The Best Books for Learning French, recommended by Vincent Serrano-Guerra

In spite of all the online ads promising to teach you a new language in a matter of minutes, learning a language takes time and commitment—and motivation is critical. Here Vincent Serrano-Guerra, author of a book for learning French that focuses on the 20,000 words that are the same in French and English, explains how best to set about it and recommends some books that’ll also get you familiar with French culture.

The Best Books for Learning Spanish, recommended by Benny Lewis

Which are the best books for learning Spanish? Benny Lewis, polyglot and author of the popular language-learning blog Fluent in Three Months, recommends his top five. He explains why beginners should be wary of grammar, and why forcing yourself to make mistakes is the key to success in any language.

The best books on Linguistics, recommended by David Adger

Which linguistics books give a good sense of what the field is about? David Adger, Professor of Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London and the current president of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, recommends some of his own favourite books on the science of language, including a sci-fi novel.

The best books on Swearing, recommended by Melissa Mohr

Linguistically, swear words are unique—they can shock and offend, are processed differently in the brain, and saying them may allow you to withstand pain for longer. But where do they get their distinctive power? And how has this changed over time? Melissa Mohr gives us a badmouthed tour of the best fucking books on swearing . . .

The best books on Hieroglyphics, recommended by Diane Greco Josefowicz

Reading the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt reveals much about the worldview of a civilisation that rose to prominence 5000 years ago and flourished for thousands of years. Here, intellectual historian Diane Greco Josefowicz—whose book, The Riddle of the Rosetta, co-written with Jed Buchwald, tells the story of how the meaning of the hieroglyphs was deciphered in 19th century France—recommends the best books to learn more about hieroglyphics.

Grammar Books That Prove What They Preach, recommended by Lane Greene

Most grammar books say 'do this, and that's that.' But who says? How do they know? Real rules are grounded in the facts of actual standard usage. Here are five grammar books that show their work, telling you not only what to do but why, and how they know. Accept nothing less.

The Best Speeches of All Time, recommended by Clarence B Jones

Which were the best speeches ever made? Clarence B Jones, lawyer, friend and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr—and contributor to the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech—chooses his top five, and explains what is that makes these famous speeches so good.

The best books on Slang, recommended by Jonathon Green

It’s dirty, grubby and doubting. And us at our most real. The lexicographer takes us inside the world of “rough, truthful language” from rhyming slang and cant to the streets of Baltimore and an etymology of the f-word

The best books on Language and the Mind, recommended by Lane Greene

Does the world look different in other languages? Are there words that cannot be translated? Is it OK to say disinterested when you mean uninterested? Lane Greene, who writes the Economist’s “Johnson” column on language, dispels some of the popular but misguided ideas many of us have about language.

The best books on Samuel Johnson, recommended by Peter Lilley

Samuel Johnson, author of the 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language, was not a hard-hearted Tory caricature, but a champion of the poor and enslaved, according to Margaret Thatcher’s Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Peter Lilley.