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ESL Textbook Reviews

Updated on June 2, 2015

Advice to trust when choosing an ESL or EFL textbook

Choosing a textbook is a very important step in planning your EFL classes. If you pick one that is not ideal, it will be hard to overcome and make your ESL class successful. However, if you choose a well-written, interesting, level-appropriate textbook, it will be easy to teach English and make your classes interesting, fun and engaging. Your students will experience success and you will have to spend far less time on preparation than you would if you had chosen poor textbooks.

There are so many EFL Textbooks that it can be a bit overwhelming to choose the best one. However, I have some excellent ESL Teaching Books for you to choose from on this site, as well as some warnings of ones to avoid. Most of the textbooks such as World Link, Smart Choice, 4 Corners or Top Notch cover the 4 skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing). But, I also have top ESL Textbooks for Kids, as well as writing classes.

"Smart Choice" by Ken Wilson - One of the best ESL Textbooks for High School and University Students

Smart Choice: a 4 Skills, general English Textbook.

For a few of my classes, I've been using the book "Smart Choice" by Ken Wilson. I've used all three levels and so far, so good and it's been pretty easy to make my classes interesting and educational. The pages contains a decent amount of material on them, with a good mix of information and practice. The topics are relatively interesting for university students in Korea and there isn't much in the way of irrelevant or annoying stuff. The only downsides are the dialogues that have substitute your own ideas, but it makes the conversations really wacky. Also, the review pages filled with singing and comics are not so helpful either. But overall, I would heartily recommend this series for young adults (high school or university).


Interchange is a 4-level series designed to take students from beginner-high intermediate. It is an excellent ESL Textbook choice for high school, university and adults students. Each book has 16 units that are interesting, practical and cover the 4 major skills, with some nice grammar sections. A major strength is the speaking practice sections and pair/group work.

"World Link" by Susan Stempleski - The best ESL and EFL Textbook for Adults and University Students

World Link Previous Edition: Book 1: Developing English Fluency (World Link: Developing English Fluency) (Bk. 1)
World Link Previous Edition: Book 1: Developing English Fluency (World Link: Developing English Fluency) (Bk. 1)

World Link is the best ESL book I've ever come across for the level that I teach. Adult beginner.

There are so many great activities and fun things to do in the book. And there are simple grammar and vocab sections that are manageable to do in one class. Plus, there's this teacher resource book with more stuff. And a teacher's book with a plethora of games and activities that are actually engaging/interesting/fun/feasible/oriented towards real communication. And a test-maker CD. And a video series to go along with the book. And a homework book that is pretty decent And I can do prep for my 1.5 hour class in under an hour, quite easily because I don't have to run around making new stuff to fill the class time.

Check it out my English teaching readers. It has my whole-hearted recommendation.


What's your Top Choice for ESL Textbook for Adults or University Students?

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Speaking of Speech - Harrington & LeBeau

Speaking of Speech: An Introduction to Presentations and Public Speaking

Speaking of Speech is an EXCELLENT textbook for an introductory speech class for ESL or EFL students. It's interesting, interactive, and easy to understand. The included audio files and DVD are very helpful for emphasizing the key points in the book. Also, there are 8 speeches already set up for you to use to evaluate your students (complete with evaluation grids). I can't say enough about how easy this book is to use, and how enjoyable the students will find your class.

"Cause and Effect" by Patricia Ackert: an ESL Reading Textbook

Cause & Effect (Reading & Vocabulary Development, 3)
Cause & Effect (Reading & Vocabulary Development, 3)

Cause and Effect is from Heinle & Heinle and it's designed to work on reading skills. It also has optional writing exercises that I assigned for homework. I used it recently in an intensive, 2 week winter camp at my university and was overall very impressed with it. I would use it again in a university or high school setting without any hesitation. I think it really did expand the active vocabulary of my students in an interesting and engaging kind of way. And it was easy to use them to work on different reading skills, such as skimming or reading for detail. The students, despite working with this books for 3 hours everyday, for 10 days in a row, didn't appear that bored at the end! Cause & Effect had a very high degree of variety in the practice exercises to keep it interesting.

The only drawback that I can really think of is that the end of the book is significantly harder than the beginning. While this is okay for a class that happens over a semester, it didn't really work that well in an intensive camp setting because the students wouldn't really have time to master the material between sessions and just got kind of lost at the end.


Thoughts and Notions

Thoughts & Notions (Reading & Vocabulary Development)
Thoughts & Notions (Reading & Vocabulary Development)

This is the second level in the series by Patricia Ackert on grammar and vocab development. It is the perfect level for Korean University freshman students. Many grammar and vocab development books are in both the target and the native language, but this one is only in English, which makes it easy for a native speaker to teach. And, the students seem to understand it quite easily as well. It's well-organized and replicates the target language many times throughout the book. The only downside is that the last few chapters are substantially harder than the first few. If taught over the course of a year this would be fine. But over the course of only a semester or in a camp setting, the last few chapters will be much too hard for many of the students.


4 Corners

This is one of my favorite "4 skills" ESL textbooks. The grammar/vocab is presented in a simple, easy to understand way. The listening activities are graded nicely and the writing exercises are simple enough that they don't require a high level or reading ability. The speaking activities foster communication in a way that is unusual in most textbooks. Overall, an excellent series!

Let's Go: A great choice for children's ESL Textbook

This is best series that I've found for teaching beginner children English as a second or foreign language. Each page contains some actual content and not just fluffy pictures. But, the book is excellent as just having one main idea/page so it doesn't get too confusing. The book is interesting, engaging and the kids seem to love it. Plus, it's easy to teach because there's an excellent teacher resource book as well as flashcards packs that can be used to make up many games and activities.

