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Good Reads – Some of My Favourite Books

Below, I tell you about some of my favourite books. There are two vocabulary tasks below which focus on the vocabulary in bold. To learn more about the book related words and rephrases underlined below, check out my video, as I explain those there. If you have any other questions about any of the vocabulary or grammar used in the article, comment below and I’ll make an Instagram video for you explaining the meaning and/or how to use it.


Good Reads – Some of My Favourite Books

March 2024


Spring in around the corner, there’s blossom on the trees and crocuses and daffodils are bringing

splashes of colour to gardens and greenspaces. But winter isn’t over and when the world outside feels

a bit bleak, what can be better than escaping into a good book or snuggling up and watching a good film?


These days, many of us spend a great deal of time in front of a screen, so it’s good to give your eyes a break and pick up one of your favourite paperbacks. If any of you are studying for IELTS, you may have to talk about a book you’ve enjoyed reading in the exam, and even if you’re not taking the exam, I hope you learn some useful words and phrases to talk about your favourite novels, reference books or tomes!


What’s your favourite book?

Well, in fact, it’s a trilogy – 3 autobiographical books that give a hilarious account of Gerald Durrell’s childhood spent on the Greek island of Corfu with his eccentric family. They first

book in the series is called My Family and Other Animals, the second Birds, Beasts and Relatives and the last is The Garden of the Gods.

I don’t know about you, but I love autobiographies. It’s always fascinating to see the world through a person’s unique perspective and gain an insight into different walks of life. I often find them inspiring and filled with pearls of wisdom, too.


On a side note, for those of you who are not familiar with Gerald Durrell, or Gerry as he was known to his family, he was a British naturalist, writer and conservationist who set up Jersey Zoo on the island of Jersey.


When Gerry was 10, he emigrated with his widowed mum and his older siblings to Corfu. The three books chronicle their lives in a series of books, overflowing with wit and charm. In his unwavering love of nature, Gerry also beautifully depicts the island’s stunning scenery that is the backdrop to many of Gerry’s adventures to collect specimens for his own animal collection, as well as the misadventures with the eccentric characters that surround him – both animal and human.



When did you read the book?

The first time I read My Family and Other Animals was when during the summer holidays when I was about 12. I remember lying in a hammock under the huge walnut tree at my grandparents’ house. The

weather was balmy and as I immersed myself in Gerry’s vivid descriptions of the olive groves, fireflies and warm Mediterranean Sea lapping at the shores, I was immediately transported there. When it got late, I would close the book and feel as if I’d just returned from that sun-drenched enchanting isle. I was so engrossed in it that I read it from cover to cover in no time!


The last time I read the trilogy was actually very recently. One of my students likes to read during our class, as he gets to practice his pronunciation and we talk about the vocabulary that's new to him. We shared many laughs together over the year we enjoyed the trilogy.


Why did you decide to read them?

I still have the first copy of My Family and Other Animals that I romped through all those years ago in the hammock. It’s pretty battered now, as I’ve read it several times before buying another version. My first copy used to belong to my dad, in fact, he was the one that recommended it to me.  I’ve kept it for sentimental reasons… that book has such a special place in my heart.

Who are the main characters?

At the beginning of the first book, we are introduced to his eccentric family. This includes his widowed, cookery obsessed empathetic mother and his eldest brother Larry, a poet and writer who is an intellectual with a sharp wit yet can be impractical and condescending to the other members of the family. Together with his gun-mad, practical older brother Leslie and his compassionate, caring but not-so-bright sister Margo, who spends a great deal of time worrying about her acne and weight and is portrayed as a lovelorn free spirit.  And then there is Gerry who, home-schooled intermittently during his time on Corfu, and spends much of his time exploring the island, chatting to and eating fruit with the locals, observing and catching animals, sailing in his boat constructed by Leslie, the Bootle Bumtrinket, together with his dog Roger. 


The family are well looked after by their taxi-driver friend Spiro, who can conjure the impossible for them and fix the unfixable. The other person who is loved by all the family is the shy, self-effacing Dr Theodore Stephanides, a British-Greek polymath with an encyclopaedic knowledge, who teaches and mentors Gerry.


What’s the plot?

