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A Starting List of Classic (Fiction) Books for English Learners

There are tons of books lists out there. Seriously, search for "best books for ESL" or "best books for English learners" and there'll be millions of search results. So, here are my disclaimers. This list is, in no way, a definitive list of English classic books. There are other pages for that kind of thing. It's not a list of the absolute best books for students of English (because that's a list that doesn't actually exist anywhere, since book preferences are subjective).

However, this is a list of some good, classic, English books that provide a place to start if you're having trouble finding something to read! Here are my basic criteria that I used to choose the books for this list.

1) Length. Basically, I recommend shorter books for lower levels.

2) Availability. I like free books! And (free) books online are excellent for people who may not have access to a large selection of printed English books.

3) Classics. I went with a very loose definition of 'classic'; generally, I chose books that are either widely read, or at least widely known through some other medium (such as movies).

Beginner/ Elementary

A Collection of Beatrix Potter Stories by Beatrix Potter

Mr. Bean in Town by Richard Curtis

Aladdin by Ruth Hobart


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (


Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie

Emma by Jane Austen

Upper Intermediate/ Advanced

1984 by George Orwell

Hamlet by Shakespeare

Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

In the end, the best English book to read is the one that you want to read! Do you love a book that's been translated from English? Find that book in English and give it go. A good rule of thumb to follow to determine if a book is too hard for you is this: if you don't understand the gist of the first few pages, it's too advanced, so put it aside and try another one.

Unless otherwise noted, all books can be found at one of these library websites.

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