Books for Adult English Learners

What are the best books for adult learners of English who want to get away from the coursebook and read authentic texts? There are so many to choose from that it can be quite bewildering. This list includes books recommended by English teachers and learners. All have been found enjoyable and effective for learning language through literature.

For another fun way to learn, listen to the Enchanted English Podcast, where I share short pieces of poetry or prose written in English, along with commentary about the authors and their work.

Links are to Goodreads. Most books are suitable for intermediate level and up.

Most frequently recommended:
The Giver, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The House on Mango Street

Also often recommended but extremely depressing:
Animal Farm, Heart of Darkness, Lord of the Flies

More lighthearted:
High Fidelity, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Enchanted April, Miss Buncle’s Book

The Old Man and the Sea, The Pearl, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Rebecca,

Business and IT:
Freakonomics, Think and Grow Rich, Press Send, Swiss Watching

The Wind in the Willows, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Long Winter, A Bear Called Paddington, Charlotte’s Web

Holes, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Outsiders

Black Lives Matter
Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Hate U Give, March,

More Diverse Reads
The Village by the Sea, Esperanza Rising, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, A Single Shard, American Born Chinese

Science Fiction and Thriller
Ender’s Game, A Wrinkle in Time, The Martian, The Girl with All the Gifts, Fahrenheit 451

Graphic Memoirs:
El Deafo, Maus, Persepolis, They Called Us Enemy

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Tuesdays with Morrie

Translated from other languages:
The Kite Runner, The Alchemist, The Diary of Anne Frank

Personal favorites:
Betsy-Tacy, Beauty, The Blue Castle, A Wizard of Earthsea, O Pioneers!, Growing Up

More suggestions for advanced readers:
Jane Eyre, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Popular authors many learners enjoy:
Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Janet Evanovich, Jodi Picoult, Sophie Kinsella, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham

With many thanks to all who submitted suggestions, including Samantha Avery, Glenna Barber, Mark Burling, Lynda Britten, Lucy Edwards, Jillaine Farrar, Jessica Garner, Jennifer Jacobs, Rachel Lally, Julie Meraud, Hannah McCullough, Nicole Parker, Lizzie Ross, Carl Snell, and Jane Rebecca Soh.

Want more help with using reading to build your language skills? I offer literature classes and conversation practice on italki. Click on the link to view my profile and get in touch with me.

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