The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English

The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English featured image

Let me introduce to you the beginner’s guide to talking about books in English.

Follow the steps and I will show you how to ask and answer the most common questions when talking about books and reading.

Are you ready? Let’s get into it…


The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English what are you reading


What Are You Reading?


This is a very common question that you can ask if you see another person reading a book.


Common Questions You Can Use


  • What are you reading right now?
  • What are you reading at the moment?
  • Are you reading anything interesting right now?


When To Ask These Questions


If you see someone reading a book, then you could ask them then. People often like to talk about the books they are reading.

You can also ask friends or people you know these questions if you know they like to read books and have a habit of reading.

Don’t just ask these questions randomly. Some people like to read, but many people don’t read books at all.


How To Answer


You can say the name or title of the book and the name of the author or writer. That is the first thing you should say.

So, for example, you might say:


I’m reading The Shining by Stephen King.


Right now, I’m reading this book called The Night She Disappeared. It’s by Liza Jewell.


I’m reading a book by this Indian writer, Vandana Shiva. It’s called Oneness.


That is all you need to say when replying.

The name of the book. And the name of the writer.


Now You Try!


What are you reading right now?

Say the name of the book and the writer.


The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English what's it about


What’s It About?


The next question you can ask is: What’s it about?

This means that you want to know the content of the book.

If it’s a novel, what is the story? What happens and who are the main characters?

But if it’s a non-fiction book, you want to know what the writer is trying to tell the reader. With non-fiction books, the writer is usually trying to give the reader some knowledge or information.

That is all you need to ask.


How To Answer This Question For A Novel


If you are telling someone about a novel, you need to talk about three things:

  • the main character
  • his her goal
  • the setting

So if we use our previous example of The Shining, you can answer like this:


It’s about a man who is an alcoholic and going a bit crazy, who wants to go to a deserted hotel in the winter with his family to write a book.


The main character — the man

His goal — to go to a hotel and write a book

The setting — a deserted hotel in the middle of winter


Some Other Examples


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini


It’s about a man looking back to his childhood in Afghanistan and his friendship with a poor boy and how it affects his whole life.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling


It’s about a young boy called Harry who lives with his abusive stepfamily, but then he goes to a school for wizards where he learns about magic.


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


It’s a story told by a young girl about a black man who is accused of a terrible crime in the southern states of America during a time of great racism. Then her father defends the man in court.


Only Use One Or Two Sentences


When answering this question, you should try to answer using only one or two sentences. There is no need to go into too much detail.


How To Answer This Question For A Non-Fiction Book


In a non-fiction book, there are no characters. There may be a story and there may be a person that the book is about. But usually, it is a book that tries to give the reader information or knowledge.

For example, a popular non-fiction book is A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

This is how you could talk about this book.


It’s about the universe and the study of the big bang theory to black holes and what they mean.


Some Other Examples


Atomic Habits by James Clear


It’s a guidebook on how to form habits and make a healthy routine for your life.


Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer


It’s about a man’s attempt to climb Mount Everest and how tragedy took several lives on the journey.


Now You Try!


What are you reading right now?

And what it is about?

Try to write one or two sentences about a book you are reading or have read recently.


The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English how would you describe it


How Would You Describe It?


You can ask this question if you want more information on the book the person is talking about.

Only ask this question if you really want to know the answer!

Some people can talk for hours about books, so if you ask this question expect a long answer.


Some Common Words To Describe Books


It might be a good idea to look at some words that we can use to describe books.












not an easy read

laugh-out-loud funny






Let’s look at some ways how to use these words when talking about books.


My friend recommended this book to me, but I found it kind of boring. It was really odd, because he said it was really gripping. I didn’t find it interesting at all.


I just finished reading Gone Girl. It was brilliant! I found the story so riveting.


I read The Kite Runner last year. It was just incredibly moving and tear-jerking. In my opinion, it’s an excellent read.


Some of these psychological thrillers are so predictable. They’re supposed to be thrilling and thought-provoking, but I just find them silly.


Have you read any of David Sedaris’ books? They are hilarious. Really laugh-out-loud funny.


I tried to read A Brief History of Time but I found it so confusing. It’s not an easy read…


If People Like A Book


If people like a book, they often use words like good, great, fantastic.


This book is really great. You must read it.


They also use the verb to recommend. Because they want other people to read it too.


I love this book. I highly recommend it.


But If People Dislike A Book


They might use words like terrible, no good, rubbish, really bad.


I don’t know why people like this book so much, I thought it was terrible.


This book was really bad. I didn’t like it at all.


People often say that they could not finish the book if they did not like it.


I hated it! I didn’t finish it…


I couldn’t finish it. It was so bad.


People also use the phrase to give up when talking about a book they dislike.


I gave up about 50 pages in. It was just awful.


And people also use phrases like stopped reading it or abandoned it.


I didn’t like it. I stopped reading it halfway through.


I had to abandon it. I really didn’t like it.


Now You Try!


Talk about a book you like. Use some of the words above to talk about it.

Now try with a book that you disliked reading.

Read your sentences out loud!


The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English how would you describe the characters


How Would You Describe The Characters?


When people talk about a novel they are reading, they often talk about the characters. Characters can often seem like real people.

In fact, this is usually what the writer wants the reader to believe.

We might use some of the following words to talk about the characters in a novel.













