Reading is a great way to practice your English skills, learn new vocabulary, and connect with new cultures. But with millions of English books out there, knowing where to begin can be difficult. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of books for readers of every level and interest.
Choose your level, ranging from beginning to expert. Beginning books are great for students who are just starting to read in English. Intermediate books are ideal for students who are comfortable reading sentences and ready to move on to longer works. For English learners who are comfortable with reading and eager to practice with engaging stories, advanced books are a great fit. Expert books are difficult, even for native speakers, and can be a great way to expand your English vocabulary.
In addition to novels, we have also provided recommendations for books of poetry and graphic novels. Poems are much shorter than books, making them easy to read independently or as part of a longer collection. Graphic novels are a great way to begin reading in English, as the illustrations can help guide your understanding of the story.
Within each category, there is a classic, fun, and challenging pick. Classic picks are some of the most well-known books in each category, often read in classrooms across English-speaking countries. Fun books are focused on their engaging plots and are often more appealing to young readers. Challenging books have more complex themes and advanced writing, making them a great choice for those who feel comfortable within their category and want to explore more difficult books.
If you’re not sure which pick is right for you, read the quote from each story to get an idea of its level and style. When picking up a new book, the most important thing is that you are excited to read it. With a great book, practicing English can be a treat!
Picture books are a great way to begin reading in English. They tend to be written simply, with a clear meaning. Plus, the pictures can help you understand difficult sentences.
Classic: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
“One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry Caterpillar”
Eric Carle is a very well-known children’s book author and illustrator. His books are famous for their beautiful paper collage pictures. His most popular book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which follows the journey of a caterpillar as it prepares to become a butterfly. The repetition of grammar structures in this book makes it easy to understand. It also features useful vocabulary words for food and nature.
Fun: Hair Love by Matthew Cherry and Vashti Harrison
“My name is Zuri, and I have hair that has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.”
Hair Love is a book written by Matthew Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. It is the book adaptation for the short film of the same name, which won the Oscar for best animated short film in 2019. The book follows a young girl named Zuri as she and her father try to find the perfect hairstyle for a special day. Zuri’s lively narration and the beautiful illustrations make this book a fun way to practice English.
Challenging: Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
“Frog said, ‘I wrote ‘Dear Toad, I am glad that you are my best friend. Your best friend, Frog.’’ ‘Oh,’ said Toad, ‘that makes a very good letter.’”
Frog and Toad are Friends is the first of four books in the Frog and Toad series, all written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Each book has five short stories, which follow the lives of two animal companions named Frog and Toad. These books feature longer stories, but they still have repetition and clear vocabulary, which makes them easy to understand.
There are many early chapter books that are great for English learners. These books have complex plots but are told with relatively simple vocabulary and grammar. Their exciting stories can help English learners stay interested as they practice reading.
Classic: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
“‘The waterfall is most important!’ Mr Wonka went on. ‘It mixes the chocolate! It churns it up! It pounds it and beats it! It makes it light and frothy! No other factory in the world mixes its chocolate by waterfall!’”
Roald Dahl is a very famous children’s book author. His stories often feature a dark, yet humorous mood, young children as main characters, and themes of kindness. His most famous book is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has inspired several movie adaptations. The book follows a young boy named Charlie, who has the chance to tour Willy Wonka’s incredible chocolate factory.
Fun: The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne
“It could take them to the places in the books. All they had to do was to point to a picture and wish to be there.”
The Magic Tree House is a series of children’s books by Mary Pope Osborne. The series follows siblings Jack and Annie as they go on adventures through time with the help of their magic treehouse. There are over 50 Magic Tree House books, many of which have non-fiction companions. The books vary in difficulty, length, and setting, so there are options for every English learner.
Challenging: Holes by Louis Sachar
“When you spend your whole life living in a hole,” he said, “the only way you can go is up.”
Holes is a novel by famous children’s book author Louis Sachar. The story centers on a teenaged boy named Stanley, who gets sent to a corrupt juvenile detention center after being falsely accused of stealing. While it is mostly realistic, there are some magical elements that enhance the story. This book contains some complex themes and ideas, but its exciting plot has made it a favorite of many readers.
Advanced English books are among the most exciting novels in English. These books often have unique and touching stories, designed to make you eager to keep reading. While advanced books use more complex vocabulary and grammar structures, they are still written to be easily understood and enjoyed.
Classic: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
“I like to tell stories. I am going to tell you a story about a girl who didn’t want to belong.”
The House on Mango Street is the most famous book by author Sandra Cisneros. It follows a Mexican American girl named Esperanza as she grows up in Chicago’s Latino neighborhood. As Esperanza grows, the book explores mature themes like racism and sexuality. This elegantly written coming of age story has captured the hearts of many readers, making it a classic.
Fun: The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan
“I’d love to tell you I had some deep revelation on my way down, that I came to terms with my own mortality, laughed in the face of death, et cetera.
The truth? My only thought was: Aaaaggghhhhh!”
Rick Riordan is one of the most popular children’s book authors of today. His books often mesh modern stories with mythology and magic. The Percy Jackson series is his most famous work. The series follows a teenaged boy named Percy, who discovers that he is the son of a Greek God. The witty tone, magical world, and nonstop action of these books have made them a favorite of millions of readers.
