Mid-Frequency Readers

These readers have been developed from the original stories by reducing the vocabulary used to the 4,000, 6,000 and 8,000 word-levels. There are three versions of each book.

Fiction

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is a novel written in the 19th century. It tells of the transformation of a mean-spirited man, Scrooge, into a generous and kind one. The transformation occurs when one Christmas he is visited by three ghosts who show him visions of Christmas in his past, present, and future. The author, Charles Dickens, writes in the style of his time and uses sentence structures and punctuation in ways that may not be familiar to the modern reader. He also uses a lot of descriptive language and some of the comparisons he makes might be unfamiliar. However, the story is clear and enjoyable.

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

A Modest Proposal is a satirical essay written in 1729. It is a bitter attack on the poverty of Irish Roman Catholics under the rule of Protestant England. Its full title is A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burden to their Parents, or the Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public. Johnathan Swift’s shocking proposal is intended to arouse disgust against the English Government’s lack of concern for the starving children of Ireland.

Swift is also the author of the famous Gulliver’s Travels.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This famous children’s story written in 1865 is an early example of the fantasy or nonsense genre. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland plays with time, imagination, logic, and language and for this reason remains popular with adult readers as well as children. You will meet many strange kinds of talking animals as well as characters from the pack of cards, and you will encounter unusual and interesting ways of using English such as ‘curiouser’ and ‘uglification’.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre is a classic story of the treacherous path to happiness. After she loses her parents, Jane has a miserable childhood, first under her aunt’s cruel care and then at a harsh boarding school for the poor. However, by gaining an education, Jane enjoys her early adult life working as a governess. Falling in love with the master, though, brings her both joy and terrible heartbreak. Only after facing many difficult choices and overcoming secrets, lies, and deception does Jane eventually find the life she deserves.

This famous novel is written in an intensely descriptive and poetic style, in the gothic tradition. It is set in 19th century rural England.

 

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Metamorphosis was written by German writer Franz Kafka in 1912. It begins: One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke, he found himself transformed into a horrible giant insect.

While Gregor’s physical body has changed, he is still the same person inside. In the book, Gregor describes his changing relationship with his family and his surroundings, his feelings about his changed state, and his final acceptance. While the situation is ridiculous, Kafka writes about it as if it is perfectly normal. This is what has made the story a classic of early 20th century literature.

More William by Richmal Crompton

More William is about a very amusing set of stories about a young English boy who is always getting into trouble. The original (available from Project Gutenberg) contains a lot of deliberate mis-spellings to represent dialect pronunciation and children’s writing errors. These have been regularised in this adapted version.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 12 stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Scottish doctor and writer. The stories were first published together as a book in 1892. Sherlock Holmes is famous for his ability to use logical reasoning and science to solve difficult and unusual crimes, and also for his ability to take on any disguise. The stories are told by Dr Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ colleague in crime detection.

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield

The Garden Party and Other Stories are thought to be based on Katherine Mansfield’s recollections of her childhood in New Zealand. There are 15 stories in the collection. They are available for download in the table above as zip files. The name of the person who kindly adapted each story to be a mid-frequency reader is listed on the first page of each story.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

One of the most popular 19th century novels, Wuthering Heights is a dramatic and horrifying story of passion and revenge, racial and social discrimination. This is quite a difficult work, but one which rewards the patient and attentive reader. The relationships between characters and the similarity of many names may cause some confusion for readers. A useful diagram on the genealogy of Wuthering Heights can be found on the website, The Reader’s Guide to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Switching angles of narration and the time span of this novel are also quite complex, so this summary of the novel may also be useful.

Readers who are new to the works of the Brontë sisters are advised to start with Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. This has a more accessible style, a single narrator, a more linear plot, and provides a good introduction to the life and times of the Brontë novels.

Non-Fiction

Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig

Free Culture is a non-fiction text subtitled how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity.

Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn visited Japan in the1890s and fell in love with the country. There is a statue of him in Matsue where the house where he stayed is preserved as a tourist attraction. Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan is about Hearn’s stay in Japan, the places he visited and the people he met. In addition to his book he wrote English versions of Japanese folk tales. The book contains quite a few Japanese words, but these are explained in the text.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglas was born into slavery into the USA before the civil war that made it illegal. He escaped his slave masters at great personal cost and moved to the North where black people could live more freely than in the South. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is his autobiographical story.

It came as a shock, even to the ‘liberal’ world in 1845, that a man with almost no formal education could leave the horrors of slavery and write such a literate, literary, horrifying, and detailed account of his ordeal. The scenes described here are disturbing, but perhaps they ought to be read about, so that we do not forget. Be prepared for graphic accounts of physical abuse perpetrated on slaves. His account includes insights on human nature that are still, sadly, applicable today. Students of language may be interested to learn how a man in his position learned to read and write and what effect his new found literacy had on him. The process of ‘becoming’ initiated by new learning can be painful.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of War is an adaptation of a translation from the original in Chinese. It consists of very practical advice on how to conduct war. Recently, the book has been studied so that the general principles can be adapted to the world of business. For further information see the Wikipedia entry, The Art of War

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (4000 level only)

The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli, is an important text in literature (it influenced many Elizabethan writers like Shakespeare), political science, history, and psychology. It is a partly ironic description of how a leader should behave. Because the advice is largely given for practical purposes, Machiavelli gained an undeserved reputation for giving little consideration of morality.

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