Top Ten Best Books to Learn English

girl reading top ten books to learn english

Top 10 best books to help learn English

World book day is coming, which got us thinking about the best English language books to help learn English. Books are a great way to improve vocabulary, grammar, reading skills, and have fun studying English! For this list, we only chose books which are originally written in English, not translated.

What are the top ten best books to help learn English?

  • To Have and Have Not

    By Ernest Hemmingway

    This is a classic! To Have and Have Not has even been called the invention of the thriller! Harry Morgan is a hard man living in a hard world, doing what he must to take care of his family. It deals with issues such as the wealth gap, racism, masculinity, and love.

    What level is it good for?

    Pre-Intermediate / Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    The book is relatively short (192 pages) and it is divided into shorter chapters, so it is easy to read in small doses. The language used is more American English, and Hemmingway’s style is to write in short, ‘simple sentences’ making it ideal for learners of English!

  • Farenheit 451

    By Ray Bradbury

    “It was a pleasure to burn”. Published in 1953, the book was highly prophetic, dealing with issues such as technology, media influence, free thought, and the dumbing down of society. The story follows Montag, living in a society where books are banned, he is a fireman who burns books for the government and begins to question everything.

    What level is it good for?

    Advanced +

    Why is it good for your English?

    Farenheit 451 will introduce the reader to a huge amount of new vocabulary! This book is packed full of advanced vocabulary, which is all introduced in a highly engaging narrative. The book is about 256 pages long, making it not too long, so English language learners can read and re-read it easily.

  • Angels and Demons

    By Dan Brown

    Harvard lecturer Robert Langdon is awoken by a late night phone call, and so begins a race against time, “who dunnit” thriller. Robert must solve a series of clues to stop a mysterious organisation from destroying the Vatican. If you like this, there are plenty more Dan Brown novels.

    What level is it good for?

    Pre-Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    Light and easy to read. Dan Brown never uses language that could make his books too challenging to read. Angels and Demons has plenty of mystery, adventure, twists and turns to keep you interested. Decoding the language of the book decodes the mystery and will give you a strong sense of satisfaction as you figure it all out!

  • A study in scarlet

    By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    So good that Southsea library have chosen it for their adult reading challenge! The first Sherlock Holmes novel, written by Sir Arthur when he lived and worked in Portsmouth. Meet Sherlock Holmes for the very first time, as seen through the eyes of Dr Watson.

    What level is it good for?

    Pre-Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    At 174 pages long, it is not too long to read and allows the reader to take their time, rereading sections or the whole book easily. The language is not too difficult, and at the end of it all, you have read a Sherlock Holmes novel in English!

  • Atlas Shrugged

    By Ayn Rand

    Ranked by the New York Times as the 2nd most influential book of all time (1st place is the Bible). Atlas Shrugged tells the story of Dagny, a railroad executive, trying to stop the country’s economic downward spiral. The book deals with issues such as greed, selfishness, individualism, and capitalism.

    What level is it good for?

    Pre-Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    At 1,168 pages, it is probably the longest book on this list! However, do not let that put you off! English was Ayn Rand’s second language, reading this book will show you how far you can come studying English. Furthermore, the grammar structures and vocabulary are rarely too complicated, this makes it an accessible read for pre-intermediate + students!

  • Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone

    By J K Rowling

    This is one of the most famous books in the world and you may have already read it! The story is all about Harry Potter, an eleven-year-old boy who finds out that his parents were wizards and that he also possesses magical powers himself. He becomes a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, meets fantastic characters along the way and has to deal with all sorts of trouble during his first year at the boarding school.

    What level is it good for?

    Pre-Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    The level of this book is best suited to intermediate and above, although if you’ve already read it in your language or have seen the film, you may be able to read it if your level is a little lower. This is because you will be familiar with the story already. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone is aimed at children and is, therefore, a little more straightforward to read. Through reading this book, you will pick up new vocabulary and the further you delve into the books, the harder they become. This book opens so many opportunities for you to learn. You have lots of other books in the series to continue with and you could even watch the films as well.

  • Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

    By Roald Dahl

    This is a wonderful classic and has been read by young and old alike since it was published in 1964. The story is all about Willy Wonka, a crazy character who has his own chocolate factory. He decides to open it to five lucky children, who all randomly find a golden ticket in their chocolate bars. The four other children are very different to Charlie, who is an honest, sweet boy from a poor background. As a result, Charlie gets the opportunity to fulfill his dreams.

    What level is it good for?

    Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    The level of this book would suit intermediate and above. The book includes some great descriptions of people’s character and personality which is sure to improve your vocabulary. If you have a great imagination, then you are sure to get a lot of joy from reading this book.

    Roald Dahl is a classic author who has written many wonderful books, including Matilda, James and the Giant Peach along with the BFG. He was born in Wales and had a very interesting life. He is known as one of the best storytellers in the world, so his books are definitely worth reading!

  • Oliver Twist

    By Charles Dickens

    Oliver Twist is Charles Dickens’ second novel all about an orphan boy who ends up in an adult workhouse. After asking for more gruel, he is auctioned off to an undertaker and is made to leave. After getting into some trouble, Oliver runs away to London and ends up working for criminals who train orphans to pickpocket. Mr Brownlow tries to help Oliver, but the criminals kidnap him and Oliver therefore goes on a long journey of trying to escape the criminal gang.

    What level is it good for?

    Upper-Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    This book is most suited to people with at least an upper intermediate level of English, due to the vocabulary and language used throughout. It may also help if you watch the film, so you have more of an idea about the storyline. Oliver Twist teaches readers all about Victorian England and is certain to improve your knowledge of English history, particularly the living conditions of the poor at the time.

  • The Fault in our Stars

    By John Green

    The Fault in our Stars is a story about 16-year-old, Hazel who meets and falls in love with Gus at their cancer support group. They find out they have a lot in common, including their love for “An Imperial Affliction” by Peter Van Houte. Gus manages to establish contact with the author, who tells them that the questions they have about his book can only be answered in person. So, they head off to Amsterdam to meet him and their biggest adventure begins. Warning: This book will make you laugh and cry but all while falling in love with their story.

    What level is it good for?

    Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    This book is most suitable for those at intermediate level and above. The language is rather informal as it is narrated by a sixteen-year-old girl. It, therefore, has a lot of excellent everyday vocabulary which you can use in conversations. It is an engaging story which will leave you wanting to turn the page!

  • The Last Song

    By Nicholas Sparks

    The Last Song is a story about a teenage girl who spends the summer with her father, someone she hasn’t spoken to in three years following her parents’ divorce. When she arrives she has no interest in getting to know anyone, spend time with her family or even play piano which is something she used to do with her father. Over the summer, due to a number of different events, she learns all about love, family and eventually finds happiness.

    What level is it good for?

    Pre-Intermediate +

    Why is it good for your English?

    This book would suit a level of pre-intermediate+ as there is a lot of dialogue throughout, so this will make it easier to follow and will help you to improve the structure of speech. Similarly to The Fault in our Stars, this will also help with your conversational English in your everyday life.

    Nicholas Sparks has written many books which you could read after finishing this one. Many of his books have also been made into films, so this will all offer excellent English practice.

Why read books to learn English?

Well, you do not have to read just books to learn more English, you could also read blogs, magazines, forums, snapchat. It is simply important that you practice your reading. Reading gives English language learners the chance to see grammar and vocabulary in context and explore the language through that.

How can I decide which English language book to read?

There are so many books out there, it can be difficult to decide which one to choose to read in English. Here are three quick tips to help you decide which book you should choose to read in English.

  • Vocabulary – It is important to think about vocabulary! Don’t make the same mistake I made, I decided to read Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in Russian (to improve my Russian) and met so much ‘nautical vocabulary’: tentacles, jellyfish, clams etc. Keep in mind the theme of the book you choose.
  • Length – I personally feel that a shorter book will help English language learners to spend time reading and rereading the book whilst also feeling that they have made an achievement. Finishing a book in English is a positive thing and shorter books are more achievable goals!
  • Pleasure – Reading to improve your English should be a fun experience! If you are not enjoying it, then it is unlikely that you will pick up and new vocabulary or grammar. Make sure that you choose something which you enjoy.

Who wrote this blog?

Catt – Student Experience & Social Media Coordinator

Catt is not only our social programme organiser, but she also handles our social media

Catt is now responsible for organising our social programme! This means that she gets to go on all sorts of weekend trips with our students to place like London, Winchester, Durdle door and many many more!

English students reading books to learn

Adam Gallie – Digital Marketing

Although Adam spends most of his time working with the marketing team on the website

Adam loves to get involved in the social programme as it is a great way to meet and socialise with students, usually he tries to do a social activity a week, taking students on tours of Old Portsmouth, and out to pubs.

Teacher reads an English book to students

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English language teacher gives student English book