Five books to recommend to ESL students


Reading outside class is a great way for your students to accelerate their language learning, and as teachers we are often asked for book recommendations. If your students are really keen you could even start a book club, and spend the last 10 minutes of class each week discussing the most recent chapter. This guide to our five favourite books for ESL students will give you some inspiration for book recommendations!

Animal Farm by George Orwell 

The most famous political allegory ever written, Animal Farm is a great book for both teens and adults. The language is deceptively simple but the themes are complex; the betrayal of idealism in the name of self-interest, a critique of socialism as embodied by the Soviet Union and man’s appetite for power. Lots of material for class discussion! Students will be able to follow the story as the language is quite straightforward and it’s not too long, meaning they won’t get discouraged at the sight of an enormous book! 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Hadden 

A mystery novel with a 15 year old narrator, this book is suitable for teenagers as well as adults. The story gets going with a murdered dog, and through the narrator’s investigations we learn more about his life, his struggles with communication and his difficulty in interacting with the world around him. Although it’s not stated in the book, the inference is that Christopher, the main character, is autistic. The simple, direct and descriptive language makes this novel a good choice for ESL students. 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling 

This is a great suggestion for students under 35, who will remember Harry Potter from their own childhoods. It’s a good one for  students who are learning English, because even though the language is quite sophisticated for a children’s book, they’ll already be familiar with the main characters and the plot, which will really help them in deducing meaning from context. 

Purple Hibicus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This prize-winning novel deals with themes of domestic violence and religious extremism, so maybe more appropriate for adult readers. It’s a coming of age story, told from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old girl. However, despite the adult themes, the language is very simple and easy to understand. The plot also moves along quickly so your students will stay engaged.

The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl

Better known for his childrens' books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, Roald Dahl was also an accomplished writer of short stories for adults. His stories are sly, humorous tales with dark punchlines, and your students will probably be familiar with Dahl from their own childhood.  A book of short stories doesn’t require the same time commitment as a novel, so they can dip in and out and you can encourage them to read a story a week for class discussion.

What are your favourite books to recommend to students? 

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