The 9 Best Books to Learn English Effectively

Kelsey Wetherbee Published on January 30, 2023
Best books to learn English

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If you are learning English, there are so many resources available that it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. Maybe you’ve already decided that a book is a good choice for you (and you wouldn’t be wrong!). We’ve compiled some of the best books to learn English that can benefit any type of learner. No matter what your level or language goals are, you’re sure to find something that’s a good fit for you.

English has become the lingua franca for international communication. It’s a necessity for business, travel, and even specialized interests like gaming, music, and many more. With 1.425 billion speakers, it has become the most spoken language in the world. Not because it has the most native speakers, but because so many people speak it as a second or third language. Several large corporations that are based outside of an English-speaking country, like Nokia, Renault, and Samsung, have even made English their common corporate language. So whatever your motivation is for learning English, this list of books will definitely help you!

How We Chose and Tested the Best English Books

For any language learning products we’ve tested or researched, we follow a strict testing methodology to make sure our experts make the same considerations. Here are the factors we looked at when specifically testing English learning books:

  • Structure and Topics: We not only considered the layout of the book’s content, but we also wanted to see which topics each book covered and how in-depth and accurate the explanations were.
  • Quality of Content: We read several chapters of each book to gauge the quality of the content, including the example texts, exercises, and explanations. It’s important that each book contained clear and easy-to-understand content.
  • Value for Money: We took the two previous factors and compared them to the price of the book to determine if it offers a good value for the cost. 

Our Top Picks for the Best English Books

Below you’ll find the best books to learn English. Scroll down to learn more about each one.

Best Overall English BookEnglish for Everyone
Best for Self-StudyLearning English as a Foreign Language for Dummies
Best for Advanced English LearnersPractical English Usage
Best for English CollocationsEnglish Collocations in Use
Best for VocabularyThe Vocabulary Builder Workbook
Best for ReadingShort Stories in English for Beginners
Best for WritingESL Intermediate/Advanced Writing
Best for American EnglishAdvanced English Conversation Dialogues
Best for Phrasal Verbs100 Phrasal Verbs to Learn for Life

English for Everyone

Best Overall English Book

English for Everyone is the best overall book to learn English because it’s a comprehensive reference for English learners and uses a lot of visual teaching methods. The book is entirely in English, and the material is presented with pictures, diagrams, and color-coded explanations so the instructions and examples are clear. The main reason I recommend this book is that it comes with a lot of practical “extras,” like audio files that let you hear native speakers and a sentence formation guide that shows you exactly how to craft the perfect English sentence.

The English for Everyone box set includes both the level 1 & 2 coursebook and practice book. If you are a more advanced learner, English for Everyone also has an Intermediate to Advanced box set. The exercises that I think are most helpful are the ones that ask you to find errors in a sentence and correct them. This helps you remember important points that you learned. You can grab your copy of the book here.

Key Benefits

  • You get access to audio files to improve your listening skills
  • The sentence formation guide visually shows you how to build perfect sentences
  • It’s more expensive than some other English books, but it includes a large amount of helpful study materials

Learning English as a Foreign Language for Dummies is an excellent option if you want to self-study English because it focuses on vocabulary and grammar for everyday situations. All the text is written in English, so it’s best if you have already had some exposure to the language. In fact, the first chapter is called “You already know a little English.” I recommend this book to my friends learning English because it includes a lot of topics most other books never discuss, like making phone calls for work and going through security at the airport.

Another aspect that makes this one of the best English books is its section on phrasal verbs (every English learner’s nightmare!). It walks you through what a phrasal verb is, helps you practice them, and shows you a list of some of the most common phrasal verbs, like “get up” and “lay down.” The book doesn’t focus a lot on grammar, but instead focuses on communicating effectively. This makes it the perfect choice for most English learners who want to sound more natural when they speak. You can take a closer look at the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The book teaches you how to navigate different situations that other books ignore
  • The phrasal verb section helps you quickly learn essential phrasal verbs without confusing explanations
  • The text is simple and straightforward to read and doesn’t use unnecessary and difficult vocabulary

Practical English Usage

Best for Advanced English Learners

Practical English Usage is the ultimate English reference book for advanced learners or those preparing for a certification test. I recommend it because it’s organized in two logical sections that are easy to navigate: grammar and vocabulary. Practical English Usage has 87 different diagnostic tests, which are especially if you’re preparing for an English certification exam. These diagnostic tests are designed to help you identify your weaker language skills, and the content of the book helps you immediately start improving them.

