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What Are the Best AP English Language Textbooks and Prep Books?

5 min readβ€’october 18, 2021

Brandon Wu

Brandon Wu

AP English Language ✍🏽

224Β resources
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What's poppin? 🎈 πŸ“Œ You're probably here because you felt like you needed resources for AP Lang. Don't worryβ€”we got your back!
Personally, I didn't use any prep books for this course; however, my AP Lang teacher required us to do writing exercises in a book that I'll include later on!

Best AP Lang Textbooks

Unlike History or STEM courses, AP Lang does not follow a stringent unit-by-unit structure. In fact, the Course & Exam Description (CED) is extremely flexible for teachers to fit their courses.
The textbooks that I recommend are just books that can build up your skills that will help you score well on the exam!

1. Overall Best Value: Everything is an Argument


This title of the book is probably what your teacher will tell you at the beginning of the year! Image Courtesy of Amazon

Many AP Lang teachers use this book. Depending on whether you want to practice or not, there is a version with readings and one without πŸ€”
In this textbook, you'll learn about the development of rhetoric throughout history and the application of rhetoric today. As the title says, you'll figure out that everything is an argument, and you'll gain the skills to build an effective one after reading through πŸ“•

2. Most Detailed: The Language of Composition


With its clever use of two of the four words in AP Lang's full title, the Language of Composition is extremely informative about the course. Image Courtesy of BFW

From the table of contents alone, this book's content is extremely comprehensive, encompassing the entire CED. The Language of Composition not only covers the basic skills for AP Lang but also the application of those skills in multiple sectors.
One of the strongest aspects of this book is the various examples and media that are linked to each core concept. For instance, you'll be able to apply ethos, logos, and pathos to historical texts, colorful posters, and recent editorials!
Whether you're learning through the e-book or the hardcopy, using this book will propel you towards the coveted 5️⃣
πŸ“Read: AP English Language - Multiple Choice

3. Cheapest: How to Read Nonfiction like a Professor


With witty language that won't drive you to sleep, this book will help you out with improving your writing. Image Courtesy of Amazon

Unlike the last two books, How to Read Nonfiction like a Professor is not written to the AP Lang curriculum; rather, it discusses techniques to understand rhetoric in multiple mediums.
This book focuses quite a bit on the modern-day. You'll learn how to better perceive and comprehend nonfiction. The book begins with the principles of nonfiction reading and dives into specific reading strategies for multiple genres. In How to Read Nonfiction, you'll also learn about argument analysis, critical thinking when encountering texts, and becoming a better citizen through better reading.

Thankfully you won't have to listen to a professor lecture about composition; instead, you'll get their advice in a nice book! Image Courtesy of Unsplash

The book is very recent β€” it came out in May 2020! It's available on Kindle, audiobook, and hardcover.

4. Most Applicable Outside AP Lang: The Lively Art of Writing


This very old book will help you out in the long run! Image Courtesy of Amazon

I'll be frank with you: the publication date of 1969 is probably going to instantly make you think I'm crazy for recommending this. However, The Lively Art of Writing was probably the single book that made my writing more advanced and more precise ✍️
This book (obviously) does not align with the Fall 2020 AP Lang curriculum; however, it teaches you how to develop a strong thesis, structure an essay, and using active rather than passive voice! One of the great parts of the book is that it specifically tells you common mistakes that you might make in your writing and how to fix them πŸ”¨
It's available in hardcover, paperback, and even textbook binding πŸ“•

Best AP Lang Prep Books

1. Overall Best Value: Princeton Review


With different ways to make their logo look ~ different ~ each year, Princeton Review's Lang book can be worth it to some. Image Courtesy of Penguin Random House

This book is known for the "best value for the money," and it includes a bunch of content that could very well help you earn a 5️⃣ on exam day. In the book, you'll get some strategies that can help you succeed on the exam, in addition to a review of the three essays.
Moreover, there are three full practice tests in the book with two online. There are also pacing drills for multiple-choice and sample scored essays to guide you throughout the studying process πŸ›οΈ
The 2020 and 2021 exams are pretty much the same in format, so feel free to buy whichever book you prefer.

2. Cheapest: CliffsNotes


Yep, the website that does summaries does books too! Image Courtesy of Amazon

You might think of CliffsNotes as the company that helps you before reading quizzes, but they make prep books too! CliffsNotes' AP Lang book provides a diagnostic test, four full practice exams, and strategies for both the multiple-choice and free-response sections.
A great aspect of this prep book is that it uses real practice prompts from previous AP exams. It also claims to only give you the information you need to ace the exam.

For some, after using CliffsNotes' AP Lang review book, you'll feel the relief that these people are feeling on this cliff on test day. Image Courtesy of Pixabay

You might be familiar with CliffsNotes easily readable summaries for books; similarly, this prepbook offers a relatable and familiar writing style for you!

3. Best for Practice: 5 Steps to a 5


With plenty of practice tests and some review tips, 5 Steps to a 5 could help you with succeeding on the Lang exam. Image Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

5 Steps to a 5 for AP Lang is truly a review book. You'll learn tips and strategies for the multiple-choice section and each of the three essays πŸ–‹οΈ
It offers lots of practice essays and questions and helps you out with creating a study plan before the May exam. There are three full practice exams in the book and three others online. This would be a good supplement to the prep you've done in your AP Lang class.


Ultimately, there are lots of options for textbooks and prepbooks for AP Lang. Make sure you carefully take everything in this guide into consideration before you purchase anything. Also, Fiveable's AP Lang hub can help you throughout the year with building up your skills.
You're going to do fantastic! Hopefully, this post helped you out as you embark on your journey to a 5️⃣ on the exam.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🧠Exam Skills
πŸ“‘Exam Review - Synthesis Essay
πŸ“Exam Review - Rhetorical Analysis Essay
πŸ’¬Exam Review - Argument Essay
🧐 Multiple Choice Questions
πŸ“†Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep
πŸ”šUnit 4 – How writers develop arguments, intros, & conclusions
πŸŽ€Unit 5 – How a writer brings all parts of an argument together
πŸ‘₯Unit 6 – Position, Perspective, & Bias
πŸ₯ŠUnit 7 – Successful & Unsuccessful Arguments
😎Unit 8 – Stylistic Choices
😈Unit 9 – Developing a Complex Argument

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