Let’s take a look at how people might use these words when talking about characters in a novel.


I loved the new Cassie Jones book. Her characters are always so believable. Very well developed and realistic.


I read this thriller recently, and the main character was a police officer. But he was so two-dimensional. Totally unbelievable.


Have you read the latest Stephen King book? I love the main character. So complex. It made the story much more compelling.


Now You Try!


Think of a novel you have read recently. Now think of the main character in the story.

  • What did you think of this character?
  • Did they seem believable and realistic? Or stereotyped and two-dimensional?
  • What were the things about the character that made you think this could be a real person? Think about the things they said and did in the book, but more importantly, how they responded to events that happened in the story.
  • What did you find about the character that was unbelievable?

Write all your views and opinions down on paper. Then read out loud to yourself.


The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English what kind of books do you like to read


What Kind Of Books Do You Like To Read?


This is a very common question that you might ask someone who likes to read.


Other Ways To Ask This Question


  • What kind of books are you into?
  • What genre do you like to read?
  • What style of books do you like?


How To Answer


There are two main types of books that we can read.



Fiction means anything unreal. So that includes novels, stories, poems.

Non-fiction means anything real or true. That could include history, memoirs and biographies, reference books, how-to guides, art, photography, food, business, finance or self-help.

So people might answer by saying:

  • I like to read novels.
  • I read a lot of short stories.
  • I love to read history books.
  • I’m a real foodie, so I mainly read books about food and cooking.
  • I have my own business, so I read a lot of business books.


What Kind Of Novels Do You Read?


If people like to read novels they might say the genre they like to read. Genre is the style or category of the story.

These are the most common genres for novels.




These are love stories. Two people meet, fall in love and the story unfolds.




Science-fiction – or sci-fi as it often known by fans – often involves stories that take place in the future. Or the stories could be about technology.




Fantasy stories are in totally other worlds. They are not usually set in a real-world situation. And the characters are often mythical or other-worldly creatures such as dwarfs, giants or elves.




A thriller story is often about a character who is trying to get away from someone trying to harm them. The story is often about murder or killing.

The main character could be a police detective trying to find the killer. Or a person trying to run away from a dangerous enemy.




In a crime story, a crime has been committed and the police or a detective is trying to figure out who the perpetrator of the crime is.




Often these stories show the main character risking their life and trying to reach a goal within a very limited time frame.

The story can take place in a city – but often in a place with lots of danger, for example, a jungle of a desert.


Young Adult


Or YA as it is referred to by fans. These books are often aimed towards a younger reader.

These books often include elements of fantasy or science-fiction. And the main characters are usually young too.


Literary Fiction


Literary fiction is usually character driven. The stories and themes are often more complex than the genres above. The story could often be about the human condition.


Sentences You Can Say About Books You Like


So they might answer by saying:

  • I am a big fan of thrillers.
  • I mainly read crime stories.
  • I am really into literary novels.
  • I’m very into romantic literature.
  • I’m a huge science-fiction fan.
  • I only read chick-lit.


Now You Try!


What kind of books do you like to read?

Is there a specific genre of novels that you like to read? Why?

Write down some sentences about your reading preferences. Then read out loud.


The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English where do you usually buy your books


Where Do You Usually Buy Your Books?


You can ask this question when talking about books. It is a good conversation starter!


You Can Answer Like This


  • I usually get my books from Barnes & Noble.
  • I buy all my books online — usually on Amazon.
  • I go to Waterstones for my books.
  • I get books at the second-hand book store. They have some great finds there.
  • I go to book fairs and find books there.


Some People Prefer The Library


Some people prefer to use the library. You can borrow books for free.

  • I always go to my local library. They have a great selection of crime novels there.
  • I just borrow books from the library. It’s free!


Digital Book Readers


Many people these days read ebooks. These are books published via a digital file which you can read via a digital device or an app on your phone.

  • I buy all my ebooks on Amazon.
  • I joined this reading app and borrow books there.


Now You Try!


What about you?

Where do you get your books?

Do you prefer to buy books or borrow them from the library?


The Beginner’s Guide To Talking About Books In English questions about books and reading


Questions About Books and Reading


Take a look at the questions below. Try answering the questions out loud.


What kind of books do you like to read?

What is your favourite story you have read?

Who is your favourite author/writer?

Talk about a character in a novel you read. Introduce this person to the class.

What is your favourite genre you prefer to read?

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Why?

Do you like reading? Why?

Do you hate reading? Why?

Are you a fast reader? How long did it take you to read the last book you read?

Are you a member of a book club? What kind of books do the members read there?

What is the best book you have ever read? Talk about it.

What is the worst book you have ever read? Talk about it.

Is reading important to you? Why?

Do you read books that your friends or other people recommend to you?

Has a book ever changed your life? How?

What do you think of movie adaptations made from books? Talk about books you have read that have been made into a movie.

How do you find new books to read?

Do you judge a book by its cover? Why/why not?

Do you like reading the books you have to read in school?

Where do you like to read every day?

What time of day do you like to read?

Do you read book reviews? What do you think of them?

Would you like to write a book? What would your book be about? Tell the class.




That just about covers it.

If you are preparing for the IELTS test or just want to know the best ways to talk about books in English, this guide should cover all the essentials.

Hope it was useful!

Let me know your thoughts below…


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