March 17

English C1 Speaking: Talking About Books

How to talk about books in C1 Speaking? Let’s find out!

Hello, this is Kristian from Cambridge Advanced Speaking, how is it going? I hope you’re feeling positive vibrations, and that you’re ready to learn some English with me.

If you didn’t know, I run the website Get Ready For Success, and there you can find the audio files, videoclips and lesson notes for all the podcast episodes.

I create and share these learning materials, because I want to help you speak better English and get a high mark in your C1 Speaking Exam.

And speaking about getting a high mark, last week I asked a group of 20 people the following question:

What is the outcome you want from the online course I’m creating?

  1. I want to get a higher mark for the speaking part.

  2. I want to feel more confident on exam day.

  3. I want to speak more fluently in my everyday life.

(pick only one option)

And guess what: 75% of the respondents want to feel more confident on exam day. That high number really surprised me. One student explained:

I don’t care about a higher mark. I just want to be relaxed and confident on exam day and then everything will be all right.

It’s funny. It just goes to show that asking the right questions is really important. As Bono sings in one of my favourite U2 songs:

We thought that we had the answers. It was the questions we had wrong.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling. Let’s start the episode 🙂


Last week I became a member of the library here in Madrid and I’m so glad I did! You know, I really love being in libraries, surrounded by lots of books. And that, my friends, is what we’re going to be talking about today: the topic of books.

The first part of this episode is all about vocabulary. We’ll be looking at

  • types of books you can talk about
  • essential vocabulary to describe the story
  • phrases to describe how we read books
  • expressions to give your opinion about books

In the second part of this episode we’re going to be looking at a part 1 question and model answer.

Are you up for it? Are you keen to give it a go?

All right then, let’s get started!


First, let’s look at the word literature. Literature means written works, especially those with a high and lasting artistic value. We can talk about classical or modern literature. For example,”Wuthering Heights” is a classic of English literature.

By the way, yours truly is really into English literature. One of my favourite writers is P.G. Wodehouse. I highly recommend the Jeeves and Wooster series. Go check it out!

Next, let’s look at types of books. Firstly, we can talk about fictional or non-fictional  books.

Fictional novels – different genres:

Crime novels
Thriller – suspense

My friend is a big fan of crime novels. I’m not a big fan.

I take pleasure in reading historical novels. He doesn’t.

Non-Fictional books:

Personal development = self help
Recipe book
Travel guide

I enjoy reading a gripping autobiography. My friend is not into this genre.

Okay, let’s look at some words you need to describe the story:
Plot = storyline
Setting = background (where – when)
Characters  (central/main) = people in the story
Protagonist (main character / hero)

This book has a gripping plot / It had an intriguing plot.
It is set in the sixties in Hamburg, Germany.
The protagonists are five musicians called John, Paul, George, Stuart and Pete.

Phrases to describe how we read books
To skim through books in the bookstore
To flick through a book
To leaf through a book
All of these above mean to glance at quickly, not to read in depth.

If you read a lot , you can say that you’re a voracious reader or an avid reader.

Describing a book in the exam

It’s a good read.
It is beautifully written.
This book is compulsive reading (so interesting you can’t stop reading)
I could’t put it down.
The book is a page turner.
This book makes easy reading / it is an easy read.
It was a gripping and enigmatic (mysterious) novel, I read it from cover to cover.
It’s a captivating/great read.
It is a compelling tale.
It’s not difficult. it’s lightweigth. It’s bedtime reading.
It was heavy going. I couldn’t get into it.
A heavy read (n) = that book is difficult to read.

Okay, lets move onto the final part: an exam question & model answer

Model Answer


Tell me about a book that you’ve read recently.

A few weeks ago I read Bono’s autobiography. It’s a long but fascinating memoir. In the book the frontman of U2 is exploring the roots of his faith and activism. It’s a gripping story, but not every page is easy to get through. Don’t get me wrong: some parts are compulsive reading, especially the story of his early years when he wasn’t famous. Other parts, however, I found myself skimming through the book, because it was a bit tedious. I mean, Bono sometimes has this tendency to go on and on and on about something. Anyway, I guess that just proves what he wrote in the book: “Our best work is never too far from our worst.”

Closing Notes

Okay then, There you are! A 13-minute lesson about the topic of books. All natural spoken English.

I hope you enjoyed this episode! If you did, please share it with someone who could benefit from it.

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If you do, you get once per week a short email in which I’ll help you to repeat and review the topics in the podcast episodes.

So, if you want to practice, repeat and review the language in this episode to become a better English speaker, you can subscribe to my email lessons on the homepage.

All right, that’s all from me. Take care of yourself, and each other.

Speak soon, my friends.


About the Author

As a Dutch proficient speaker of English, Kristian not only holds a grade A Cambridge C2 certificate but is also CELTA qualified. His five years of experience as a teacher and ESL exam coach, specialising in Cambridge English C1, C2, and IELTS, has equipped him with a unique blend of skills to guide and support your English learning journey.

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