Grammar and vocabulary are the building blocks of language. Both factors play an important role in clear and concise communication. Without a strong understanding of the rules that govern language, you’ll struggle to communicate clearly with others, and without an extensive mental dictionary, you’ll find it impossible to convey what you mean.
English lessons are great for learning the foundations of grammar and developing your vocab, but reading is a fantastic way to see these principles in action beyond the classroom. There’s no need to limit your reading list to practical textbooks; the key is to read as widely as possible – from non-fiction guides to fantasy stories.
Here are the 10 best books to improve your English vocabulary and grammar.
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Lester Kaufman and Jane Straus
It contains detailed examples, exercises and quizzes covering all of the fundamental pillars of English, so you can learn before putting your skills to the test.
The Blue Book was first published in 2008 and is now in its twelfth edition. This longevity is a testament to its popularity among language learners. Make sure to visit the companion website for bonus digital content.
English Short Stories for Beginners and Intermediate Learners by Language Guru
English Short Stories for Beginners and Intermediate Learners is a collection of stories written by native speakers from the U.S., specifically designed for – you guessed it – beginner and intermediate English learners.
Each fictional story is different and written in plain English so that you can learn natural sentence structures as you read. Any new or tricky vocab is highlighted in bold, with definitions listed at the end.
Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English (fourth edition) by Patricia T. O’Conner
There’s a reason why Patricia T. O’Conner’s witty guide to better grammar has been a best-seller for years. The fourth edition of Woe Is I digs into the nuts and bolts of English and includes updated insights to reflect the changing nature of language. O’Conner herself notes in the book: ‘English is not a stay-put language. It’s always changing…’.
With lighthearted humour injected into each chapter, O’Conner explores the biggest grammatical issues she encountered as a former Editor at The New York Times Book Review and how some terms have evolved over time.
English Grammar: 100 Tragically Common Mistakes (and How to Correct Them) by S. Williams
Many rules govern the English language, and it can be frustrating to get your head around all of them. The good news? You’re not alone.
English Grammar: 100 Tragically Common Mistakes (and How to Correct Them) digs into English students' most common grammatical errors and teaches you handy memory tricks to help you remember correct usage. You’ll know the difference between a colon and a semicolon in no time!
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
American author Ernest Hemingway died in 1961, but his work is still exceptionally popular more than 60 years later. One of the biggest reasons for his continued success is the simplicity of his writing. Many of his stories are suitable for advanced English learners, but A Moveable Feast – a memoir of his time living as a writer in Paris during the 1920s – is a great option as it’s often overlooked in favour of his more famous works.
Compared to Hemingway’s fictional stories, A Moveable Feast is easier to read and free of complex language, so you can soak up the story and the examples of proper grammar in action.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Have you tried to read English grammar guides before and found the content exceptionally dry? Eats, Shoots & Leaves is the answer to your concentration problems. Author Lynne Truss believes that proper punctuation is important, and her novel is a love letter to the rules of the English language.
It covers the uses – correct and incorrect – of various punctuation by retracing its history. Each chapter contains comical examples that are sure to stick in your memory.
The Best Grammar Workbook Ever! by Arlene Miller
The Best Grammar Workbook Ever! runs with the idea that applying your knowledge is the best way to learn. Each section contains easy-to-understand examples to see the rules in action. Forget memorising endless theory; the workbook is packed with quiz questions covering key topics like apostrophes, dashes and capitalisation. The book contains a test at the start and end, so you can compare your results before and after studying.
Webster's New Explorer Vocabulary Skill Builder by Merriam-Webster
Learning English rules shouldn’t be a drag, and the books on this list show it doesn’t have to be. But there’s a time and a place for a reliable textbook.
The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty
Mignon Fogarty has been helping people improve their grammar since 2006, when she released the first episode of her award-winning podcast, Grammar Girl. Several years and thousands of downloads later, Fogarty turned her attention to a different medium: books. The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl is her second novel. It’s broken into 365 parts – one for each day of the year – and covers all kinds of grammar basics in an engaging format by including puzzles, trivia and other fun activities.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
This list wouldn’t be complete without an entry from one of the best-selling authors of all time: JK Rowling. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the first book in the Harry Potter series and follows a young wizard in his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The series has been translated into more than 80 languages, so you probably already know about Mr Potter. However, if you’re trying to improve your grammar and punctuation, prior knowledge of the book is an asset. You won’t have to worry about understanding the plot – you can just soak up the story.
In summary, reading English books will help you hone your grammar skills and broaden your vocabulary in no time. There's something to suit every preference, from fiction to non-fiction, funny first-person guides to factual textbooks.
IELTS Reading Assist: An official IELTS mock test for Reading
Do you want to improve your IELTS Reading band score? With practice test feedback and expert coaching, IELTS Reading Assist will enhance your reading skills to improve your test performance.
Complete an official mock reading test and receive personalised feedback from an IELTS Expert. You get a detailed report within 3-5 days on your reading skills indicating your strengths and weaknesses, and strategies for improvement via an action plan.