The 10 Best Literature Textbooks

video play icon 10 Best Literature Textbooks

This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in July of 2018. It might seem obvious, but it turns out that the best way to learn about books is by ... reading. These literature textbooks make diving into the written word both enjoyable and rewarding, as they cover a wide swath of acclaimed and important works. You'll hear from a range of diverse voices from across the globe and you may even find that gaining knowledge is actually fun. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Norton Anthology of World Literature

2. Literature: A Portable Anthology

3. Literature: The Human Experience

Editor's Notes

March 31, 2020:

Literature textbooks run the gamut from comprehensive anthologies with in-depth analyses to introductory tomes written for the middle or high school student, autodidact, and freshman in college. We did our best to curate the best of the bunch to meet myriad needs and wants. Once you've read any of the selections on our list, you'll be better equipped to understand thought-provoking poetry, write and cite essays, analyze literary masterpieces, and much more.

When revisiting this list we ensured every edition was completely up to date with its latest iteration. We also removed The Norton Anthology, which, while comprehensive and illuminating, contained many works available in the public domain. We decided that something like the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism would be far more useful, as it goes extremely in-depth and spans hundreds of years to explain the development and current state of literary theory to the advanced learner.

And while we liked the idea behind The American Experience, we felt we could take the theme further, and so added Literature: The Human Experience. This tome explores works that champion human nature, touching on themes such as innocence and experience, conformity and rebellion, culture and identity, love and hate, and life and death to provide an extensive survey of literature students can personally connect with.

Special Honors

Open Textbook Library Not only are many literary masterpieces available in the public domain for anyone to read, but there are plenty of free, openly-licensed textbooks that are accessible as well. Open Textbook Library is ideal for autodidacts or students looking to supplement their knowledge by offering selections that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used. Its volumes have been reviewed by university faculty to assess their quality and can be downloaded for no cost or printed at a low cost. All textbooks are either used at higher education institutions or affiliated with a scholarly society or professional organization.

4. Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism

5. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature

6. The Language of Literature

7. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing

8. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing

9. Literature: A Pocket Anthology

10. Literature to Go

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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