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Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read)

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Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 26 Feb 2009, 00:37
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I am a non-native speaker and when I was studying for GMAT, I had a really hard time with the Reading Comprehension section - it was too difficult to digest in the amount of time allotted, often had new words, and took double the processing power to understand. I tried reading scientific articles and business magazines but I read only for the sake of reading and naturally in about 3 minutes I would catch my mind wondering somewhere else and having to get back to reading. I had to force myself to read and that's a horrible situation to be in. There had to be a better way to do this, and I think I found it - reading interesting books with strong written English. Now, rather than reading myself to sleep, I would stay up till 2 or 3 am with a dictionary next to my bed, unable to put the book down. When I read these books, I wanted to know what every word meant. I also was able to remember the vocabulary a lot better since I now was much more invested into the book and my reading was now done as a fun activity. Beat that!


Also, even though I started reading fiction books to get my Reading Comprehension up, after 3-4 good sized books I found that reading also trains your "ear" and helps with Sentence Correction. More and more I was able to pick out the issue with the sentence simply because it did not sound right and not because I ran through my 13 point check-list for CR questions. Eventually I scored 42 on verbal - back then it was 96th percentile, not too shabby for a foreigner.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that reading fiction books can be very helpful for your GMAT and not only that -when I moved to the US, I found that besides good grammar, reading Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Fitzgerald books gave me insights into the culture and history that helped to blend in a bit better. (Many of the classic books listed are a required reading in the US high schools). If you are not a native speaker and serious about getting a good verbal score - I would highly recommend you pick up a reading habit.

Here is a list of fiction books I found most interesting. However, I hope that if you find any interesting books, esp. something that really impacted you, you will post them here as a recommendation and I will add them to the list (I am also looking for a recommendation for a new book to read).


Recent Classic Fiction
These are usually well known books that have some of the best style and rich vocabulary.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - One of the most romantic books on the list. Though it will capture you, leave a very warm feeling and may even make you cry, the main value of the book is its stunningly beautiful language and great history insights (Do you know who a bootlegger is?). 4 Amazon stars based on 1,223 reviews.
Review by diogoguitarrista: "The book is easy to understand because it is a romance. While reading, you imagine the scene, every detail.
You may find some "elder" words reading it, such as "any body" instead of "anybody", but nothing like you would find reading an original text by Christopher Columbus :lol: . Still, the story has a rich vocabulary."

Someone said that the book has some tough parts that could make one cry, but I did not even got "sad".

The bottom line: it worth both your time and your money


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - the most well know of Steinbeck's masterpieces. Not the best value for the money with only 92 pages, but it has the most cultural value as everyone in the US read, watched, or heard of it. 4.5 Amazon stars based on 1033 reviews.


Cannery Row by John Steinbeck - a story about a group of good-natured bums living in Salinas, Northern California in the 1920's and 1930's - the book has plenty of humor to keep you cracking through all 200 pages - a quick read. A movie with the same title has been made based on this book. 4.5 Amazon stars based on 233 reviews.


Daisy Miller by Henry James - definitely one of the most romantic books by James, but he has fantastic English - 3 line sentences and more on 128 pages. No reliable Amazon rating is available for this book


A Movable Feast by Earnest Hemingway - a very inspiring book about the writer's years in Paris. Ideal book for a trip, but works well for GMAT too - great language, good sentence structure, and great useful vocabulary. 4.5 stars on Amazon and recommended by several members as well.


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - great language and style. Also the annotated edition will keep you much more in sync with all the references. The most famous of Nabokov's pieces and one that coined a name for itself in history. 4.5 Amazon Stars.


Sidartha by Herman Hesse - if you ever wondered about the meaning of life or how to be happy - read through a short book about an Indian boy who seeks enlightenment and satisfaction. This is one of the most famous works by Hesse. He received a Nobel prize for his life-long contribution to the world's literature.


The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - fantastic language and a very interesting book about the life of a British butler. A movie has been made based on the book, but it is not even 10% as good. 256 pages and 4.5 Amazon stars based on 196 reviews.


Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden - 2,500 Amazon reviews probably speak for themselves. This was the first book I read after starting business school - good language, captivating plot that will have you read through nights and a lot to learn about early 20th century Japan and the role of a Geisha. I read it over a course of several weeks and when I was finished, I felt a part of me was missing.


