Loyola University Chicago

English Language Learning Program

Loyola’s ESL program

Recommended Reading List

An English Dictionary—the first book you should buy in Chicago. Buy one. Now.
Very Easy–Easy
Very Easy–Easy (Fiction/ Novels)
“Other” novels
Fiction featuring child characters:
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros—set in Chicago; easy-to-read with short chapters
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery—a timeless classic by a famous French author
  • Holes by Louis Sachar—young kids find an adventure after digging holes for punishment
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan—deals with Mexican immigration
  • The Pigman by Paul Zindel—two young people learn to appreciate life from an old man
  • Frannie and Zooey by J.D. Salinger—the story of a young brother and sister
  • Superfudge by Judy Blume—a young boy’s adventures and troubles; a very funny book
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie—a funny book with cartoons
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl—the inspiration of two different movies,(Johnny Depp)
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl—a small orphan boy has many magical adventures
  • The Single Shard by Linda Sue Park—a story of Korean history
  • Wringer by Jerry Spinelli—a story of young boys and peer pressure
  • Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson—a sweet story about a friendship
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton—a story of friendship, murder, gangs and social status
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck—a Mexican folktale about a poor fisherman and a pearl
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell—a 12-year-old girl survives on an island
  • Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli—deals with homelessness, racism, athletics and fearlessness
Fiction featuring animal characters:
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell—a political satire starring farm animals
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White—simple, beautiful and sad story starring animals
  • Mrs. Fisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien—a mother mouse attempts to move her family
  • Moderate Difficulty, Extreme Popularity (Novels/ Fictitious Series):
  • Fantasy series:
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins—a girl fights to save her family and her country (3 books)
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer—Team Edward or Team Jacob, who will win Bella’s heart? (4 books)
  • Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis—four siblings travel to a magical world called Narnia (7 books)
  • Harry Potter series by JK Rowling—you might have heard of this magical boy (7 books)
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan—a good way to learn about mythology (5 books)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Brett Helquist—3 kids with bad luck (13 books)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—a science fiction comedy (5 books)
  • The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper—an 11-year-old battles evil forces (5 books)
Detective series:
  • Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene—a classic series about a talented, young female detective (175 books)
  • Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon—a classic series about two young detective brothers (100s of books)
Moderate–Challenging (Fiction/ Novels):
Novels that deal with American or International History:
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee—deals with racism in America; a great book
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger—the quintessential coming-of age novel
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak—Death is the narrator of this story of German family in WWII.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald—deals with wealth and status
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck—a rural family’s struggle in Midwestern America
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker—empowering story of a poor black girl in the US South
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck—a story of two brothers in desperate times
Science Fiction/Fantasy novels:
  • 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne—Captain Nemo takes on a monster
  • Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks—humorous instructions on how to survive a zombie attack
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury's—studies the role of books/knowledge in society
  • 1984 by George Orwell—a scary vision of the future, invented the term “Big Brother”
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry—a “perfect” world with no war, poverty, crime, suffering, etc.
Detective/Mystery novels:
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie—a classic murder mystery on a train
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler—a crime novel featuring Philip Marlow set in Los Angeles, CA
“Other” novels:
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom—an old man teaches us how to die; a true story
  • The Life of Pi by Yann Martel—a boy and a tiger on a boat in the middle of the ocean
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—the story of four sisters
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles—the story of two college friends
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon—an Autistic boy tries to solve the mystery of who killed his dog
Non-Fiction Books:
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell—“how little things can make a big difference”
  • Freakanomics by Steven Levitt—an economist looks at the world from a different perspective
  • The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton—essays about why people should travel
  • The Prophet by Khalil Gibran—poetic/philosophic essays on love, children, work, joy, sorrow, etc.
  • The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil—a discussion of technology, science, and the future
  • Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder—one page per topic; information about everything
Short Stories:
  • The Best American Short Stories edited by Katrina Kenison—an annual series featuring different writers
  • The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami—a famous Japanese author writes about loss and loneliness
  • Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poescary poems and stories by an American master
  • The Umbrella Man and Other Stories by Roald Dahl—twisted short stories, very dark humor
  • Hills like White Elephants & The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemmingway—America’s master
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lariri—stories of Indians/Indian-Americans by John’s favorite writer
  • The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie—Native American short stories
Graphic Novels:
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi—a story of a young girl growing up during the Iranian revolution
  • Pyongyang: A Journey into North Korea by Guy Delisle—a Canadian author spends a year in N. Korea
  • The Watchmen by Alan Moore-when superheroes go bad…
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman—a story about Nazis and Jews in WWII; Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson—a tale of growing up, romance, brotherly love, and the origins of faith
  • Habibi by Craig Thompson—a story of love and the common heritage of Christianity and Islam
  • Petrograd by Phil Gelatt and Tyler Crook—the conspiracy behind the murder of Gregorii Rasputin
  • Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine—a couple’s relationship is put to the test with unexpected consequences
  • Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm by Percy Carey—a life in the dangerous hip-hop industry
Top 5 Books Recommended by Teachers & Staff
Authors NOT on This List That You Might Enjoy
  1. The House on Mango Street (#2)
  2. The Little Prince (#3)
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird (#32)
  4. Harry Potter series (1–7) (#25)
  5. The Book Thief (#34)
  1. John Grisham (legal)
  2. Agatha Christie (crime)
  3. Stephen King (horror)
  4. Tom Clancy (spies, government)
  5. David Sedaris (comedy)