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Best AP English Literature Textbooks and Prep Books

4 min readโ€ขnovember 15, 2020

Samantha Himegarner

Brandon Wu


Yo! Whatโ€™s poppin'? ๐ŸŽˆAre you in need of some extra AP Lit resources, perhaps some prep book recommendations? Well, look no further! I have completely rounded up some of the best prep books money can buy! I have included information like price, pros and cons of each option, and how well it aligns with the AP Lit exam. I hope these books help; happy reading!

1. Cliffsnotes: AP Lit ๐Ÿง—

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The Cliffnotes book looks eerily similar to the website. Image Courtesy of Amazon

This book is a great option for any student that may be a little bit nervous about the AP Lit exam. The author of this book is an experienced AP Lit teacher and has even read AP Lit exams for many years, so a lot of her advice comes from personal experience.
This book includes strategies for test-taking, review material for all the main concepts, and six full-length practice exams! It is even updated for the 2021 exam.
You can order this book on Amazon for $18.99!

2. Princeton Review: AP Lit ๐Ÿ“”

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Here's what the 2020 AP Lit Princeton Review book looks like! Image Courtesy of Amazon

Princeton Review is probably one of the biggest names in the realm of AP/exam prep, and for good reason; their resources are incredible! This book covers review content in each main concept and breaks down testing strategies into each section of the exam (multiple choice + the three essays).
There are a few downsides to this option:
  • It only includes two full-length practice exams, although it does include answers and explains the solutions as well.
  • The most recent version available is the 2020 edition. Princeton Review will likely publish the 2021 edition at some point in the fall semester of the 2020-21 school year, with enough time before the exam.
This is my pick among prep books (although you canโ€™t really go wrong!). You can buy the 2020 edition from Amazon for around $17!

3. Barron's AP Lit ๐Ÿ“š

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This hefty AP Lit Barron's book might be helpful for you! Image Courtesy of Amazon

Similar to the Princeton Review, Barronโ€™s has a reputation among exam prep books to be super helpful and very successful in helping students achieve higher scores. The 7th edition Barronโ€™s AP Lit prep book is up-to-date, supposedly for what would have been the 2020 and now 2021 exam. This book includes seven full-length practice exams, some overview of the content, and is the cheapest of the options so far, at only $12.89 on Amazon.
There are some mixed reviews of this option, however. Some claim that the textbook teaches a 5-point essay rubric when in reality, there is a 6-point essay rubric on the exam. Many of the reviews offer complaints that the textbook was not aligned to the 2020 exam, but that is about the exam format (it being online due to COVID-19, not the content).
There is also an option to upgrade to earn more online practice tests! You can buy the textbook here on Amazon for about $13.

4. SparkNotes!๐Ÿ—’๏ธ

I know what youโ€™re thinking โ€” you have definitely used SparkNotes before. Plus, it isnโ€™t even a textbookโ€ฆnor is it even aligned with the AP Lit curriculum! I know, I know. Hear me out for one second!
SparkNotes is an AWESOME resource! There will be times when you will have to read a book or a play, and you will have NO IDEA what is going on. (And thatโ€™s ok!!!) By using resources available to you, such as SparkNotes, you can learn how to dive deeper into literature and really understand how it works. As long as you are not relying on SparkNotes too heavily, it is a great way to learn.
The website, sparknotes.com, is free, of course. You can also purchase individualized study guides for specific plays/novels. This might be helpful if you have a big project on one specific work, and you would like to have a reference handy throughout!

5. How to Read Literature Like a Professor ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿซ

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Learn how to read effectively with this book! Image Courtesy of Amazon

This last book is not a prep book/textbook, or in any way aligned with AP Lit. Instead, it is a great way to better your literary analysis skills. This 2014 book, written by Thomas C. Foster, explores different literary devices and techniques and how to recognize them.
This is a great alternative option to a textbook, as the tone is much more conversational than a textbook might be. Especially if you are planning on self-studying for the AP Lit exam, this would be an excellent resource to look into! You can purchase the book on Amazon for about $13!

Closing

And thatโ€™s a wrap!!! Of course, there are lots of other fantastic AP Lit textbooks and prep books out there that were not included on this list. These are some fan favorites and personal recommendations! No matter how you decide to study, just make sure to practice, practice, practice, and youโ€™ll be sure to get that 5๏ธโƒฃ!

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