"Let's Go" by R. Nakata - One of the top EFL Textbooks for Kids

"Touchstone" by Michael McCarthy: an Excellent Addition for your ESL Library

Touchstone: a 4-skills ESL Textbook

While this textbook series is comprehensive, there are some weaknesses including:

1. There is way too much focus on speaking like a native speaker, which just sounds so strange when an ESL student tries to do it.

2. The topics are not interesting and are way over-done in the ESL textbook world.

3. There is too much "stuff" on each page, which can be quite overwhelming for students (and the teacher)

If you have to choose a textbook for university students or adults, I'd recommend "World Link" over "Touchstone."

Get Ready to Write - For Beginner ESL Writing Students

Get Ready to Write: A First Composition Text (2nd Edition)
Get Ready to Write: A First Composition Text (2nd Edition)

This is an excellent book for middle, high school or university students who are very new to writing in English. It starts with the basics, such as punctuation and moves onto sentence formation. Finally, the whole paragraph is dealt with. This book assumes no prior knowledge on the part of the students so it perfect for the beginner, or false beginner.


Great Paragraphs - An excellent ESL Writing Textbook

Great Writing 2: Great Paragraphs
Great Writing 2: Great Paragraphs

This is the second book in a 5-part series. The first book concentrates on sentences, the second one on paragraphs and the last two on essays. It's an excellent series that makes it extremely easy to teach writing to almost any level of student, from beginner to advanced. It's step-by-step, filled with the right amount of input and practice activities, complete with lots of tips for the students on how to be better writers. As a teacher, it requires not a lot of prep-time because the book is so well-designed. Highly recommended!


Which ESL books do you like?

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    • profile image

      Johnf108 2 years ago

      Great, thanks for sharing this article. Really Cool. eekkckgbeggd

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      Johng522 2 years ago

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      esl-efl teacher 3 years ago

      We LOVE the "New Bridges: Connecting People Through Language and Culture" series. They're available on Amazon - fantastic materials!

    • profile image

      David 3 years ago

      I am writing in hopes that you would be able to provide a book that I recently published a review as well.

      Here is the information for the book and it can be found here on Amazon:

      Inglés: Fácil y Divertido Básico Nivel 1: Fundaciones: English: Easy and Fun Beginners Level 1: Foundations (Volume 1) (Spanish Edition)

      If you could provide me with your address I would be happy to send you a copy for free. I can be contacted at 303.997.9207 or

    • profile image

      EricRoth18 3 years ago

      As somebody who teaches English to elite international university and graduate students in the United States, may I suggest that the vast majority of major ESL/EFL publishers systematically censor their books? By adopting a "do no harm" policy, the publishers take the red lines of the most repressive governments (and major buyers) like Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, and even Iran and impose them on English language learners in Brazil, France, and Canada. The result remains often very boring textbooks that avoid controversy or even the subject of luck since some theocratic governments believe that the notion of good luck implies that God is not completely in charge of our fate.

      I've written a bit on this topic, and you can go to my blog at

      And I've also co-authored some conversation textbooks for intermediate and advanced English language learners that encourage both authentic reflection and natural language. They are niche textbooks, clearly more comfortable for adults living in democratic countries like Western Europe and the United States where you don't have to have an 8-positive adjectives to 1-negative adjective ratio as in some dictatorships. (We have also published a "censors friendly version" for Vietnam because I directed a summer high school English program there.) You can find some sample chapters at .

      May I also suggest that a tad more scepticism toward phrases and euphemisms like "harmonious communication" deployed by many ESL/EFL training programs would reduce the shock of many English teachers when they find themselves teaching abroad in closed and semi-closed societies?

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm using Touchstone series, the first edition, purchased just before they brought out the second edition. They seem to have mixed up the conversations and exercises just for the sake of it in the second edition. You can only download the audio for the second edition now from Cambridge. This audio doesn't correspond with the first edition book.

      Feeling totally frustrated! The books weren't cheap. Paid for a Teacher's Manual, the Student book and Workbook, only to find out I still need to pay for the Class Audio. What? Would never recommend this series. They have made the beginners level far too complicated with their new "update."

    • KathyZ1 profile image

      KathyZ1 4 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for your sharing!

    • KathyZ1 profile image

      KathyZ1 4 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for your sharing!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      You can't do without this innovative teacher's guide for kids!

      The essential tool for today's modern teachers.

      With audio files and cartoons of the poems, songs and rhymes we all grew up with.

      This guide includesa full set of digital flashcards with both British and American pronunciation.

      It is full of games and activities for large and small groups and full of practical and useful suggestions on how to teach.

      Created and tested within a project which involved over 15,000 kids over a two year period.

      Designed to guide, help and inspire teachers and parents wanting to teach their children their first English words. The ibook is called Twinkle, twinkle, little star by Ian George Bolton

    • PennyHowe profile image

      PennyHowe 5 years ago

      Hey, Sammy24, thanks for the comments. Here in Mexico, lots of people use a series called 'Side by Side'.

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      nifwlseirff 5 years ago

      I've recently been using the BBC and Pearson's SpeakOut series - very up to date, with video and audio materials and discussions on modern technology. Although, many of my more elderly students like to skip those parts - it's great for university students. Even when teaching with other textbooks, I use exercises from SpeakOut as extras.

      Unfortunately, no textbook series is geared towards an older market - most have topics that are unsuitable (getting a job, etc. -- why, when they are retired?) Most of my students are over 40, and some are in their 80s.

    • Sammy24 profile image

      Sammy24 5 years ago

      The best ESL activity book is the "Gear Up" series by les éditions Guerin. Written by real ESL teachers who have been teaching for years with REAL students!

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      eslpulse 5 years ago

      Some good stuff here - thanks for making the lens

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I N T E R C H A N G E ! ! !

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Speak out

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      jerviewagon 6 years ago

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