8 Books To Help You Learn English

From classic children’s literature to Hemingway, there’s something on here for English learners of all skill levels.
May 15, 2020
8 Books To Help You Learn English

It’s hard to choose the best English book to read. There are so many options out there! And finding ones that match your level can be difficult. You want a challenge, but you don’t want to be checking the dictionary every other word. And you might want to read a classic like William Shakespeare, but starting with 16th-century English isn’t the best choice. To help you out, we asked our language experts what the best English books for learners are.

Here are our options for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners. We begin with picture books and get more advanced along the way, so feel free to scroll down to the level you’re looking for.

Beginner English Books For Learners

Green Eggs And Ham

Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, is probably the most famous children’s author ever. Reading Dr. Seuss books not only provides a good way to practice English reading, but also is an important part of English-speaking culture.

Dr. Seuss books can be hard, because of all the made-up words (zummers, yekko, flunnel and more!). Green Eggs and Ham makes the perfect starting place because it’s vocabulary is very simple. The book was written that way because Dr. Seuss made a bet with his publisher that he could write a story using only 50 different words. And he succeeded!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Another classic of English children’s literature, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an adorable picture book. The story is about a caterpillar that eats a bunch of food. We won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say he goes through quite the transformation.

This book is very elementary, and best for people just starting out with the language. If you’re shopping for yourself and already able to read this article, you should skip to the next section.

Intermediate English Books For Learners

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Almost every British person raised in the ’80s has read Roald Dahl’s books. They’re a staple of the English culture. MatildaJames and the Giant Peach and The BFG are all very famous (and have been turned into movies, which helps). But Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is Dahl’s most lasting work. The book is about a young boy who wins a tour of the local candy factory. With his grandfather, he meets Willy Wonka, the reclusive candy maker, and explores the very weird factory. As the other contest winners start to disappear, more and more questions are raised about why Willy Wonka created the contest in the first place.

Roald Dahl writes in refreshingly simple English. That means this book is a good way to practice your basic language skills and gain confidence in your reading ability. Plus, there are illustrations that can help guide you along.

The House On Mango Street

Sandra Cisneros’ coming-of-age novel The House on Mango Street is often read by middle schoolers, but it deals with a number of serious issues. The story follows Esperanza Cordero, a 12-year-old Mexican-American girl. Her family, which has moved from place to place through her life, settles into the house on Mango Street, located in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. Over the course of one year, Esperanza encounters racism, death, sexual assault and domestic violence.

While it is a very intense book, it’s the perfect read for an intermediate English learner looking for something more serious than the average children’s book. And while the writing style is simple, it’s also very beautiful.

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid

Looking for something more recent? Look no further than Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The story follows middle-schooler Greg Heffley as he faces the suburban problems of growing up today, whether it be bullies, young love or just trying to not embarrass himself.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which now has over a dozen installments, is filled with doodles and hand-written notes. The combination of drawings and writing make the books easy to follow along with, and the vocabulary is never too hard to understand.

Advanced English Books For Learners

The Old Man And The Sea

Ernest Hemingway is known for writing very clearly, which means he can make a good starting point for exploring adult English literature. The Old Man and the Sea is short and sweet.

The book itself is about an old fisherman struggling against a large fish. It’s also very symbolic, because the fish is more than just a fish. And one benefit of reading classic English literature is you can follow along with SparkNotes, which breaks down the story and explains some of the more confusing parts.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Another classic of English literature, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is read by almost every student in the United States. The story is told from the point of view of Scout, a girl who is only 6 years old when the novel begins. The writing is generally clear, making it another great option for people ready to deal with more adult literature.

The story is another coming-of-age tale set in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. The story starts with Scout and her younger brother making friends with the next-door neighbor, and getting involved in childhood hijinks. But when Scout’s lawyer father Atticus takes the case of a black man accused of rape by a white woman, the book becomes an examination of the United States’ historical racism. The book addresses very serious matters, but the young age of the main character makes it more approachable.

One For The Money

Not all of the English books for learners need to be classic literary masterpieces. Sometimes, you just want to read a book that’s fun. Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money is definitely fun.

The book is a fast-paced thriller about a woman who becomes a bounty hunter to make money. The story has sex, violence and all other kinds of adult themes, so it’s not for kids, but might be just the kind of story you’re looking for. While this book is not too tough to read, it is entirely written in a more casual English — the main character is from New Jersey — so it will give you a chance to read non-standard English. This is also the first of a series, which now has dozens of books, so if you really like it, you’ll have reading material for a long time. 

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Author Headshot
Thomas Moore Devlin
Thomas grew up in suburban Massachusetts, and moved to New York City for college. He studied English literature and linguistics at New York University, but spent most of his time in college working for the student paper. Because of this, he has really hard opinions about AP Style. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and getting angry about things on Twitter. He's spent a lot of time trying to learn Spanish, and has learned a little German.
Thomas grew up in suburban Massachusetts, and moved to New York City for college. He studied English literature and linguistics at New York University, but spent most of his time in college working for the student paper. Because of this, he has really hard opinions about AP Style. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and getting angry about things on Twitter. He's spent a lot of time trying to learn Spanish, and has learned a little German.

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