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  • Writer's pictureTrish Bentley

5 Books to Increase Your Vocabulary This Summer

I caught a little bit of The Bachelorette last night and before long I had to turn it off. I actually had the option to turn it off because my husband wasn’t there (he’s a rather large fan of the show). The reason I couldn’t stand to watch it anymore was because between the bachelorette Andi Dorfman and one of her beefy suitors, I heard the word ‘like’ approximately 357 times during the course of one date.

Now she’s actually an intelligent woman according to her law degree and the guy she was on a date with has a pretty high profile job as well. But when it came to carrying on an everyday conversation they were both lost for descriptive enough words to complete a sentence. And it got me thinking: What if they read one or all of these five books this summer? Maybe they’d soak up some nifty adjectives and go an entire day without saying, “I like don’t know, what like, I feel, in this moment, like.”

#1 The Bell Jar (We had to put this on the list of course because The Purple Fig was named after a passage from Plath in this book)


This book was first published in the UK in 1963, was Sylvia Plath’s only novel. It chronicles the dark descent of Esther Greenwood whose beauty, brilliance and talent are progressively eroded into a deep depression. The novel is semi-autobiographical drawing on the parallel experience of Plath’s own life prior to her suicide which occurred just a month after its first publication. This book will take you to some dark places but her illuminated descriptions are breathtakingly brilliant and maybe some of her words will land in your repertoire.

#2 The Sun Also Rises


Written in 1926 by American author Ernest Hemingway about a group of American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights. Now this may not sound like an interesting story and trust me, Hemingway’s ‘restrained’ and sparse writing can be hard to get used to but it’s what he’s known for and by the end of the book you can’t help but love it. Hemingway said this in an early draft of the novel: “In life people are not conscious of these special moments that novelists build their whole structures on..Gertrude Stein once told me that remarks are not literature. All right, let it go at that. Only this time all the remarks are going in and if it is not literature who claimed it was anyway.” And he stuck to his guns on this one. All remarks are left authentically placed within the pages of this book, although I didn’t see the word ‘like’ in any dialogue once 🙂

#3 The Year Of Magical Thinking


From one of America’s iconic writers, this a stunning book of incredible honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage — and a life, in good times and bad — that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. Didion’s way of describing life’s most relatable scenes seems to come with such ease and intelligence. It’ll make you cry but simply because we’ve all sat a kitchen table with someone we love and whether or not you’ve lost someone in your life, you’ll know the sadness that would exist if they weren’t there at all. 

#4 Dry


This is a memoir written by American writer Augusten Burroughs. It describes the author’s battle with alcoholism. It is gritty and unwavering in its determination to capture the insides of an addict while being quite funny and relatable. His haunting words will stay with you well after you’ve finished the book. Also, this book could almost have a Manhattan tour as the references to bars and the type of drinks inside those bars are right down to the price and location of each of them. 

 #5 The Catcher in the Rye


Since its debut in 1951, protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage angst and helped sell almost 65 million copies in its lifetime. Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. The dialogue is old world and punchy, also bringing you back to Manhattan pre-Mad Men. The prose stays classic and timeless, surely enough to inspire a more colourful vocabulary in one’s repertoire.  

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