Top 10 ELT books never written


September 26, 2015 by Willy Cardoso

In no particular order and without any criteria, here are (in my expert opinion) the best books in English Language Teaching never written.

1. Counter-narratives in professional development: no frameworks please

2. The Rise and Fall of Learner Autonomy: the colonising myth of the autonomous subject and other stories

3. Why what works still won’t work in the world of TEFL: an evidence-based case against evidence-based teaching

4. Übertefl: overcoming humanism in ELT

5. Beyond Unplugged and Headway: prelude to a TEFL of the future

6. Sorry, we were wrong! A collection of apology letters from “gurus” to teachers

7. Grammaticalised Onions and Caramelised Lexis: when Lewis meets Lawson

8. New Intermediate (2nd edition): the last coursebook for … well, intermediate students

9. A guide to CELTA equivalent qualifications: 45 certificates to keep gatekeeping afar

10. Five (very good – brilliant!) practical classroom activities


some references if you must:

1. professional development is ‘professionalising’ (i.e. it has increasingly gained commodity-like value), as a consequence [powerful] people are creating frameworks for [powerless] people to follow. A few more boxes to tick if you didn’t have enough.

2. if there is at least one lesson to be learned from postmodern discourse is that one should be skeptical of grand-narratives (those all-encompassing ideas/ideals); ‘the autonomous subject’ is one of them, and in its poor educational incarnation this takes form in the ideal of ‘learner autonomy’.

3. To counter-balance the one hundred blog posts triggered by Russ Mayne’s 2014 IATEFL talk, why not read: Why ‘What Works’ Still Won’t Work: From Evidence-Based Education to Value-Based Education by Gert Biesta.

4. A reference to Nietzsche’s ubermensch (overhuman), highly misunderstood in many places and non-existent in ELT, which is all too sure about its humanistic values.

5. Another Nietzsche reference, to his book Beyond Good and Evil. This pseudo-funny title touches on the tired coursebook vs no-coursebook debate, notably at each end: Headway (‘the’ coursebook) and Teaching Unplugged (the anti-coursebook resource book). There’s more in common between them than people care to admit, hence the need to go ‘beyond’.

6. It’s hard to believe these ELT experts who’ve been on the road preaching the communicative approach (or other), for over 20 years, have not realised there must be some amount of non-sense they’ve helped disseminate. Their acknowledgement of that would be a welcome addition to the literature.

7. it is said sometimes that language consists of lexicalised grammar and not grammaticalised lexis (or the other way around, I don’t know). Another quasi-funny title here, since I prefer to understand food instead of grammar, Michael Lewis (author of The Lexical Approach) and Nigella Lawson (famous TV food person) meet in this wonderful never-to-be-written book which would be a joy to those tired of Grammar McNuggets.

8. I suppose this is self-explanatory

9. Most TEFL jobs, in Europe at least, require a “CELTA or equivalent”. The only (widely accepted) equivalent I know of is Trinity Cert TESOL, and maybe the SIT TESOL (but it’s American). So why only 2 or 3 recognised qualifications when there are about 10,000 people taking a CELTA/CertTESOL every year? Do two sizes fit all?

10. Five as opposed to 52, 100, 500! Frankly, if you need 500 activities you’re probably teaching too much (and maybe thinking too little – ops…)


One thought on “Top 10 ELT books never written

  1. ronmorrain says:

    Thank you Willy. I have been waiting for #6 for years. In reference to #10, I hope that any EFL /ESL teacher who has been in this business for more than five years should have at least 5 great lessons. I especially target the gurus who preach – but cannot teach!

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