Improving your English skills in the workplace can provide you with more opportunities for career growth and lead to new levels of professional success. However, learning business English can be frustrating if you’re not using the right study materials.
Moreover, with so many business English textbooks on the market today, it can be tricky to identify which option best suits your unique professional needs and goals. Because learning corporate English is hard enough as it is, we’ve compiled a helpful guide to introduce you to the best business English books in 2023.
Check out the book list below to discover which learning resource will enable you to excel at work and beyond.
How to choose the right business English book for you
Unsurprisingly, there are lots of options for business English books. However, you still need to ensure that any book you buy will meet your needs as a business ESL student.
The right textbook will fit your level, fulfill your business English goals, and suit your preferred learning style. So how do you find the right textbook for you?
Find your level
When researching and purchasing a new textbook, first determine your current level of business English. Now is not the time to be overly generous or too critical of yourself.
A business English book for beginners might have content that is too easy for you and won’t improve your skills. On the other hand, an advanced textbook with content that is beyond your reach will only frustrate you and make you dislike learning business English.
Be honest with yourself; the right book will be challenging enough to keep you motivated, but you first need to know your level.
Set some goals
Next, ask yourself a few key questions, such as: What are my goals? What do I want to get out of learning? What would I like to be capable of communicating once I finish this business English book?
If you know what you want to achieve—for example, “to complete a work placement in a marketing company”—then you are much more likely to choose the right book.
Know your learning style
Finally, establish how you learn. Are you a visual or auditory learner? Do you like to listen to new vocabulary words, or do you prefer to read them? Do you remember grammar better when you’re quizzed or when you follow personalized activities?
Choosing a textbook that has activities that suit you is key. If you are trying to learn in a way that doesn’t interest you, then you will find the process more difficult and less enjoyable. So make sure you check which teaching style the book follows before you buy.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how many different topics it covers, how much vocabulary it packs into each lesson, or how complex its grammatical structures are. If the book doesn’t fit your level, learning preference, and goals, it won’t help you improve your business English skills.
What makes a good business English book?
Though there’s no single answer to what makes the best business English book, there are three components to look out for when choosing your textbook: organization, clear goals, and variety.
First, a well-organized textbook will have a clear table of contents, a grammar section, and a glossary of terms or indexes. This makes creating a learning plan easier to organize and execute.
Clear goals and progression
Second, a good business English textbook will have clear goals and progression.
From the first to the final lesson, you should feel you are progressing from foundational to more advanced skills to maximize your learning and stay challenged throughout the course. (The best textbooks will even include learning outcomes.)
Lastly, a good business English book should cover various topics and lots of ways to practice them. These topics should be broad and cover a range of industries and professions.
Ideally, the textbook will also provide a business English workbook with numerous practical exercises to help you improve in all aspects of corporate English: grammar, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary, pronunciation, and listening.
What business English books should I read?
You should first identify which business English book is perfect for you based on the conditions and features outlined above, but there are two other important factors to consider if you want the best resource out there.
First, you should make sure the book you choose is recent (published within the last few years) or regularly updated with new editions. This is because everything in the corporate world is constantly changing—its best practices, its markets, and even its language.
Therefore, books to improve business English can only be useful to you if they can teach you the most up-to-date and contemporary ways to communicate in the workplace.
The best business English textbooks also provide cultural information to accompany their linguistics lessons.
This content is critical as it deepens your understanding of why English speakers in different regions have diverse ways of interacting with each other, and it can teach you nonlinguistic cues (e.g., gestures, postures, facial expressions) that will strengthen your communication with English-speaking colleagues and clients.
Armed with a checklist of all the characteristics that can make a business English book great, as well as a clear understanding of your goals, learning preferences, and proficiency level, you will have a much easier time pinpointing which textbook will serve you best.
7 best business English textbooks
Below we’ve listed our top 7 business English textbooks, including detailed costs, pros and cons, and who the book is best suited for. We ranked the books based on how well-structured the content is, how much access it provides to various topics, and how many learning resources it offers for additional practice and self-study.
