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Monday, May 24, 2010

Wider Reading - updated

The title of this post has just teletransported me back into my A Level English Lit class (circa 1993). At the time the expression really just meant reading something you chose rather than the books from the syllabus, on which you would later write an essay. Surely I should have forgotten this by now, but I remember writing about Thackeray's Vanity Fair, something about the similarities and differences between Amelia and Becky. In fact I must read the novel again as it is a brilliant piece of work.

I'm not going to talk about literary works here as this blog is supposed to be about teaching and I am also no literary expert. What I would like to do is to ask for recommendations for ELT wider reading. I am not a big non-fiction reader and I am also more of a bedtime reader (ELT books hardly making ideal bedtime reading) but I would like to compile a list of ESSENTIAL ELT works that myself and others could pick and choose from. The list could also be suitable for schools looking to update their library. Any kind of book is welcome as long as you think it would be of interest to ELT professionals, whether they are teachers, materials writers, teacher trainers etc.

If I get enough responses I would then like to categorize the entries, e.g. methodology; resource; teacher training and development; young learners; course books; exams etc.

So what would you put on the list?

At the moment I have listed your suggestions in two categories, although if I get any more suggestions I will update the list.

Language and Linguistics

The English Verb by Michael LewisPractical English Usage by Michael Swan
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter
Language Myths edited by Bauer and Trudghill
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage
The Teacher’s Grammar of English by Ron Cowan
Learner English by Michael Swan and Bernard Smith
Language, Context and Text: aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective by M.A.K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan
The Language Web by Jean Aitchison
The Fight For English by David Crystal

Teaching Methodologies

Teaching Tenses by Rosemary Aitkin
Teaching Grammar Creatively by Puchta, Gerngross and Thornbury
Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener
Young Learners by Sarah Phillips
Implementing the Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis
A Framework for Task-Based Learning by Jane Willis
Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching by Richards & Rodgers
How to Teach Speaking by Scott Thornbury
Language Assessment – Principles and Classroom Practices by H. Douglas Brown
Principles of Language Learning and Teaching by H. Douglas Brown
The Techniques of Language Teaching by Lionel Billows
Teaching Collocation edited by Michael Lewis

I don't think I've come across many of these books before but there are certainly some interesting titles here that I would like to have a look at. I would recommend anything by David Crystal, who is a genius! If you have any favourite resource or course books I will create another section. There are so many thousands of ELT books out there, mostly available on Amazon, and it really can be difficult to choose a book to buy, so I really appreciate your help in compiling this list, which is by teachers for teachers.

Happy Reading!


  1. An absorbing read and absolute eye-opener for me was Michael Lewis: The English Verb.
    The way it explained the use of verb tenses was completely new to me but made me understand the lot.

  2. Here's a few for starters:

    Jim Scrivener's 'Learning Teaching',
    'Young Learners' by Sarah Phillips
    'Teaching Tenses' by Rosemary Aitken
    'Teaching Grammar Creatively' Puchta, Gerngross and Thornbury
    'Implementing the Lexical Approach' Michael Lewis et al.
    and the bible 'Practical English Usage' Michael Swan

    Every school should have them!

  3. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, by John McWhorter, was very interesting. Not uncontroversial, I guess, but certainly better than anything by Bill Bryson that makes claims about English (Mother Tongue is terrible, and full of outright falsehoods.)

    I reviewed a few other books here that are really good for English teachers and their friends and family:
    The titles include Language Myths (a bit like Linguistics/Sociolinguistics 101 in anthology form, and very useful for handing to people with a pure literature background, or managers/people from other departments, etc.), Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (the only American English usage guide recommended by users of Language Log), and The Fight for English: How Language Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left.

    My favorite book on grammar is Ron Cowan's The Teacher's Grammar of English. It strikes a great balance between useful explanations and bringing in actual linguistics, and its learner error examples are real. I prefer it to the standard Celce-Murcia/Larsen-Freeman.

    Learner English, edited by Michael Swan and Bernard Smith, is a nifty guide to typical error patterns by learners from different language backgrounds.

    I have an interesting book at home written by a Japanese teacher (of Japanese), but I can't remember the title right now. It's always interesting to read about a different perspective!

  4. Hi Michelle,

    got five here, with cover image and brief description


  5. Alexander MakariosMay 25, 2010 at 1:19 AM

    Language, Context and Text: aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective. M.A.K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan. A must for educators!

  6. The Techniques of Language Teaching by Lionel Billows. What is so special about the book? In the Introduction Lionel Billows writes that it is "the book of a practising teacher who has had opportunity to see the work of a great many other teachers and has been engaged in training teachers for some years. it is not written from the point of view of the linguist nor of the psychologist....Nothing here is based on theoretical considerations alone; everything has been tried, and most of it has been evolved in the classroom. Some teachers concern themselves a great deal with the arrangement of the material which they wish to teach, and this is certainly important, but of limited value if they do not also concern themselves with the minds that are to receive the material... My practice has been to observe success in learning, whether in my own classes or those of others, and try to abstract the cause of the success from the complex of what was done."

    For a more detailed account of this book:

  7. Real bedtime reading:

    "The Language Web" Jean Aitchison (or the 1996 Reith lectures) - a real pearl (the book and the woman)

    and of course David Crystal's "the Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot and left"

    BTW - thanks for the question - I'll be back for more answers :-)

  8. There are a lot of books I have found inspirational throughout my teaching career so far, but 1 which stands out for me, and which really added a new dimension to my teaching, is 'Teaching Collocation' edited by Michael Lewis.

  9. Thank you everyone! There are some very interesting suggestions here. At the moment I have managed to list them in two categories: Language and Linguistics, and Methodology. I'll wait a little longer before writing up the list in case we get any more titles.

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