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Get your nose stuck into a good book …

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

by Stephen Andrews (単語・表現リスト by Shigeri Nishide)

There’s nothing quite like a good read. Or, as the British say, “Getting your nose stuck into a good book”. If you’re with friends, a popular topic of conversation is often what book you’re reading.

Interesting fact … did you know that the first book that could be called a novel is Murasaki Shikibu’s ‘Tale of Genji’ written in the early 11th century?

Actually, several Japanese writers have become well-known in Britain, for instance, Haruki Murakami whose novel ‘Kafka on the Shore’ (2002) became very popular in its English translation. ‘The Guest Cat’ (2001) by Takashi Hiraide also topped the bestseller lists here.

But how do you know which book to choose?

To help you, in this blog, I’m listing some really great classic British novels. You may have heard of some of them, such as the story of Robinson Crusoe, well-known all over the world, or the names of some of the authors, for instance, Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen.

And here’s a little cheat! If you don’t have time to read any of these books, you can still talk about them with other people, because all of them have been made into popular films.

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

I’m starting with the author Kazuo Ishiguro. He’s quite unusual because he was born in Nagasaki and moved to Britain in 1960 with his parents at five years old. He’s become one of the most celebrated contemporary British novelists and has never written in Japanese. He has been nominated for Man Booker Prize (a top award for writers) four times, winning the prize in 1989 for his novel ‘The Remains of the Day’ a very British story which was adapted into a film in 1993. Another famous book ‘An Artist of the Floating World’ explores his Japanese identity. If you’re just starting out reading in English, he’s an interesting author to start with.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)

A classic novel about how a man survives a shipwreck on a desert island. Not many people realise that it was written four centuries ago! No book in English literary history had enjoyed more editions, spin-offs and translations. A modern update is the Tom Hanks movie ‘Castaway’.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Jane Austen is one of the most famous female English authors. Set in the grand stately homes of England, her books explore the emotional repression of English society in the 19th century. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is her best-known book, made into many different film versions. You may well have heard of its romantic hero, Mr. Darcy and his troubled relationship with Elizabeth Bennet. They’re two of the most famous English literary characters.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

A story about passion and love, set on the wild and windy Yorkshire Moors. It features one of English literature’s most famous romantic heroes, Heathcliff and his relationship with Cathy. The book inspired Kate Bush’s hit song ‘Wuthering Heights’.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)

Charles Dickens is the author of some of the best-known novels in English. These include ‘Oliver Twist’ (1837), ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ (1839) and ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843). ‘David Copperfield’ is perhaps his classic, with a fascinating story of growing from childhood to manhood, based on Dickens’ own life. The Christmas story ‘A Christmas Carol’ is also popular, with great characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

Lewis Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures Underground for his young niece, Alice Liddell. It’s a fantasy about Alice’s adventures when she slips down a rabbit hole and discovers all sorts of weird characters like The Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat. It’s for children, but also a great read for adults.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)

Sherlock Holmes is the first fictional English detective. In fact, he’s so famous that many people think that he’s a real person. He lives at 221B Baker Street in London and often solves cases with his friend, Dr. Watson. ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ is one of the most popular Holmes’ stories. You can actually visit the Sherlock Holmes museum at 237-241 Baker Street.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

Oscar Wilde was an Irish poet who caused a scandal in England because of his homosexual activities. ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is a story about a portrait painting of Dorian who never wants to grow old. He makes a deal to remain young, while his portrait gradually grows older and older as time passes.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

A charming book featuring the famous animal characters Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad and Mr. Badger and their adventures on the bank of river. They have very human characteristics and get into all sorts of trouble. Again, it’s perfect for children but also a wonderful read for adults.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (1928)

A controversial book because of its sex scenes. The novel was notorious for its story of the physical relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, explicit descriptions of sex and its use of then-unprintable swear words. Of course, this meant that it became very popular! Because of this the book was first published in Italy and was banned in England until 1960.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)

Apparently dealing with an imagined future, George Orwell’s dystopian tale is actually a comment on authoritarian states like Russia. Orwell invented a government called ‘Big Brother’ who hated individual freedom. In the story, Winston Smith falls in love with Julia in secret, but both are discovered by Big Brother and brainwashed back into conformity. The novel is the best-known 20th century English novel and its title ‘1984’ and the name ‘Big Brother’ have become commonly used terms in English.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951)

A classic English science fiction story. After most people in the world are blinded by a meteor shower from outer space, an aggressive species of plant, the Triffids, begin roving the country and start killing people in London and southern England. Don’t worry, though, you won’t find any Triffids in your local garden centre!

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (1954)

You’ll probably have heard of this book because of the recent film series ‘The Lord of the Rings’, 'The Fellowship of the Ring', 'The Two Towers' and 'The Return of the King’. The story, though, has always been popular and, with its detailed creation of the imaginary world called Middle Earth, is probably the most influential fantasy novel in English.

Harry Potter by J.K Rowling (1997)

Probably the most famous children’s book in the history of mankind! The series of seven fantasy novels chronicle the lives of a young wizard, Harry Potter and his friends Hermione Grainger and Ron Weasley, students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you haven’t read a Harry Potter book yet, you’re in a very small minority!

White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000)

Zadie Smith is an Anglo-Asian author, born in England. The novel is one of the first to examine Britain’s relationship with immigrants from the Commonwealth. It focuses on the later lives of two friends, the Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal and the Englishman Archie Jones, and their families in London.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003)

A very unusual mystery story. The novel is narrated in the first person (the voice of the main character) by Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy who is described as "a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties" living in Swindon, Wiltshire. The strange way in which he perceives the world makes the book fascinating.

There are so many books, written on different subjects, in different styles, but one thing they have in common is that they all tell a great story! I hope you find my list useful in choosing one …

Happy reading!



dystopia: utopia(ユートピア)の反対。ユートピアが理想的な素晴らしい架空の場所なのに対し、dystopiaは架空のひどい場所。

a meteor shower:  流星雨





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