There are already a lot of specialized books that help you prepare for specific certifications, like TOEFL and IELTS. The reason I prefer Practical English Usage is because it’s more of a catch-all reference that is helpful for exam preparation as well as general English questions. It’s important to note that this book is a reference though – it’s not an actual course. One aspect of Practical English Usage that makes it stand out is its explanation of the subtleties of English, such as the difference between “also” and “as well” or when it’s more appropriate to use “begin” instead of “start.” You can find more information about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The layout of the book makes it easy to navigate and find answers fast
  • It teaches you how to use vocabulary correctly in different situations, which makes you sound more like a native speaker
  • It’s a comprehensive reference guide that’s useful for exams and general English questions

English Collocations in Use

Best for English Collocations

English Collocations in Use teaches those tricky phrases that native speakers know but can be difficult for English learners. Collocations are words that are often grouped together. Sometimes there is no rule as to why it is said that way, but it just sounds “right,” like “burst into tears.” English Collocations in Use is the best reference to master these phrases and it helps you sound like a native speaker, and that’s exactly why I wanted to include it on this list.

The book has 6 different sections that teach you collocations for different topics, like weather (“a blanket of fog” is my favorite example) and health (like “catching a cold”). Using collocations can significantly improve your English certification exam results too, so this book is also an excellent resource for students preparing for the Cambridge or IELTS exam. I recommend this book because each lesson contains a vocabulary list, an explanation of the collocations, and also a bunch of exercises so you can commit them to memory. You can check out the book here.

Key Benefits

  • This books focuses on one thing (collocations), making it the ultimate go-to reference
  • The exercises help you practice what you learn, which in turn helps you sound like a native speaker
  • The lessons are complete and explain difficult concepts clearly and concisely

The Vocabulary Builder Workbook

Best for Vocabulary

The Vocabulary Builder Workbook made this list because of its unique value proposition: It was created for native English speakers looking to improve their vocabulary for test prep. It’s also the best vocabulary book for ESL students that have reached an advanced level and need to learn new vocabulary for writing or professional purposes. Note that this book offers a lot of value and quality for its price, and it’s one of the cheaper books on this list.

As the title of the book says, it’s a workbook, so there are activities and practice questions to help you learn 1,400 essential English words in a natural context and remember them. My only criticism of this book is its structure. While the lessons themselves are practical and useful, the overall organization of the book is a little disjointed. The pros far outweigh the cons though. It also includes a few extra features that add even more value, like a pronunciation guide and interesting facts about the vocabulary. Learn more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Learn and practice 1,400 vocabulary words, ranging from intermediate to advanced levels
  • The index at the back of the book is comprehensive and helps you locate words quickly
  • Using these words can improve your ACT or SAT scores

Short Stories in English for Beginners

Best for Reading

The last couple of books were more helpful for intermediate and advanced learners, but Short Stories in English for Beginners is the best for English students to start reading. The book includes 8 stories that don’t use difficult language or grammar. I think it’s a top choice for beginners because the stories are entertaining and they are truly for beginners (A1 level). They focus on the most commonly used words and have natural-sounding dialogue so you can see how people speak English in real life.

The aspect I found most helpful was the “Six-Step Reading Process” section near the beginning. This tells you how to read the stories effectively and learn from them. In the following sections, each story has a word list, plot summary, and comprehension questions to check for understanding. I also enjoyed the content of the stories because they’re relatable. For example, in the “Crazy Paella” story, the main characters are students who are nervous about travelling abroad for the first time. I did notice a couple typos in the content, but overall, the content quality is still excellent. You can order your copy of the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The stories use vocabulary and grammar to help beginners become intermediate readers
  • The book focuses on comprehension and includes several exercises after each story
  • You learn how to read specifically for improving English skills – I haven’t seen this in any other book!

ESL Intermediate/Advanced Writing is the best book for improving your English writing skills in general, but also more specifically for the TOEFL exam. In addition to its high-quality lesson materials, I wanted to include it on this list because of another factor: its author. Mary Ellen Muñoz Page is a Bilingual Training Specialist, and it’s clear in her explanations that she offers a unique perspective on improving English writing. For this reason, I recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve their written English skills.

The organization of this book is clear and the topics are useful because they cover a wide range of important writing techniques. Some noteworthy ones include embedded questions, parallel structures, and thesis statements. I was happily surprised to see the author included information about different styles of writing, too. For example, she discusses how to write different types of essays (narrative, descriptive, comparison, persuasive, and more). Other English writing books I reviewed didn’t include this level of detail. You can take a closer look and see if this book is right for you here.

Key Benefits

  • Clear sections help you improve grammar, style, and different writing techniques
  • Practical exercises allow you to fine-tune your skills and master difficult concepts
  • It focuses on the TOEFL writing section and walks you through how to improve your score

Advanced English Conversation Dialogues

Best for American English

Advanced English Conversation Dialogues made our list of the best English books because of its focus on idioms, specifically in American English. The content follows more of a free-flowing structure, and it’s important to note that this book doesn’t teach grammar. I recommend it as a supplemental resource for intermediate and advanced English students. Each section has a dialogue that uses common American expressions and a couple exercises to help you practice using them. As an American, I can vouch that the expressions really are commonly used, too!

Some of my favorites from the book are “the elephant in the room,” “let the cat out of the bag,” and “biting the bullet.” One characteristic I particularly applaud is how direct it is. This book doesn’t waste your time. The author quickly introduces the idiom in an entertaining and engaging way, and then immediately guides you to practice using it. There’s no unnecessary fluff! To start mastering American idioms, you can find the book here.