1. Market Leader (Pearson/Longman)
It’s called Market Leader for a reason. This business English book has been expertly developed alongside the Financial Times, one of the biggest financial news sources in the English-speaking world.
Market Leader includes interviews, case studies, and specific business English skills—like presenting, negotiating, conducting meetings, and participating in small talk—so you can grow your financial knowledge while practicing your business English ESL skills.
The book is available in five levels (Elementary, Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate, and Advanced), so you’ll be sure to find a fit that works for you. Plus, if you’re looking to study for the Cambridge Business English Certificate (BEC), Market Leader offers specific support for the reading and writing sections for the top two levels, BEC Vantage (B2) and BEC Higher (C1).
Varies depending on your region but ranges from $45 to $75, depending on the level and retailer
Market Leader pairs free online resources with the textbook for seamless and immersive learning.
For additional support, Pearson offers complimentary materials for various specializations, including Accounting and Finance (supports ICFE exam), Business Law (supports ILEC exam), Human Resources, Logistics Management, Marketing, and Working Across Cultures.
You’ll need consistent access to the internet to fully utilize all the practice modules.
Early and mid-career professionals looking to develop their business skills while improving in ESL
2. Business Builder (Macmillan)
With nine modules divided into three volumes (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), Business Builder helps business English students strengthen their skills from day one.
This textbook lays out objectives and achievements with worksheets to track your learning progress. Modules 1-3 cover “Social English,” “Telephoning,” and “Job Interviews.”
Modules 4-6 include “Discussions and Meetings,” “Business Correspondence,” and “Report Writing.” Modules 7-9 finish the series with “Presentations,” “Company Product and Customer Relations,” and “Negotiations.”
The book includes “Teacher’s Notes,” intended to guide ESL business teachers, but the tips, ideas, and cultural hints are great for students looking for extra insights.
$65 to $70 on resale sites like Thriftbooks.com
Business Builder includes activities that make it easy to improve in an area of business English that is relevant to you.
This textbook focuses specifically on British English, so it may not be the best resource if you’re looking to learn widespread English terms or another English dialect.
Groups and individual learners who are motivated to self-study and master British English.
3. Total Business (Cengage)
If you weren’t impressed by Business Builder’s nine modules, don’t worry. Cengage’s Total Business textbook offers twelve units.
This three-level business English course breaks up current, business-related topics into three major sections: “professional business vocabulary,” “essential communication business skills,” and “learning strategies for the business context.”
Total Business is especially focused on integrating grammar (think the difference between “who” and “whom” or using “can” and “could”) with everyday business English. It does this through a wide range of learning activities and an accompanying workbook that includes an answer key.
$30 to $55
Total Business lives up to its name by covering a wide range of topics. These include information about the professional world, company profiles, products, services, and manufacturing processes.
Beyond covering business travel and professional health and safety, this business English book also offers advice on career development, the job market, and insights into the future of business.
Total Business is a classic business English ESL textbook that relies primarily on written exercises to facilitate learning. Thus, learners who require more interactive exercises may find it hard to adapt to this less engaging style.
Learners looking for a comprehensive textbook with activities that covers all aspects of business English and grammar
4. Intelligent Business (Pearson/Longman)
Intelligent Business considers itself the most accessible business English book to students “whatever their level or business experience.” By featuring authentic material from the Economist, a British weekly newspaper, Intelligent Business introduces core business English concepts targeted at students who have not yet entered the business world.
Intelligent Business also includes a “Skills Book” for focused training in communication skills, including “Culture Profile” and “Grammar Reference” guides for quick access to functional business English practice. Like Market Leader, Intelligent Business offers study support for the CEFR exams and Cambridge BEC exam.
You can access and download online review tests to check your progress and perfect your skills. Bilingual glossaries and business English dictionaries are especially helpful to business professionals that are new to business ESL.
Intelligent Business’s content is on the basic side. For example, there is advice on how to craft English emails. Students who already have foundational business English skills may want to move on to more advanced books.
