on a tour of Europe in the hope of fixing his relationship with his family after his wife expresses her intentions to leave him. It is a book that explores the theme of both romantic and familial relationships as Douglas attempts to win over his wife and son. It is a book where travel and nostalgia are intrinsically linked. The characters current trip provokes a sense of longing for the past when Douglas and his wife Connie travelled, fell in love and were naive to the complexities that would saturate their later life.

is another book written by an award winning author that would be a good choice for improving your English reading skills. It is a metafictional novel that traverses three different eras: each part of the novel is set in different years, meaning the reader has to be following the story closely to not miss anything. The novel is about the lie the protagonist Bryony Tallis tells one summer evening in 1935. She unjustly accuses her family’s housekeeper’s son of something and then has to spend the rest of her life attempting to undo what she did. The book is packed full of different themes making it a great text to study and examine. As a metafiction novel, storytelling is a key
theme throughout: at the start of the novel we see how storytelling takes over Bryony’s life. She feels she can construct reality and tell her own version of events, and then later we read about her as an an author retelling the story and trying to revert it back to the facts. There are no surprises from the title that this novel is also about redemption and trying to revert your wrongs, it questions how we know we have been atoned, is it in our hands, or those who suffered?

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming of age novel set during the great depression in America. Atticus, the father of Jem and Scout (who narrates the story), is a lawyer who chooses to defend Tom Robinson, a young, black man who was unjustly accused of a crime he did not commit. The prevailing theme throughout is prejudice. Tom Robinson being accused of the crime by the people of the town is nothing less than racism, and the novel depicts Atticus trying to undo this injustice and bring justice to the fictional town of Maycomb. Prejudice is also shown in regards to the character Boo Radley: a mysterious, reclusive man who throughout the novel is the lead in the children’s fictional legends, gossip and rumours. The reality of Boo Radley is a far cry away from the stories they tell. After a childhood accident he stays in the safety of his home, except to leave the children presents and ultimately, save them at the end of the novel.

A Room with a View
This novel by E.M. Forster was written in 1908 and follows the life of Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin Charlotte Bartlett as they travel around Italy. Set in the Edwardian era this novel explores the struggles of the rigid class structure at the time as Lucy falls in love with George, a man with a much lower social stature than herself. Social class is naturally a predominant theme throughout the book, with the older members of the story still holding the beliefs that dominated the Victorian era. Lucy is determined to break this structure but is still oppressed by the system. As a woman she is not considered capable to make her own choices and is seen as an object by her suitor Cecil Vyse. Thus displaying the inequality between men and women in this era as well.

These are the recommendations for the best books to read to help improve your C2 level. By reading these you will not only improve your English reading skills, but your writing skills as well. It is important to note not to give up reading if you’re finding it too hard, it’s always best to aim high and if you struggle, there are resources online to help you.