Ten Great Books for English Learners

Published on
September 28, 2022
Updated on
November 15, 2022
min read
This article may contain affiliate links
Written by
Emile Dodds

Reading is a great habit for many reasons, and one of them is learning English! With a good book, you can escape into a whole new world and improve your vocabulary at the same time. Here are our ten top recommended books for English learners.

Ten Great Books for English Learners
Table of contents

Reading is a great way to learn English for many reasons:

  • You can do it anytime, anywhere.
  • You can do it at your own pace.
  • You’ll learn lots of new vocabulary.
  • It’s fun!
  • It’s easy to get books (especially ebooks).
  • Language has a cultural element which you can discover through reading.

I could list many more reasons, but in this article I would like to address one problem with reading to improve English: there are so many books out there… which one do you choose?

Some books might be boring, even if they get good reviews. Some books might have language that is too difficult. Some books might simply be too long.

Books can be expensive. The last thing you want to do is buy one which is not suitable for you.

Luckily, I can help! I’m a lifelong reader (or a “bookworm”). My mum used to take me to the library when I was five and I’ve been reading books ever since.

I’m also an English teacher, so let me choose some of my favourite books that I feel happy recommending to learners.

Some tips for choosing great reads

Before I reveal my list, let’s look at some general tips for English learners choosing books.

It might be tempting to choose children’s books, since these should be easier to understand. In fact, some children’s books are NOT easier to understand.

One thing that you may find hard is specific action verbs (like trudge, sling, growl or shrug). These are very common in storytelling, but not everyday speech. They are used just as frequently in children’s writing.

There is a genre of writing in English called Young Adult fiction. It’s for teens, not kids. I recommend choosing titles from this genre, if you feel you’re not ready for adult fiction.

There are also graded readers for English learners. These are stories that have been simplified (‘graded’) to be suitable for certain levels of English. Graded readers are great! But they are not what we are looking at today.

When choosing an adult book, avoid writers that use lengthy descriptions, such as five paragraphs describing a tree!

Here is an example from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Here, she describes the view from her window:

“Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.”

You will usually find this style of writing in older books, such as novels by Charles Dickens. If in doubt, skim through the book and see if there are long sentences and long paragraphs. These indicate this style of writing.

What about ebooks?

I am personally a big fan of ebooks. I filled up the bookshelves in my house a long time ago, but I have an even larger collection of ebooks.

While they may not be to everyone’s taste, ebooks have many advantages:

  • On sites like Amazon Kindle Store or Google Play Books, you can find pretty much any book (including all the recommendations below).
  • You can highlight words, copy words and phrases to paste to your vocabulary list, set bookmarks and even look up meanings of words.
  • Ebooks are easy to carry around on your tablet or phone.

If you really love ebooks, I would recommend getting a 7-inch tablet just for reading. It’s bigger than a phone but smaller than a full-sized tablet. This screen size is comfortable to read on while the device is still easily portable. It’s the way I personally like to read.

My top ten books for English learners

Here is my list and I am sure that you will find at least one great title on here that is suitable for you.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

This is a book full of very short stories - many are just two or three pages - meant to warm your heart.

The stories cover all kinds of topics, making it great for vocabulary expansion, and are mostly written in straightforward language (they are all written by different people).

The short length of each story means you won’t lose track of the story plot and this book is great for people who just want to spend 10 minutes or so on reading.

Best of all, it’s part of a series, so if you like it, you can try the others in the series, too. 

Level: intermediate

Genre: non-fiction

Length: 384 pages

Buy it here.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

If you are interested in historical events, the diary of Anne Frank is a must-read. It is the true story of a young Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis in World War 2… in her own words. Sadly, it documents her young life right up to the time when she disappeared and was almost certainly killed.

Because it was written by a teenager, the language is quite easy to understand. It is one of the most famous books of all time and you may even have read it at school, in your own language.

Level: intermediate

Genre: non-fiction

Length: 400 pages

Buy it here.

Animal Farm

At first sight, Animal Farm seems to be a children’s book about talking animals on a farm. But don’t be deceived, this story is not for kids. I read it in English class at school and I still remember it well.

It’s really about politics, revolution and the struggle to achieve equality. One of the famous slogans from the book is all animals are equal… but some animals are more equal than others.

Although not for kids, the author, George Orwell, adopts a simple style of writing suited to the look and feel of the story as a children’s book. This makes it suitable for English learners.