Key Benefits

  • You’ll begin to use common American expressions naturally
  • The style and layout of the book makes learning the idioms fun and efficient
  • The practice activities are genuinely helpful and easy to follow

100 Phrasal Verbs to Learn for Life

Best for Phrasal Verbs

Whether you love them or hate them, there’s no denying that phrasal verbs are a necessary part of learning English. How else can you naturally say “turn on” a light? If your main goal is clear communication and you’re not focused on understanding the grammatical aspect of phrasal verbs, this book is the best option for you. 100 Phrasal Verbs to Learn for Life teaches the most frequently used verbs so you don’t waste your time memorizing thousands of low-frequency words. The structure of the book also makes it an excellent and quick reference guide because each phrasal verb is easy to find.

The phrasal verbs are grouped by topic to make it easier to remember them. Each one has an average of 15 example sentences taken from authentic English material. There are also practice exercises available in the book and online to reinforce what you learn. The one aspect of this book that I don’t particularly like is the price. It’s a little on the expensive side since it only includes 100 phrasal verbs. However, I still wanted to include it on this list because phrasal verbs are a hot topic for all English learners. You can see more details about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Learn the most common phrasal verbs by reading natural example sentences
  • The practice quizzes help you remember different phrasal verbs correctly
  • The clear-cut layout of the book makes it easy to jump around and find the information you need quickly

Other English Learning Books We Researched

While we’ve tested the books on this list, we also reviewed many more. Here are a couple more English books that didn’t make our top picks:

  • Why Do We Say That?: This book teaches you the history of 101 different English idioms. While this could be an interesting topic, it’s not particularly helpful for people who want to improve their English skills.
  • Learn English for Adult Beginners: The content of this book is actually pretty decent and includes vocabulary, grammar, and reading practice with short stories. However, it claims to help you speak English in 30 days, and that is misleading.
  • English the American Way: Overall, this book is useful for students looking to study in the United States. While it’s a decent resource, some of the content, especially the expressions and sayings, are out of date.

Why You Should Use Books To Learn English

Books are one of the best ways to learn English because they are convenient and budget-friendly. Instead of paying for a monthly subscription, you can use a book for life. And since they don’t require technology, you can take a book and study anywhere. Books are more comprehensive than other ways to study and provide detailed explanations and examples. And now there are many options for self-study so you can learn without a teacher.

How To Use Books To Learn English

To ensure progress, one of the most effective ways to learn English is to study using a book on a regular basis. You should create a language learning plan and aim to stick to it by scheduling study sessions multiple times during the week, or better yet, every day. This will enable you to learn and retain information more easily.

It’s also a good idea to use other study methods in addition to books, such as an English language app or an online course. Books are a useful tool for learning vocabulary and grammar, but an app or course might help you improve your speaking and listening more.

Best Books To Learn English: Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a great book to learn English, there are plenty of options available. Depending on your goals and learning style, you can find books that focus on grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, or even cultural insights about the language. Before buying any book, be sure to read online reviews from other users – this will help you decide if it’s the right fit for your needs. With the right book in hand, you’ll be well on your way to mastering English faster than ever!

Best Books To Learn English: FAQ

What is the best way to learn English as a second language?

The best way to learn English as a second language depends on how you learn most effectively and the reasons why you are learning the language. If you want a fun and engaging way, an app like Rocket English or Babbel can help you learn. But if you want to dive deeper into the language, a comprehensive textbook or online classes with an English teacher are more effective.

Which book is best to learn English?

English for Everyone is an excellent book to help learners of any level improve their English. The book is entirely in English, but the material is presented with pictures, diagrams, and color-coded explanations so the instructions and examples are clear. The book has easy-to-follow units, along with a practice book to reinforce what you learn.

Which book should I use as an English beginner?

Learning English as a Foreign Language for Dummies is a useful choice for beginners who want to self-study the language. Each chapter of the book teaches English vocabulary and grammar to help you navigate everyday situations. There are also pronunciation tips available as well as useful phrases, and more.

Can I improve my English just by reading books?

You can improve your English by reading books. What book you read depends on your level. Beginners can benefit from using a guided self-study textbook that includes explanations, tips, and practice exercises. Once you reach an intermediate or advanced level, you can read stories or non-fiction from English authors to develop stronger reading and writing skills.

Is 3 months enough to learn English?

Realistically, in 3 months you can reach a basic conversational level of English. But it’s not enough time to become fluent. To reach an intermediate or advanced level, you need much more time to practice, both individually and conversationally.

Kelsey Wetherbee

Kelsey is the Content Manager and Editor of Langoly. She is a TEFL-certified English teacher with more than eight years of classroom experience in three different countries. She’s an avid language learner with an advanced level of Spanish and is currently studying French. Whenever possible, she loves to travel and enjoys meeting people from all over the world. Connect with Kelsey on LinkedIn.

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