Challenging: The Giver by Lois Lowry
“Even trained for years as they all had been in precision of language, what words could you use which would give another the experience of sunshine?”
The Giver is the first installment in the Giver Quartet by well-known author Lois Lowry. The book follows Jonas, a boy who lives in a future society without pain and suffering. Each book in the series takes place in a different society in this strange future. The unique setting and mysterious plot of this book can make it hard to understand, but many readers find themselves unable to put the book down as the layers of secrets are peeled away.
Expert books in English are read by many teens and adults. With their intricate structure and sophisticated vocabulary comes mature themes, so young readers should have caution with these books. For those who are ready for a challenge, reading expert level books can help you understand English-speaking societies and cultural phenomena.
Classic: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet is a play by William Shakespeare, who is often considered the greatest English author of all time. The play follows two lovers who are from rival families, a plot that has inspired many similar stories. Shakespeare wrote over 400 years ago, so the language he uses can be difficult for modern English speakers to understand. Luckily, there are many resources, like the No Fear Shakespeare line of books, that translate these texts into modern English.
Fun: The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
“Only I keep wishing I could think of a way…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.”
The Hunger Games Series is a very popular book series by young adult fiction author Suzanne Collins. It follows a teenage girl named Katniss, who lives in a dystopian future where children must fight one another for the entertainment of the rich. This series is very popular with people of all ages, thanks to its page-turning plot and insightful commentary on injustice. The movie version of this series is very popular as well, but just like the common phrase says, the book is always better.
Challenging: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
“A little black girl yearns for the blue eyes of a little white girl, and the horror at the heart of her yearning is exceeded only by the evil of fulfillment.”
Toni Morrison is considered one of the greatest contemporary English authors, and even won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Her books are famous for their vivid descriptions, complex structure, and poignant commentary on the African American experience. The Bluest Eye is her first book, and it follows Pecola, a young African-American girl who wishes for blue eyes as she grows up during the Great Depression. Though Morrison’s books deal with heavy topics and can be difficult to understand, they are an incredibly important part of American literature.
Poetry is a crucial aspect of English literature. Poems play with language, sound, and metaphors to express feelings and ideas to the reader. Poetry can be especially challenging when learning English because it often manipulates the meaning of words and grammar structures. However, poetry also offers an opportunity to understand these aspects of the English language even more deeply.
Classic: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
“Not in a box. Not with a fox.
Not in a house. Not with a mouse.
I would not eat them here or there.
I would not eat them anywhere.
I would not eat green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.”
Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known children’s authors in the world. His books use poetic devices like rhyme and meter to create a flowing rhythm. One of his most famous books is Green Eggs and Ham, which explores themes of bias through its simple plot. The made up words that Dr. Seuss often uses can make his books slightly confusing, but overall they are a great introduction to poetry in English.
Fun: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long,
‘I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
or wise man can decide
what’s right for you – just listen to
the voice that speaks inside.”
Where the Sidewalk Ends is a famous children’s poetry book written by Shel Silverstein. The tone of the book ranges from silly to insightful, with an overarching theme of independent thinking. The poems in this book are simple, playful, and thoughtful, making them a great introduction to poetry in English.
Challenging: Spring and All by William Carlos Williams
“The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
William Carlos Williams is a renowned Puerto Rican American poet. Spring and All is a collection of his poetry and prose writings, including his most famous poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.” Williams’s poems are often very short and simple but contain many levels of meaning. You can read many of his most famous poems, including guides to help you understand them, for free on websites like Poetry Foundation.
Graphic novels are long works that tell a story with the aid of pictures and comics. Their illustrations can help English learners understand and stay engaged with the plot. While picture books are often written with children in mind, graphic novels can be written for any age and reading level.
Classic: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
“If you’ve ever wondered where your dreams come from when you go to sleep at night, just look around. This is where they are made.”
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, written and illustrated by Brian Selznick, is a very unique book that is told through a combination of sketches and prose writing. The illustrations and words are separate, making it a good bridge between graphic novels and traditional books. The story follows a young thief named Hugo, who lives within the walls of a Paris train station and has a talent for mechanics. The energetic illustrations and intricate plot of this book make it an exciting read.
Fun: Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón
“So this was about you saving somebody, huh? Yeah, well, let me ask you something, Super Hero… Who’s gonna save you?”
The Miles Morales: Spider-Man series, written by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón is the most recent line of comics featuring Miles Morales as Spider-Man. Miles is a Black and Puerto Rican teenager who has to balance his friends, family, and superhero responsibilities. Superhero stories are the most famous kind of American comics, and this series gives the genre modern life.
Challenging: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
“I want to be justice, love and the wrath of God all in one.”
Persepolis is a series of graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi that chronicles her childhood and adolescence in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The story follows Satrapi as she grows older and contends with the changing reality of her home country. This series does not shy away from showing the more graphic aspects of Satrapi’s childhood, so younger readers should take caution. Persepolis is a great choice for English learners who want to engage with mature content and moving illustrations.