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

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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 . 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 http://gmatclub.com/forum/mba-books-goo ... 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 01 Mar 2017, 15:20, edited 33 times in total.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink]

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14 Jan 2011, 16:35
I read The Great Gatsby in High School and was thoroughly offset by it because of my hauteur reputation, finding it very languid. Now,after reading it again, I must say that I impetuously go for the rakish book as incessantly as I get a chance while ascertaining that I highlight all of the vocabulary that I do not know in order to make myself more deft without being supercilious (some of the vocabulary I picked up from the book was used if it was not obvious enough!).
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25 Jan 2011, 22:01
Quick thought on finding a lot of the classics: as of last week Barnes and Noble had a 3 for the price of 2 sale for their B&N classics. Many of those have endnotes by an editor that are helpful with words that may be out of date.

And an even better option is a used bookstore. Most used bookstores have a great selection of classics, which can usually be found for about \$4 each.

I love the idea of reading fiction. I've found the SC and RC sections pretty manageable, and I haven't taken an english class since I was 18 (12 years ago). I just spend a lot of time reading.
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03 Feb 2011, 09:47
HI,
FRIENDS I AM
NEW ONE HERE.

THANKS
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04 Feb 2011, 02:18
hi.........
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11 Feb 2011, 18:24
Oops! Now I think 7 months is not enuf for my gmat study; I have to get past so many ficton books

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13 Feb 2011, 16:29
I'm almost finished reading The Grapes of Wrath. This is a great story that is easy to read. For those people who don't read regularly, The Grapes of Wrath is a good book to start training your mind about reading actively.

After I finished The Grapes of Wrath, I want to read a more challenging book with a different style of writing. I'm interested at getting The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Has anyone read that book?
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14 Feb 2011, 07:02
@Samwong yes about to finish Fountainhead. It's a fiction-cum-philosophy kind of book. basically centred around Howard Roark who is 'ideal' architect. basically the book is about individualism and anti-collectivism philosophy. i found the book bit tough to understand but i think it's a good book if you want to prepare for tough RCs.

find the most favorable and critical review here:

http://www.amazon.com/Fountainhead-Ayn- ... ewpoints=1

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14 Feb 2011, 07:05
my next books will be: Shantaram,Atlas Shrugged, and The Kite Runner.
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14 Feb 2011, 10:19
PranavChamp,

Thanks for comment. You must really like The Fountainhead to read another book from Ayn Rand.

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20 Feb 2011, 23:35
I like horror type books and am currently reading Vikram and Vampire, Ancient tales of India by Richard Burton. Has anyone read it before?
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25 Feb 2011, 10:26
just finished Illusions by Richard Bach. and instant confi booster philosophy i would say. basically he has written some good inspirational snippets interwoven into storyline...worth having a look.

P.S. Illusions is ranked #98 in the top 100 (readers' list) published by modern library.

link: http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels/
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25 Feb 2011, 11:27
any suggestion for good historical novel??? how about hitler's autobio: mein kampf ?
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17 Mar 2011, 12:04
finished the fountainhead...great illustration of each character. but found the objectivism philosophy unrealistic in today's world.
now reading Shantaram...so far so good...
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26 Mar 2011, 06:35
I love reading and have read a number of the books posted here.
I have some other suggestions for people looking for more:
Some are well-known, others less so.

Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein
The movies are really famous but the books are even better. Journey into a fantastical world that feels so vivid, you feel like you are actually walking along with the characters.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark
If Jane Austen had written something like Harry Potter, it would have been this book. Set in Victorian Times, it recounts the tale of the two last magicians in England and the return of Magic. Story a bit slow getting started but once it gets going it's very good!

And I love the Jane Austen books, although they really are more enjoyable for girls.

Another good one to read is any version of:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
There are many Sherlock Holmes stories. The earlier ones are the best. They differ in lenght, from short stories to full novels. Get your detective hat on and see if you can beat Sherlock to the punch (which is almost always impossible, since the man is a genius).

Anyway, I hope it helps anyone. I have so many books I love, but these are some of the best.
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26 Mar 2011, 06:41
thangduong wrote:
in bookstores in my county, there are no books of American authors but many fiction books of English authors such as Jain Austein, Thomas hardy...

can I read fiction books of English authors. Books of what authors I should read, any one has experience of this, please, help

thank a lot

Just saw this post and wanted to respond. Like one of the previous posts said, many books can be found online whose copyrights have expired. Anything before 1923 is in the Public Domain. Most books after that can be extend for up to 95 years. After that, also public domain. If your country has a limited number of English books available, try online websites. Project Gutenberg is one of them.

Although of course you want to read, you could also try some audio versions of many of these public domain books if you just want to get confortable with the words (perhaps even for a TOEFL test). Projects like Librivox have free audioversion of many public domain books.
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07 May 2011, 12:51
I think of myself as an avid reader and the book which i have found to be most complex in terms of sentence structure is 'Inheritance of loss' by Kiran Desai.

No wonder she won a Booker for it
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15 May 2011, 02:56
I would like to suggest even Alchemist by Paul Coelho for fiction.Very good book.-Chandu4gmat
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18 May 2011, 08:16
Thank you so much for the advise!
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19 May 2011, 23:06
thangduong wrote:
I am a non native , and like you, look for better verbal score.
I see gmat text contain not many new words but long sentences and complex ideas. So, we need to look for those text to read. This way we study effectively for gmat. we want good gmat verbal score not a verbal of writer

I wish all of you when recommend a book, please specify
1- vocabalary is rich or not
2- content is interesting or not
3- sentence is long and complex or not, idea is complex or not

please, spedify the 3 points so that some one can choose the book he like.

what we read dicide what is my english is and my verbal score is. I wish to look for text similar to gmat text, which has no rich vocabalary but complex sentences and tough ideas. I want to be a gmat winner not a writer.

I wish to read the book which has complex sentences like those in LOLITAL BOOK but dose not have many new words. I find REMAIN OF THE DAY , and FOUNTAIN HEAD suitable for gmat. Other books I see not suitable for gmat, ROI for gmat is low.

Please, recommend book more.

Thank you for your suggestions and comments.
My point was reading an interesting book that had good language. This did not mean complex vocabulary but rather my emphasis was on complex sentences (try Faulkner or Henry James for that purpose) but I also did not want to fall asleep (Faulkner), so I picked books that were a compromise.
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24 May 2011, 03:07
bb wrote:
pbanavara wrote:
I would like to add "Guns Germs and Steel" to the list - fascinating book for history freaks. Certainly improved my RC skills. An enjoyable book as well.

Agree - I liked the book as well, though found a few chapters a bit repetitive as the author kept trying to summarize past arguments quite a few times.
Book added to the list.

I find most the books I read very repatative .. as in they keep presenting same idea again and again. Specially self help books and books by Malcolm Gladwell. He writes on interesting topics but then it becomes boring half way.

Have left many books in between.
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read)   [#permalink] 24 May 2011, 03:07

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