by Alexander McCall Smith

GENRE: cultural, detective fiction, humour

CEFR LEVEL: B1+ and above

“Women are the ones who know what’s going on. They are the ones with eyes.

Have you not heard of Agatha Christie?”

Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Books can transport us anywhere, can’t they? Well, how does Botswana sound?

I recently recommended The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to one of my strong intermediate-level students, Gloria. Why? Because this is a great novel for English learners, written in a simple and effective way and with short chapters. McCall Smith touches on some difficult topics but when you have a wonderful character like Mma Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s leading (and only!) female private detective, it is difficult not to finish the book feeling uplifted and with a smile on your face!

Let’s see what Gloria has to say about it and if she agrees with me…


The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a story about an African woman who deeply loves her country and continent.


Precious Ramotswe is a fat and proud African woman, a real Mma, but before becoming an adult, the book tells us about her childhood and father’s life, all this against the African backdrop.

Education, culture, jobs, and diverse types of domestic and foreign exploitation in African mines … all these topics/issues take us to the heart of sub-Saharan Africa and portray their daily lives with their positives and negatives.

Once her father dies, Precious decides to buy a house and set up a detective agency, the first ladies’ detective agency in Botswana, but the real goal is to be a free and independent woman in a mostly sexist continent. After having different bad/negative experiences, she reached the conclusion that marriage would in fact prevent her from doing her job effectively.

In the book, you will be able to enjoy the cases that clients have entrusted to Precious and the evolution of her investigations.

However, the best is at the end of the reading. I invite you to discover it!

My opinion/conclusion

This has been my second book in English. In addition to learning vocabulary, structures and thinking that my level of the language may have improved, I have been excited, moved and amused by the development of the case investigations.

Moreover, the best part is to have the opportunity to get to know the different realities of the African continent and specifically, the life of a woman who overcomes obstacles with her common sense and her love for her perfectly imperfect land.

…So, what are you waiting for? Stop talking about reading more in English and start reading. As Mma Ramotse herself said,

“Talking about pumpkins doesn’t make them grow.” 😉

Mma Precious Ramotswe


by R.J. Palacio

GENRE: realistic fiction, young adult

CEFR LEVEL: B1+ and above

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.””

R.J. Palacio, Wonder

If you love reading in your native language, imagine the satisfaction of reading and enjoying your first authentic novel in English. You will always remember that first book you read!

When my “bookworm” students reach a B1+ level, I love to encourage them to read their first authentic novel in English. At this level, novels that are aimed at the young adult market (but that also appeal to the adult market) work particularly well.

Gloria, one of my students with a B1+ level, has just finished reading Wonder, her first authentic English novel.

Let’s see what she has to say about it…


Wonder, a novel by R.J. Palacio, is a wonderful story about a marvellous kid and his family.


August is a special kid who has never been to school because he has always studied at home with his mother.

When he goes to school, his first impression of the school, his relationship with his classmates, his teachers, and especially his course director, will be decisive to his personal development. School as a promoter of values is fundamental in our education, especially at the age of 11, but emotions and feelings such as friendship, fear, envy, courage, and companionship are also added.

And what happens if the protagonist is not considered “normal”? A WONDER adventure!

My opinion/conclusion

Wonder is a marvellous story and a lesson about the concept of “normal” or “the hegemony of the normality of our appearance” in our society. This book is nice and easy to read. For me, it is my first English book and I feel very proud to have read it!

So, what are you waiting for? If you have a B1+ level, make Wonder the first book that you read in English too!