Well, as they are memoirs, there is not a plot like in a novel. Set in the 1930s, the trilogy begins with the family’s decision to move to Corfu. The first book is divided into three sections, each focusing on the events that occur while they reside at each of the three villas that they called home. The later books continue in the same vein as Gerry enters adolescence.


Told from Gerry’s perspective, we follow the animal-obsessed boy as he explores the island, meeting unusual characters along the way. We also observe his struggles with his private tutors, meet the artistic and literary visitors to the villas that Larry has invited, go on family day trips with Theo and Spiro, attend a birth, go fishing with a convict, befriend a bear and attend parties. All told in such a way that you really feel what living in Corfu at the time would have been like.



Has it ever been adapted into a film or TV show?

Yes, My Family and Other Animals has been adapted for TV as a series and telefilm on two occasions. Then between 2016-2019, the series The Durrells, loosely based on the trilogy, was broadcast on TV here in Britain. You may be able to find it on Netflix, and I’d highly recommend it. 



Why did you enjoy it so much?

These books are overflowing with wit and charm and the comic exploits of his family will have you laughing until tears stream down your face. Aside from the comedy, what I loved is absolutely exquisite way that Gerry paints a picture with his words. There are still parts of the book that I remember because of the descriptions of the scenery. Gerry was a master of description. For example, at the beginning of My Family and Other Animals, in Gerry’s description of the ferry crossing to Corfu, he writes:


The sea lifted smooth blue muscles of wave as it stirred in the dawn light, and the foam of our wake spread gently behind us like a white peacock’s tail, glinting with bubbles.


So, if you’re looking for a light-hearted escape to a sun-soaked island in the Mediterranean, so vividly describe you’ll feel like you’re there, and you have a desire like Gerry, to marvel at the wonders of nature, as well as be entertained by the quirks and idiosyncrasies of those around him, then this is the book for you.


So, now, over to you! I’d like to know:

  • When was the last time you became deeply engrossed in a good book? 

  • What’s your favourite book or books and why?


Leave your comments on my YouTube video :)



Vocabulary tasks (you’ll find the answers below)


Task 1 – Using the article to help you, match the words with their meanings.



battered (adj)


(of waves) hit something gently, producing quiet sounds


bleak (adj)


a bed made of strong cloth or net that you tie to two trees or poles so that it swings


conjure (v)


accidents or bad luck


conservationist (n)


sad because the person you love does not love you


grove (n)


be completely involved in something or doing something


hammock (n)


(of a place) receiving a great deal of sunshine


immersed (adj)


cold and miserable


lap (v)


the clever and humorous use of words or the ability to do this


light-hearted (adj)


make something appear as if by magic


lovelorn (adj)


amusing and not serious


misadventures (n)


a group of trees closely planted together


plot (n)


shy and not wanting attention from other people


self-effacing (adj)


someone who works for the protection of plants, animals and/or natural areas.


specimens (n)


damaged, especially by being used a lot


sun-drenched (adj)


the story of a book, film, play, etc.  


wit (n)


an individual example of an animal, plant, etc. used as an example of its species or type for scientific study or display



Task 2 – Complete the sentences with the vocabulary above.


1.     At halftime the team were losing 1-4, but they managed to _______ a victory in the second half of the match.

2.     He’s become really _______ in his work since he got promoted.

3.     He sat on his terrace of his ______ villa in the south of France.

4.     There’s an unexpected twist in/to the _______ at the end of the film.

5.     Guests can relax in the ______ and sign up for daily yoga classes.

6.     He gave a ______ speech when he accepted the award.

7.     Although they didn’t like each other at first, after a series of ______, they fell in love.

8.     Everyone wanted to sit next to her at the dinner party as she was considered a woman of great intelligence and ______.

9.     The weather can be quite _____ on the coast in the winter.

10.  The team captain was typically ______ when asked about the team’s successes, giving credit to the other players.

11.  He always wears old jeans and a pair of ______ trainers.  

12.  The villa has a roof terrace with views across the olive ____.







Task 1

1 N – 2 G – 3 I – 4 M – 5 K – 6 B – 7 E – 8 A – 9 J – 10 D – 11 C – 12 O – 13 L – 14 P – 15 F – 16 H    


Task 2

1. conjure   2. immersed   3. sun-drenched   4.  plot   5. hammocks   6. light-hearted  7. misadventures.  8. wit   9. bleak.  10. self-effacing   11. battered   12. grove



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