Students seeking success in literature should aim to read beyond the limits of the classroom. Each of these books have proved very useful for both my students and me in teaching and reading literature at the higher levels.

Books You Should Read

Terry Eagleton’s How to Read Literature.

The first chapter of this is tremendous because it guides students to analyse texts as literary constructs. It becomes fairly tricky after this but is great for students aiming for an A, and for teachers guiding them. 

John Headrick’s ‘The Wiley Guide to Writing Essays About Literature’

Superb for structuring an argument in an entire essays, the biggest difference between (i)GCSE and A-Level/IB. With guides for writing introductions and conclusions and a range of example essays, this is an essential text. 

Neil Bowen’s ‘The Art of Writing Literature Essays for A-Level and Beyond’. 

Written with verve and packed with entertaining and useful examples, John is a good all rounder. It speaks clearly about the limitations of the acronym driven approach popular at KS4, and how to move students and teachers beyond that.

Richard Turley’s ‘Writing Essays’

Aimed at undergraduates, Turley’s text shows through multiple exemplars how to create cogency in literary essays. Great for teachers and those students entering university. The kind of book I wish I had read much earlier. 

Study Guides 

Connell Guides

These are short guides focused on conceptual understandings of the text. They contain interesting context and excellent conceptual summaries. 


These guides are  useful for plot summaries and visual representations of the texts. They are purposefully basic and should not be used alone. 

York Notes

Tried and trusted by teachers throughout the years, these are solid guides with some interactive questions and other elements. The essay examples are well-written and clear without being too sophisticated. 

Phillip Allen

My favourite study guides with an excellent all-round combination of questions, context and concepts. They track the text very well with key quotation analysis and points of interest.