Book of the Month
American Headway 2 Student Book

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Author: John and Liz Soars

ISBN 0194729648

Elementary +

This book is the second in a series of five books in the American Headway series. There are just 154 pages in the book which means that students are paying almost 20c a page (and sometimes more - the book sells for a painful $42 in Canada). So the first question must be why anyone, with so many better-priced books to choose from, would want to spend so much money on a standard English textbook? One reason is because the authors, John and Liz Soars, are two of the best and most experienced writers in EFL. Another reason is because the book comes with a CD which adds extra value. However, we suspect that the main reason that most people will buy this book is because it is a set book for their class and there is no option but to buy it. This book is not meant to be used alone - it is designed to be used by a class together with a CD, a teacher's book and a workbook.

The book itself is no different from the many other books of this sort. There are large colourful pictures which take up a lot of the page, and many exercises which are the usual mix of gap-fill (cloze) exercises, word substitution and so on. Being a class book, there are also exercises which involve group activity and pairwork. The book aims to develop 'integrated skills'. Basically this means that - for example - students should be able to hear something in English, and then write down a summary of what was said, answer another person's questions about what they have heard and then read what another person has written about it. As might be expected in a modern educational environment, the book explains at great length what language points are being studied and what skills the exercises will develop. The actual explanations of English grammar are short and basic, because the authors would expect the teacher to explain many of the details, and there are only 154 pages available in the book to fit everything into. However, the result is that sometimes the picture on a page is larger than the grammatical explanation. The CD is an important part of the material in the student's book and helps with listening and pronunciation. In a classroom one CD per class might be enough, but if working at home do not get the book - for example second-hand - without the CD. Fortunately the publisher has supplied selected tracks from the student book and workbook at There is other material which is available for the teacher's book. Though students can't access this, it will indirectly also help to improve their lessons. (If you thought the student's book was expensive, note that the teacher's book is more than twice the price!) The chapters in the student's book are arranged by topic, so we have subjects such as 'shopping', 'love' and 'scary things'. This material is linked with the learning points in each chapter to give the exercises and vocabulary a common theme. As we might expect of these authors, the articles are lively, interesting and up-to-date.

Who is this book for? This book is designed to be used by students in a classroom as part of a wider learning environment. Any other language student will find more suitable material available both in bookstores and on the internet at a much cheaper price. So the best reason for getting this book is because your teacher has told you that you will need it for your coming language course. We should also mention that the high price of this book has encouraged thieves to put illegal copies on the internet. One site that offers the book as a 'free download' also has a hidden .exe file in the download that could do nasty things to your computer. It also had a (fake) 'checked by McAffee' certificate.

Verdict: For EFL classrooms
Assessment 5/10

Previous book reviews