best books for English learners

17 Best books for English learners

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In this blog post I will tell you about the 17 best books for English learners. I will talk with you about graded readers and why they are really good for English learners, as well as giving you some recommendations.

(You’ll find a short vocabulary list at the bottom of this article containing the underlined words. If there are any other words you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask).

what is a graded reader?

General information about graded readers

Graded readers (or also just called readers) are books or e-books which have been adopted for language learners. The reading materials are graded from starter to upper-intermediate to help the learner choose the right book for their level. The higher the level of the book, the more advanced the learner should be.

How does it improve my language?

Graded readers will help you with improving your vocabulary, because some of the words and phrases are explained with synonyms. Additionally, the grammar fits the level of the student. This makes it easier for you to understand the book.

Different types of books

Some of the graded readers are contemporary or classic books, which have been changed a little so that they are easier to understand for language learners. Other readers are original texts, so there is a variety of different types of graded readers to choose from.

How Do I start with a graded reader?

Choosing your book

You can use graded readers however you would like. You can choose them according to the genre you would like to read. Alternatively, you can choose a series of books because of the different additional material they provide for example additional material like a CD or an MP3.

Choose your level

Once you have chosen the book you would like, you should choose the CEFR (Common European Framework) level. Most of the publishers use the CEFR level as well as their own grading system. Read carefully what each publisher writes about the way they grade the books. It is important to know that every publisher uses slightly different grades.

Publishers’ grading systems

For example MacMillan uses starters till advanced while Oxford University Press uses level 1 – 6. On some of the publishers pages you will find placement tests to find out the level you should buy. You will find links to the publishers websites at the bottom of the post.

My recommendation

I would recommend you choose a reader a bit higher than your current level. For example, if you are level A2, then try reading something, which is level B1. This way you are likely to understand most of the book, but also have a bit of a challenge to get you further in your learning process.

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How can i use a graded reader?

1. Improve reading comprehension

Reading alone already helps with reading comprehension. One big advantage of graded readers, are that most of them even include exercises. Doing the exercises from the books will help with your reading comprehension even more..

2. Improve your listening skills

Often you can buy a set together with an audio book version. Listening to the audiobook will help improve your listening skills. It will also help you to get the right pronunciation of words.

3. Speak like a native

With the help of the graded reader, you can also become more fluent in speaking. I would recommend to first listen to the graded reader audiobook and then try and act out different scenes from it. You should do this with your friends, because it is more fun.

4. Improve your vocabulary

With the help of the graded readers, you can take your vocabulary to the next level. You will no longer be using basic words and phrases, but vocabulary that is more advanced. This will also have a positive effect on your speaking and writing skills as well.

graded reader pin image

Now let’s look at the 17 best books for English learners. They are from different genres.

Best fantasy / Sci-Fi books

#1: Noughts and Crosses*; Level A2

This book is about people who are noughts and crosses. In this world, they cannot be friends, though. Can Sephy and Callum become friends? Or will they stay as enemies?

#2: 1984*; Level B1

The government controls everything and every move you make. Is there anything in Winston Smith’s life that isn’t controlled by the government? Is love, perhaps, not controlled by the Party?

#3: The Prisoner of Zenda*; Level B2

Rudolf travels to Ruritania for the king’s coronation. By chance he sees the king before. They realise they look exactly the same. Who will become king? And who becomes the Prisoner of Zenda?

#4: Brave New World*; Level C1

This great work of science fiction is set in the New World, where there is happiness and order. However, when a man called John arrives from the Savage Reservation, things change. Can the New World survive? Or will strong emotions like love, hate and anger take over the New World?

Best Autobiographies / biographies

#1: Martin Luther King*; Level A2

This biography, written by Coleen Degnan-Veness, follows Martin Luther King’s life and asks whether the dreams he had in the 1950s and 1960s have become reality or not.

#2: Teacher Man*; Level B1

The autobiography of Frank McCourt, an Irish immigrant in the USA, follows his life as a teacher in New York. Will he become a success with his new class? Or will he fail? Can he use his life experiences to inspire his students to not bored, confused or angry?

Best Crime Books

#1: Project Omega*; Level A2

When the richest man in New York disappears, his daughter wants to find him. Does her father’s company, who want power and money, know he is? Can she save him? And what is Project Omega?

#2: The Client*; Level B1

An eleven year old knows a secret: where a body is hidden. This secret is too dangerous to tell, but also too dangerous not to tell. What should he do? He needs help and quickly!

#3: The Partner Book*; Level B2

When Patrick Lanigan, a lawyer, apparently dies, his partners search for him. Is Mr Lanigan really dead? Or is he alive? And why does someone have 90 million dollars of Lanigan’s partners’ money?

Best classic Books

#1: A Mid Summer Night’s Dream*; Level A2

This classic play written by William Shakespeare follows four people into a forest. Here, fairies follow them and turn them against each other playing tricks like turning love to hate and hate to love. Will the friendship of the four people survive?

#2: Othello*; Level B1

Othello is a man whose life is sweet. Everything is going for well him. He does not know that his flag-bearer hates him and wants revenge. Will Othello survive?

#3: Little Dorrit*; Level B2

Arthur is back in England after travelling. His mother is how she always was: cold and hard. The death of his father has created a mystery that Arthur wants to solve as quickly as possible.

#4: Crime and Punishment*; Level C1

After Rasolnikoff drops out of university because of the lack of money, he becomes destitute. He decides to a moneylender. Will the murder help his situation? Or will it just be the beginning of the story?

Best Horror Books

#1: Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde*; Level A2

Why is Dr Jekyll, an nice, ordinary man friends with the evil Mr Hyde? And who has more power? After a murder, everyone is looking Mr Hyde. Is he really dead? If not, where is he?

#2: The Picture of Dorian Gray*; Level B1

Dorian Gray is a young, handsome man. An artist decides to paint his picture. Gray makes a wish. Over the years, Gray stays young, but the portrait grows older. But why won’t Gray show his friends the portrait? What is he hiding?

#3: The Hound of the Baskervilles*; Level B2

Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead outside Baskerville Hall. Many others from the family are also dead. Why are they dying? And can Sherlock Holmes stop another murder happening?

#4: The Woman in White*; Level C1

Only a mysterious woman in white knows the truth of Laura Fairlie’s husband. Can Walter Hartwright find out the secret? The lives and futures of Walter and Laura are linked together after they meet the Woman in White.

Why are these the 17 best books for English learners?

All of these graded readers have something that keeps you interested in reading for example, suspense, love, hatred or horror. Furthermore, the exercises as well as the vocabulary and grammar will take your English to the next level.

Where Can I Find more graded readers?

Other than Amazon and other book shops, you can find graded readers from the publishers. Here you find links


Oxford University Press


All of these websites have a different way of grading the books. It is important that you follow the guide I gave you the beginning of the post.

Here you can even find free e-books. but be aware, the website is not secure.

Now, let me know the comments which of the 17 best books for English learners you read and what you learnt.

one more thing…

If you would like to improve your English even more and learn to sound like a Brit, download the free guide below. You will also receive my weekly newsletter full of English learning tips.

Vocabulary list for 17 best books.

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