7 Best Books for ESL (English as Secondary Language): Improve Your Vocabulary

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English is one of the toughest languages to learn.  And with countless ESL books on the market, it can be a bit tricky finding the ones that will benefit you the most.  Don’t worry though, I’m here to help you out, and in the list below you’ll learn about 7 of the best ESL books available.

1)  English the American Way: A Fun ESL Guide to Language & Culture in the U.S. by Sheila MacKechnie Murtha and Jane Airey O’Connor

If you’re looking for a companion to help you improve your vocabulary, English the American Way is an easy-to-use, engaging book that utilizes important aspects of American culture such as dining out, buying a home, making friends, going to a job interview, getting around, dealing with an emergency, and a whole lot more.  

The book, written by ESL experts, Sheila MacKechnie Murtha and Jane Airey O’Connor, teaches readers the essential vocabulary they’ll need to know while also giving them often used phrases, silly idioms, and dialogue samples that mimic common conversations in day-to-day American life.  Also included are quizzes, sentence completion exercises, and a variety of useful tips.

2)  Word Power Made Easy: The Complete Handbook for Building a Superior Vocabulary by Norman Lewis

A proven classic, Word Power Made Easy is an incredibly effective vocabulary builder.  It offers simple steps to improve your vocabulary and overall proficiency of the English language.  Broken into thematic units such as “How To Talk Precisely About Science and Medicine” and “How To Flatter Friends and Insult Enemies”, the book employs the strategy of expanding your knowledge as a way to build your vocabulary.  

Additional methods offered in the book involve phonetic pronunciations, tips to avoid commonly made spelling errors, and it even provides sections that discuss which classic grammatical rules can be ignored and which ones are still valid.  The book is also full of progress checks, useful reviews and quizzes.  First published over 50 years ago, Word Power Made Easy is a tremendous book that has assisted millions of ESL readers in speaking with a higher level of sophistication and improving their vocabulary.

3)  English Made Easy by Jonathan Crichton and Pieter Koster

Revolutionizing English learning, English Made Easy demonstrates how text and images can be imaginatively linked together to help ESL readers learn more effectively.  And while you might be looking for some different books to read this summer, English Made Easy offers its readers an easy way to enhance their grammar and vocabulary while integrating what’s being learned into a wide range of real-world situations.  

ESL learners will love how English Made Easy helps them progress from section to section, implementing text and pictures to allow readers to figure out for themselves how the language works.  Pictures are used in a way that is based on a deep comprehension of how language is absorbed while the authors are English language instructors with heavy experience in language learning and analysis.  

The books itself is broken into 20 units, with each unit being placed in a group of 5.  Thus, in a given group, the first 4 units demonstrate aspects of the English language while providing readers many opportunities to practice what they are learning.  Once a reader reaches the end of a unit, a story using the language that had been taught in the unit is presented.  The final unit of a group gives the reader a chance to reinforce what they’ve just learned by participating in a variety of exercises.  

4)  Practice Make Perfect: English Vocabulary For Beginning ESL Learners by Ed Swick

By allowing readers the opportunity to develop their skills in word-building while also giving them the chance to analyze and discover new words, Practice Makes Perfect is an excellent ESL book for expanding a reader’s vocabulary.  Every chapter concentrates on a particular theme such as ‘travel’ or ‘family’, allowing readers to develop their language skills systematically.  The great thing being that as readers build a foundation that allows for a growing vocabulary, they’re also given the chance to apply those words with a wide variety of exercises to help raise their confidence level when speaking in English.

Included in Practice Makes Perfect are:

  • Over 220 exercises
  • Concise, clear grammatical explanations
  • A newly added section for contemporary vocabulary
  • An answer section so reader can check their progress

5)  Say It Better In English by Marianna Pascal

An ESL book designed for self-study, Say It Better In English will improve your ability to  communicate in English at parties, during work, on the phone, the grocery store or just about anywhere else you converse in every-day American life.  Implementing the new method of teaching phrases one at a time, you can study for as much or little as you want, even if it’s just two minutes a day.  

Included in Say It Better in English are:

  • Over 300 commonly used day-to-day phrases
  • Cartoons that visualize for you how the phrases work in real-life situations
  • Plenty of entertaining examples the will help what you’re learning sink in
  • Exercises that gauge how well you’re learning the material

6) Practical English Usage by Michael Swan

Not a strict grammar book, Practical English Usage presents the English language in a way that reflects its modern usage.  It’s a book that’s recommended for teachers, writers, and ESL students who don’t want to be taught to speak like English robots, but rather learn in a way that can be used in a practical, every-day manner.  The book offers and examines the way grammar is used in standard form business letters, newspaper headlines, and even the way people use grammar to text.  

7)  Oxford Picture Dictionary Book (2nd Edition) by Jamie Adelson and Norma Shapiro

An amazing compilation of scenarios and images that focus on enhancing a beginning ESL learner’s vocabulary, the Oxford Picture Dictionary contains 12 vocabulary sections that range from health and community to everyday language.   As readers progress through the book, they’ll be presented with over 4,000 words incorporated into interesting scenarios found in day-to-day life.  

The methodology used in the Oxford Picture Dictionary is totally rooted in vocabulary, and although it’s a book for ESL beginners, there are in fact 2 more books in the Oxford series designed to help those at the high-elementary/low-intermediate vocabulary level.

Written by: Ethan Dunwill