To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee - this story grew with and around single family in small city Monroeville, which said to be Herper Lee's hometown. Herper Lee delineated each character through the eyes of Jean Louise who was a girl between 7-8 yrs. This story helps identify each character based on its vicinity and consequences. (Recommended by priyankur)


Men without women by Earnest Hemingway - compilation of fourteen short stories so good reading guide for them who think that reading novel could waste precious preparation time. Stories are distinct and readers have enough room to juxtapose their thoughts with those of author. (Recommended by priyankur)


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.) - The book is meant to be read with concentration and a sound mind (which is very important in papers like GMAT). It is not only psychologically motivating (if understood), but also trains the reader's mind for complex texts. (Recommended by aknine)





Heavyweights (500+ Page Fiction Books)
Longer books but worth every page

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - a timeless classic and required high school reading, this book covers the lives of several families caught in the 1930's great depression. 464 pages of great English, interesting story, and full of cultural references. 4.5 Amazon stars based on 599 reviews.


The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - a masterpiece by a master. Though very idealistic and sometimes extreme, Ayn Rand delivers a great story with strong structure, and many themes that will force you think about your life. 752 pages will slip by too quickly - you will miss the company of this book. 4 Amazon stars based on 974 reviews.


Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - a "continuation" to the Fountainhead and the last book by Ayn Rand - her last and best masterpiece. I am reading it right now and thoroughly enjoying it. I am 150 pages through and look forward to another 1,000 for a rewarding read.


Wild Swans by Jung Chang - a fascinating journey through the 20th century history of China - may not be the best style book, but extremely captivating and educational. 544 pages and 4.5 Amazon stars based on 359 reviews.


Shogun by James Clavell - let the 1,200 pages not scare you - this will be a fast read about 17th century Japan. A TV-series was made based on this book. Good English, though language can get tough sometimes. 4.5 Amazon stars based on 309 reviews.


Guns Germs and Steel" - fascinating book for history freaks. Certainly improved my RC skills. An enjoyable book as well. (recommended by pbanavara)


Non-Fiction
Captivating and educational

The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal by Desmond Morris - if you want a new perspective on the human race, learn what makes us who we are, laughing most of the way, this book is for you. 256 pages and 4.5 Amazon stars based on 52 reviews.


The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh - the only book on this list with a flawless record of 5 Amazon stars based on 255 reviews. If you are interested in code and how cryptography works - this book is almost a step by step guide - very interesting if you are into puzzles.


Future Shock by Alvin Toffler - The book is dense and idea rich and yet just 385 pages in length. (Recommended by urchin)


Other Recommendations
1. Non Fiction and Business Business Books mba-books-good-books-to-read-prior-to-mba-merged-74557.html - a collection of over 70 different book recommendations to enrich your views on Global Policy, Poverty, Leadership, Project Management, and just inspiring business books
2. The Economist Magazine (JohnLewis1980)
3. National Geographic Magazine (nitya34)
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Last edited by bb on 07 Jan 2011, 08:23, edited 31 times in total.
Future Shock book added
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 00:11
I am very weak at history passage and wish to read book of history review, specially of woman history in US which is regular topic of the first passage of gmat.

anyone know the book like that, please, tell me. Thank you
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 00:13
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thangvietnam wrote:
I am very weak at history passage and wish to read book of history review, specially of woman history in US which is regular topic of the first passage of gmat.

anyone know the book like that, please, tell me. Thank you


You mean history of Feminism?
I am no fan of those books.... sorry. Perhaps someone found a fascinating book they can recommend.

However, the point is not to find a book about every passage but rather to find a great book that can improve your English and Reading and also do so in an enjoyable way. These two may not be compatible...
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 14 Jul 2011, 04:57
thangvietnam wrote:
woman history in US which is regular topic of the first passage of gmat.


interesting conclusion....

why do you think so ?
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 15 Jul 2011, 02:25
I think that the Economist makes for a very good read. I go through it regularly.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 19 Jul 2011, 07:51
I find essays collection such as "issue across the disciplines" are very nice and gmat like. I do not have it. Anyone know where to download it, please, tell me

Anyone know any collection of essay like that book, please, recommend .
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2011, 06:35
I read Marcel Proust's Swan Way. I like his sentences very much because they help me with SC and RC. But the content is boring.

Anyone know any other works of that writer, which have more interesting content , for example, a plot, Please, tell me. (please, email me). I need the interesting thing to keep my reading constant.

