Recommended Books for English Learning

Last Updated on March 9, 2024 by Estrella

This article was originally published on June 23, 2017, and has been updated on March 8, 2024.

My ESL clients often ask for recommendations on how to improve their grammar and vocabulary.  Here are a few books that are available on  The grammar books I recommend are available in most public libraries.

Recommended Grammar Books

Basic Grammar In Use, by Raymond Murphy, and also the intermediate level Grammar In Use Intermediate have answer keys in the back of the book, as well as a CD.  The reason why I like Murphy’s books (Basic level and Intermediate level) is because they offer exercises that satisfy intuitive learners.  They also provide explanations that satisfy learners who want to understand the rules.

The way I would use Murphy’s books is to go directly to the answer key in the back while you are doing the exercises.  Just fill in the blanks with the answer.  Yes, no struggle.  You are just filling in the blanks with the correct answer.  This way, you are learning the pattern intuitively.  You see example after example of a sentence using the correct pattern.

After that, I would go to the page with the explanation.  For intuitive learners, the explanations fall into place more easily AFTER you do the exercises.

One way to solidify your understanding of the pattern is to take one sentence from an exercise and substitute with other subjects and verbs.  This way, you are using the sentence structure, simply changing some of the words.

Now for vocabulary…

Recommended Vocabulary Books

I like The Facts On File Visual Dictionary.  The version I have is by Jean Claude Corbeil.  There are other visual dictionaries by different authors.  You can visit a bookstore and flip through the pages to see which presentation style appeals to you most.  Corbeil’s version shows the vocabulary for each part of an item.  For example, next to the illustration of a microwave are the words hinge, latch, handle, window, oven lamp, door, clock timer, control panel, etc.

When I browsed on Amazon, I also saw the Visual Dictionary in other languages.  Here are a couple:

Merriam-Webster’s Spanish-English Visual Dictionary and Facts on File English-Chinese Visual Dictionary: Look Up the Word from the Picture, Find the Picture from the Word

Since you only get the visuals from the dictionary, if you need to hear the pronunciation of a word, go to Just type the word in the search box, and click on the audio icon to hear the pronunciation.

I hope these recommendations are helpful in your search for effective English learning material.

If you find this blog helpful, here is one on how to improve your mastery of English prepositions on your own.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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