Business novices looking to gain a solid introduction to the business world and improve basic business English skills
5. Business one : one (Oxford University Press)
Oxford University Press’ Business one : one textbook comes in two levels: Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate Plus. Like many of the business textbooks listed here, Oxford offers a whole host of online learning resources, including grammar practice activities, email practice, and an editable glossary.
What sets Business one : one apart is its short, to-the-point lessons that introduce not only natural-sounding vocabulary and phrases to new business English learners but also increase experienced students’ fluency.
As the name suggests, Business one : one was written with individual learners in mind, so if you’re used to learning independently or outside of a business English class, this book will suit you.
The online site even offers a printable “Lesson Record” document that asks you to note three new words, three useful phrases, and any important points to remember from the lesson on your own.
$15 to $50 on used book sites like SecondSale
Each lesson is only two pages, which makes it easy to cover material in a short amount of time. If you prefer extra support while studying independently, the digital practice activities offer helpful hints and tips to keep you engaged.
If you want to go more in-depth into some of the topics, you may be disappointed. Lessons are relatively short compared to other business English textbooks.
Intermediate, independent learners on a busy schedule who are looking to make their business English sound more natural
6. English Express (Oxford University Press)
Along with Business one: one, Oxford University Press boasts an entire library for English language learning, with over 200 textbooks to choose from. Series include American English File, Oxford English for Careers, and English Express. Of these, the English Express suite is our favorite.
English Express is handy for those looking to develop their business English skills in specialized industries, like accounting, fashion, technology, human resources, marketing, and advertising.
These short English textbooks include role-play activities, language tips, warm-ups, discussion questions, and more.
For those who prefer digital learning, you can also access their new e-books online for more interactive features, like audio and video clips.
Starting at $31 (for online resources)
With such a wide selection of industries, the English Express series is sure to have something for your specific career path. Also, qualified language experts have developed all the textbook materials, so you can be sure the content is highly accurate and up-to-date.
The content of English Express is based on British English, so if you’re looking to break into the US market or learn how to use English in multiple regions, you may need to supplement your learning with American resources. Also, paper copies of their textbooks can be difficult to find.
Business English ESL students who want to improve on their British English for the office in different industries as well as practice with online activities
7. English365 & English for Job Hunting (Cambridge University Press)
Cambridge University Press has a 10-set business English collection that is hard to beat. It covers everything from international business to start-ups. Each set includes different features with varying levels and accompanying workbooks.
Though this publisher offers lots of great resources, English365 and Cambridge English for Job Hunting stand out if you’re looking to hone your practical English skills.
English365 combines social English, traditional business English, and English for public sectors. It provides a global view of professional English in a wide range of environments.
On the other hand, Cambridge English for Job Hunting gives learners access to specific advice on knowledge and communication skills that job-seekers need in order to apply for top-notch positions, including CV development, cover letter writing, and interview preparation.
$30 to $75 for individual components
The subjects covered in English365 are highly relevant to all aspects of business English. Alternatively, the specific nature of Cambridge’s English for Job Hunting makes it especially useful for those trying to break into an English-speaking career.
Also, unlike most textbooks, these books are easy to order directly from the seller.
These textbooks can be expensive ($30-$75 per book). Each set generally contains five to ten separate books (though certain parts, like the Teacher’s Guide, don’t have to be purchased).
Highly dedicated learners looking to update their business English vocabulary and skills for the 21st century job market
Hundreds of business English books are available on the market, so you must find one that serves your proficiency level, learning style, and professional goals.
Once you identify a textbook that meets these specific needs, make sure that it is also well-organized, follows a clear skill-building path, and offers a wide range of skills and practice activities.
While learning business English from one of the top textbooks we listed above can greatly improve your corporate English competency, it should be no surprise that practicing these skills with a language expert is an even more effective way to master English for the workplace.
Through Preply’s corporate English training program, you and your colleagues can engage in 1-on-1 virtual classes with experienced tutors anytime, anywhere.
They can provide you with tailor-made lessons or even help you work through a business English textbook, providing personalized feedback and authentic practice.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up with Preply to invest in your business English skills and maximize your returns!