Another fun fact is that we recently did a "book club on Animal Farm".

Level: intermediate

Genre: classic fiction

Length: 140 pages

Buy it here.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This is one of these books that is “suitable for all ages”. I first read it when I was ten and found myself captivated by the story. Charlie wins a “golden ticket” and gets to meet the weird and wonderful Willy Wonka and tour his chocolate factory. You may have seen the movie starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka.

By the way, if you have seen the movie, that’s a good thing! It means that you won’t lose track of the story when you read the book.

“Charlie” is a great book for English learners because the story is easy to follow, and it’s a lot of fun for all ages!

Level: intermediate

Genre: classic fiction

Length: 155 pages

Buy it here.

Harry Potter

I guess that you already know about Harry Potter. Perhaps you have even listened to our episode on JK Rowling & The Battle To Publish Harry Potter or even The Magical Legacy of Harry Potter.

There are seven books in total in the series by J.K. Rowling about a boy wizard and his adventures. Again, these are stories for all ages.

I recommend these books if you are a hardcore reader. Some novels in the series are long and require some time to read. If you have previously read them in your own language or watched the movies, why not try them in their original English?

The first in the series is called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Level: intermediate+

Genre: young adult fiction

Length: 224 pages

Buy it here.

Klara and the Sun

I wanted to add one lesser known book to the list and this is it. It may be lesser known, but it was still a bestseller and even won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Klara and the Sun is a touching and beautiful story about a “robot companion” who dreams of being adopted by a loving family. When Klara does finally get adopted, her life is very different to what she expected.

Author Kazuo Ishiguro, an English novelist, challenges us to believe that a robot could be more human than us.

The story is narrated by the robot in simple English to capture her simple way of seeing the world. This makes this novel easy to read for English learners.

Level: intermediate

Genre: modern fiction

Length: 418 pages

Buy it here.


If heartwarming stories are not for you, then how about a scary tale about a killer car?

Stephen King’s horror stories are popular even with people like me who don’t usually read horror. He’s famous for his realistic dialogue and interesting characters.

King has written sixty-four novels in all! I recommend Christine because it’s not too scary and because it’s a simple story. The plot follows an unpopular high school student who suddenly changes his personality after buying an old car - Christine.

Level: intermediate

Genre: fiction, horror

Length: 656 pages

Buy it here.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Let me recommend a great non-fiction book. Have you ever wanted an easy guide to understanding the opposite sex? “Men Are from Mars” discusses the differences between men and women.

I learned a lot from reading this book and it had some very interesting perspectives on the difference between the sexes. In fact, I got married only a couple of years after reading it, so it seemed to work!

This book is written in simple, straightforward language and it might even change your life!

Level: intermediate

Genre: non-fiction, self-help

Length: 386 pages

Buy it here.

Who Moved My Cheese?

Next, I’d like to recommend something for those who are interested in business: Who Moved My Cheese? This book was incredibly popular when first released in 1998.

As the title suggests, this is a funny book that aims to help you deal with change at the workplace. Like many of the books I recommend, it is short and the language is straightforward.

Like Animal Farm, this story is an analogy. It gives business advice through a story of two mice who live in a maze.

Level: intermediate

Genre: non-fiction, business

Length: 95 pages

Buy it here.

The Sandman

My final recommendation is a little different. It’s not a normal book, but a graphic novel. (A graphic novel is a story in comic form, usually aimed at adult readers.)

The Sandman tells a fantasy story about Morpheus, the King of Dreams, who is also known as The Sandman. Morpheus can travel between worlds - the dreamworld and our world - and has weird and fantastic adventures.

The story is perhaps a little bit more difficult to understand than the other books I have recommended. However, it is a graphic novel and the artwork should help you to understand.

The Sandman has recently been made into a Netflix series. Why not read AND watch it?

Level: intermediate-advanced

Genre: graphic novel

Length: 560 pages

Buy it here.

You can become a reader!

You may have tried reading an English book in the past and found it too difficult to finish. Perhaps there were too many unknown words and so it was not enjoyable.

I would like to encourage you to try again using one of the books I recommended today. Maybe your English has improved since the last attempt and it will be easier this time.

Novels contain a lot of words - especially action verbs - which may be new to you, but if you keep going, it will become easier and easier. And once you finish one book in English, you’ll be keen to start another.

Soon, you will pick up the reading habit, just like I did!

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