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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 09 May 2010, 20:38
Great list!! Where can I find the 13 point CR check list?

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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 09 May 2010, 21:14
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Something tells me that it has already been mentioned, but George Orwell's Animal Farm is absolutely fantastic. I just picked up a copy and finished it in a few hours.

Overall, I think this would be an entertaining and useful book for anyone wanting to improve their reading skills. Besides, Orwell had a reputation for his thoughts on writing. He wrote a few essays on the topic. Interestingly, his ideas actually played a role in The Economist book, The Style Guide. I haven't read that one in particular, but most of its products are of high-quality.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 20 May 2010, 10:25
hi guys. thanks for advises.
are there any free resourses to read? unfortunatelly i cannot buy books now.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 20 May 2010, 11:36
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Most of the classics are free. You can use google books or many other websites.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 04 Jun 2010, 04:26
great list,

thanks a lot!!!
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 19 Jun 2010, 16:42
I already have some of the books and will start tomorrow! just fiction because i don't want to get stressed from technical books. (save energy for the gmat).
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2010, 01:18
I am in Vietnam and can not buy the fiction books you recommend

Anyone, pls tell me where to download one of the fiction books you recommend.

Thank a lot.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2010, 09:04
thangvietnam wrote:
I am in Vietnam and can not buy the fiction books you recommend

Anyone, pls tell me where to download one of the fiction books you recommend.

Thank a lot.

You can but them from Amazon or any local ebook websites. You do not need to read exactly the same books either. Just read any well written literature. You can download classics from either google books or Gutenberg project website. Plannet pdf also let you download some books. Most of the books mentioned above are actually freely downloadable.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2010, 11:12
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just about any book by Neal Stephenson can go into the 500+ behemoths -

1. Cryptonomicon - 2 parallel stories spanning across the globe and multiple timelines, one WW2 era and the other set in present day. superb book covering historical fiction, war fiction AND harcore technical concepts around cryptography [both WW2 era Bletchley Park/ Enigma code breaking as well as currently day cypher building and related stuff], computer hacking, phreaking and information security and general mathematical theory inc. prime numbers and modular mathematics. Probably the only book where a character debates the pros and cons of eating breakfast cereal with warm milk as opposed to cold milk [4 entire pages]

2. Anathem - dense and mostly theoratical book dealing with quantum theory and quantum mechanics, multiple universes and comparison of various philiospohies. rewarding read with a great ending

Not as big, but equally outstanding are

3. Snow Crash - the swashbuckling story of Hiro Protagonist, pizza delivery guy, freelance hacker and the greatest samurai swordfighter in the world who encounters an ancient Sumerian language virus in the virtual reality world he helped build, which puts the users into a coma in the physical world. Explores concepts of language and semantics, religion and mythology, politics, computer science and virtual reality

4. Diamond Age - possibly the greatest fiction book on the possibilities of nanotech. epic tale discussing race and ethnicity, sociology and culture, artificial intelligence and nanotech - all against the backdrop of brilliant and richly detailed exercise of world building

I admit it, I'm a Neal Stephenson fanboy :-D

another great example of a book being information rich while presenting it in essay size bits is John Brunner's angry masterpiece 'Stand on Zanzibar'. written in 1967, it discusses in prescient details the effects of over population, pollution, media saturation, eugenics, future shock and extrapolation of economic, social and technological trends

cannot post links to either books, but you can look them all up on amazon or wiki

As for short, breezy, fluffy reads, nothing can top PG Wodehouse's inimitable Jeeves and Wooster and Psmith series of books

edit to complete sentence

Last edited by yeahwill on 24 Jun 2010, 12:12, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2010, 12:00
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:) Thank you very much for your suggestions!
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 26 Jun 2010, 07:38
OK! Just finished about 1000 pages of GMAT fiction in one week. Now it's time to start research on good verbal prep books. Thanks for the great recommendations everyone. :-D
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2010, 22:25
Great list! I'd recommend that all non-native speakers read through most, if not all of these titles. Most native speakers had to read many of them in K-12 schooling

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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2010, 12:43
Is there a first book recommendation for a person who have never read a book completely? I got first 4 recommended books. Started with great gatsby and it's hard to proceed beyond 2 pages.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2010, 13:36
Thanks for this list! :)
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2010, 22:54
ga10 wrote:
Is there a first book recommendation for a person who have never read a book completely? I got first 4 recommended books. Started with great gatsby and it's hard to proceed beyond 2 pages.

http://www.drones.com/pgw.cgi
Mods let me know if it is not ok to post links and I will take it down

Everytime you refresh the page, it displays a new quote by PG Wodehouse. It will give you a taste for sentence building, economy of words, transferred epithets and exquisite metaphors with huge servings of humor on the side. His standalone Jeeves and Wooster/ Psmith books are typically 130-150 pages of lighthearted reading. They are also available in omnibus formats

Of course another way forward would be reading anthologies or collections. They are mostly themed - best of the year, genre specific etc. So you can pick one acc. to your tastes.
Others are career retrospective of a particular author, so you can see how the views of an author have matured/ changed over their lifetime. e.g. Arthur C Clarke's career spanning collection Greetings, Carbon based Bipeds or Philip K Dick's posthomous The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings which discusses his influences and things that mattered to him

I think I have abused the [url] tag enough :) I'm sure more people will be able to help you out better
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 19 Jul 2010, 09:20
I am also a non-native English speaker and it seems that we have a pretty similar taste in books. Although pretty long, I found the Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy very useful and interesting.
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Re: Gmat reading [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2010, 12:12
I'm considering reading Mary Shelly's Frankenstein; any opinions as to if it should increase my verbage, and or critical thiking skills, like these other books.

I hear the context and writing is quite challenging, any ideas?
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 24 Jul 2010, 06:25
just finished reading " Life of Pi". Its a brilliant read! I could hardly put the book down. I highly recommend this book!
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 29 Jul 2010, 11:03
good list
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink] New post 04 Aug 2010, 20:03
I am adding some of these books to my recreational reading list, if I can find the time. I am definitely going to get Wild Swans, I've never even heard of that book.

A lot of these are american classics, you can't go wrong there. I've read it can help to include a quote from famous books in your AWA essays too, so that can be a side benefit!
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read)   [#permalink] 04 Aug 2010, 20:03
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