Book Recommendations for English Majors

We recently asked our audience for book recommendations on a wide variety of topics, including books about the craft of writing and editing, careers, professional guides, and more. Basically, if it's a book that could be useful to an English major, we want to know about it. 

Thank you very much to everyone who shared their book recommendations! Below, you can take a look at the books that inspire and inform the modern English major.

Do you have a recommendation you'd like to share? Fill out our quick and easy survey here! 

1. The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

2. The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

3. The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

"This tried-and-true trinity is an absolute must-have for any novelist’s library, helping you create dynamic characters by exploring possible personality traits and emotions."

-Denise Leora Madre, English Major, Novelist & Essayist



4. What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles

"This book is an excellent guide when you're feeling lost in your job search. It helps you discover what you have to offer to the world by guiding you in how to translate your passions, talents, and interests into words and phrases an employer wants to hear. It also gets into the nitty-gritty of seeking employment, and how to deal with the anxieties and struggles of the current job market. The most important aspect of this book, however, is the way it helps you understand what type of employment works for you and your personality."

-Erica Lambright, English Major, Administrative Assistant, & Data Specialist

5. The Writer's Options: Lessons in Style and Arrangement by Max Morenberg and Jeff Sommers

"This book was a required text for one of my last classes during undergrad. Each chapter tackles a different element of sentence structure, followed by a few exercises to practice. Readers get to rearrange sentences and really dissect each line. I loved the book, because it made me analyze each and every word I write. Is it important enough to add? Is there a better, more precise way to say what I want to say? If I place this word here, does my meaning change? I could apply the skills from this book to all aspects of my craft - journalism, creative writing, scholarly papers. I'm using those skills right now! It's the grammar book for the biggest of word nerds.

"The book is a bit hokey though; the chapters are presented in a fictive English class, in which the students ask the teacher narrator about sentence structure. The kids are required to say "better" sentences than the ones the teacher presents, and they all get really into it by the end of the book. The exercises, however, are the real jewels of the story."

-Autumn Heisler, English/Creative Writing degree, Editorial Assistant

6. Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb

"This book is a veritable Bible for the modern author. Lamb demystifies marketing yourself and your work in the digital age, covering everything from writing effective bios to effectively using different social media platforms." 

-Denise Leora Madre, English Major, Novelist & Essayist


7. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

"With clear literary examples, brainstorming suggestions, and pointed writing exercises, this book explores the intrinsic connection between plot and structure and effectively teaches how to solve potential problems with both." 

-Denise Leora Madre, English Major, Novelist & Essayist


8. Mother Can You Not? by Kate E. Siegel

"Not only does Kate detail how she got into many unpleasant situations with her overbearing mother, but she ultimately discusses how she turned her social media into something big and decided to write her now bestselling memoir/humor book, Mother Can You Not?. For anyone out there who has a parent who says don't get an English degree or that you have to do something specific with your career, Kate will show you that your parents have nothing on her mom and that it is important to do things that you love, i.e. be an English major and writer. When Kate quits her job to write full-time, her mother freaks out, but later supports her daughter's career choices."

-Shira Kipnees, B.A. in English (Creative Writing) and Comparative Literary Studies, Freelance Journalist


9. Careers for Bookworms & Other Literary Types

"This book really opened my eyes to what careers are out there for me. It offers so many careers I hadn't even thought of!"

-Jaci Olson, English Major


10. They Say / I Say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

"The They Say / I Say series is the one of the best writing texts I own. It clearly defines arguments and also gives numerous examples. If you have difficulty integrating sources into your research essay, this is the book for you."

-Lauren Tubbs, English Major & Legal Assistant


11. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams

"For me, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams was the best writing/editing bookI've ever read. The best things the book does are show writers what to take out of sentences and how to restructure them for clarity. I always recommend the book to fellow writers because of how much it taught me about the mechanics of the craft. It should be a standard part of the English curriculum for literary folk and tech writers."

-Bart Leahy, Technical Writing M.A. & Freelance Tech Writer

12. Great Courses

"I'm a fan of the Great Courses literature and writing courses. Lectures are delivered via audio and/or video, and each comes with a printable PDF course guide with notes and exercises. I obtain them primarily via Audible, but if you have access to university interlibrary services, you're likely to find what you need on CD."

Courses I've used (since completing my degree! ) include:

  • Becoming a Great Essayist
  • From Plato to Postmodernism
  • How Great Science Fiction Works
  • Sacred Texts
  • The Story of Human Language
  • The Secret Life of Words
  • Understanding Literature and Life
  • Writing Great Fiction

-Christina Sanders-Ring, English Major

$35.95 $35.95
$29.95 $29.95
$29.95 $29.95

Posted on September 9, 2016 and filed under Articles, Featured Articles.