Thank a lot.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 09 Aug 2011, 06:31
how to read and what to read.

for non native speaker who did not study undergraduate in English after getting 100 toefl ibt, the study of gmat is the learning of reading. to be able to choose one correct sentence among 5 choices of SC or to do an argument, the students have to read very well . when we study gmat, we do again the old questions in og and this kill us because our reading capacity is not up. logic of gmat is easy to get medium level and normally this make us get a good score .Evidence for this is that when we do again the old questions we get 80 percent of them right. why because we do not have to read any more. But because we can not read, we can not perform on the test day. This posting points out the problem-we have to read a lot. toefl ibt 100 can not make us able to read the argument in 30 seconds before we go to the answer choices, can not make us able to read the first 2 sentences of the RC passages. The only way to solve problem is to read

The matter now is what to read and how to read. We need capacity to read/summarize/paraphrase a long sentence with many ideas but, luckily without many new words. So, we choose material which contain long sentences with rich ideas. Some material contain too many new words and reading this is not neccessary . all reading skills for a native speaker are taught in toefl ibt already and there is no new skill we need to know. just practice. we do not need to learn new words any more after we get 100 toefl ibt although we will see new words in the dictionary frequently when studying gmat because it is convenient to learn new words when we read.

when we meet a long sentences like the second sentence of the first passage of gmat test, we find out main subject, main verb and main object, then we reread the total sentence. In doing this process of summarizing happens. At first, the non native speaker after 100 toefl ibt will spent 5 minute to read ONE sentence, but latter he/she will spent 10 seconds to do so and become a winner of gmat. This can take him/her 2 months.

I find that the text of some ,not all, fiction book is similar to gmat text though the idea is the novel is easier than the idea in the RC passage. So reading novel help us practice paraphrasing/read gmat text. To get familiar with the ideas in the gmat text, we read university magazine like university of chicago and havard magazine, which are recommended by beatthegmat forum.

I find out that reading essay is also very good because some essay are similar to gmat text in term of sentence complex and ideas.

Any one find some material which is similar to gmat text, please recommend. Thank you.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 18 Oct 2011, 12:03
I read economist....
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2011, 12:42
PG Wodehouse's Jeeves stories!
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 08 Nov 2011, 05:37
While preparing for gmat i came across lot of passages on feminist movement and feminism in America. Now i think i know more about Women's right than my own. :lol:

I am reading Too Big to Fail. Interesting read.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 13 Dec 2011, 06:48
OK, I just noticed Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on the list. I've been trying to understand this book for the last 10 years. It was assigned in English class during my junior year in high school by a teacher whom I believe was crazy. I remember my friends and I spending long hours almost everyday for nearly 6 months trying to figure out what on earth ZATMM is about. If one of you actually has, please PM me. Seriously, after 10 years of being flummoxed by a book that is supposedly about fixing a bike while pondering about life, I'd love some closure.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 18 Dec 2011, 06:10
I would recommend to everyone that he or she should read in front of the computer/smartphone etc. I think that hunting down words in a dictionary (book version) can be very exhausting and time consuming. When I started studying in English, I simply used Google to help me with translation. I did not use Google Translate because it often can create biased meaning. I think it is best to learn English in English than to learn English in another language. However, that requires a certain dose of pre-knowledge of English. So if you have a long way to go, consider the latter option first.

Simply write "define: [i.e] vivacious" and look up the definition. I recommend Merriam-Webster dictionary because it is one of the first to pop up and is very credible. Using online dictionary is easy, convenient and will save you a lot of time.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 08 Jan 2012, 08:23
A book that I just finished that will absolutely sharpen you as a reader is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It's a lot of work, but if you can get through it not only will it make you a more acute and perceptive reader, but most likely will change the way you view the world around you, especially if you are living in the United States.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2012, 13:28
Recently read Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics by Levitt & Dubner.

Fun read and some serious input for putting economics into practise - really enjoyed them.

Good idea & like for the thread! Will certainly start to tackle some of the suggested books.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 18 Jan 2012, 10:03
a fine balance by rohinton mistry is, in my opinion, very well written (and extremely interesting to boot)
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 19 Jan 2012, 12:40
So do you guys believe that reading fiction will not help your SC score but also CR and RC scores?
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 08 Feb 2012, 00:57
For those who are interested, they can go to:

http://www.gutenberg.org/

and download free e-books. This is not an illegal website, it does not violate US copyrights law. The reason is because all of those copyrights have expired in the US. If you are not from the US, make sure you check your own country's copyright laws to make sure it is legal to download.

There are over 100,000 books that you can get for free. If you don't mind reading on your computer, check it out. You will not find any new books here but at least the books available are free :lol:
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 06 Mar 2012, 06:28
I would add The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David S. Landes.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 07 Mar 2012, 08:13
I LOVE A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry; it's huge but I finished it in one day (albeit with a sprained ankle and unable to move).

I'd like to recommend two personal favorites by Dostoevsky that I'm rereading right now: Crime & Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Again, relatively long, but super interesting.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2012, 18:54
Subscriptions of magazines is a good proposal....
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read)   [#permalink] 27 Apr 2012, 18:54
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