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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 :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 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.
Future Shock book added

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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink]

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New post 17 Aug 2014, 03:52
I followed your advice and started my 1st novel- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald with full zeal. I know my reading habit is very poor, so i need to do something to improve it, and reading high level english novels can be one solution to it. But...but...but... I was able to complete only 2 pages of gatsby in 1 hour. The language is too difficult for me to interpret and i have to search for many phrases on google. now what should i do.. Should i countinue with this novel or move on to someone else..hw should i improve my RC part..

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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink]

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New post 18 Aug 2014, 03:57
sachinjain1990 wrote:
I followed your advice and started my 1st novel- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald with full zeal. I know my reading habit is very poor, so i need to do something to improve it, and reading high level english novels can be one solution to it. But...but...but... I was able to complete only 2 pages of gatsby in 1 hour. The language is too difficult for me to interpret and i have to search for many phrases on google. now what should i do.. Should i countinue with this novel or move on to someone else..hw should i improve my RC part..


There is no point reading a book you don't understand. You will get discouraged and lose interest. Start with some popular bestsellers - books you might find interesting. Move on to Classics later.
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New post 26 Aug 2014, 13:48
Review=Guns,Germs and Steel
Very beautifully written book..!Brilliant analytics,as in,why are few areas of the world so developed and modernised while others are underdeveloped or still developing,on the basis of 3 factors- GUNS,GERMS AND STEEL :-D
Highly recommend this book to improve RC and to avail various intense historical insights..


Starting with Code Book from today.. :)




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New post 30 Aug 2014, 08:59
Hii,
Will reading "THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES" be productive for the GMAT purpose ?




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New post 01 Sep 2014, 02:49
The Alchemy of Desire by Tarun J Tejpal is also a nice book to read. Spectacular writing style, high vocabulary. And you will enjoy reading it.
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New post 29 Sep 2014, 07:20
bb.... I know this post is pretty old and I do read lot of books.. Should I still follow your advice :-)

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New post 07 Dec 2014, 05:13
Thank you this is one of the most helpful threads of all on gmatclub

All students should take advantage of it
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New post 24 Feb 2015, 07:51
My recommendation : Shantaram by Gregory Robert . An awesome fiction !

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New post 29 Mar 2015, 10:45
How about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak?

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New post 14 Apr 2015, 05:04
SumitkJ wrote:
My recommendation : Shantaram by Gregory Robert . An awesome fiction !


Totally second that. Also any of the books by Ayn Rand.

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New post 07 May 2015, 19:48
Thanks for the book list, read some reviews and they seem pretty good. Kudos

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New post 19 May 2015, 21:31
bb wrote:
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)
-





HI BB, Thanks for such a valuable thread, for non native speaker like me , can we have levels defined among these many books, sort of segregation among these books , I mean with which books one should start (having said, for non native speaker, considering who just started reading) , After these many recommendations I started reading with "the great Gatsby" , and ended up with 4 pages in one hour, may be because of many unknown words and convoluted language to me, what i felt, if there would be some sort of levels defined like

initial level - for novice readers ---- book 1, book 2, .....
mid level - once he/she gets some sort of comfy while reading ---- book 1, book 2, .....
High level - with convoluted language and difficult words ---- book 1, book 2, .....

That would be of great help...

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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read) [#permalink]

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New post 30 May 2015, 13:12
Hi all,

How Can I improve my SC? I have both studied verbal foundation and sc by manhattan. However, results are not satisfactory when it comes to solve SC questions...What else should I do to eradicate this problem?

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New post 21 Sep 2015, 23:30
Thank you bb for posting amazing insight into how reading classic fiction helped you achieve a great score!! Inspiring :)
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New post 14 Oct 2015, 23:49
Hi,

I am a non - native speaker and planning to appear for the GMAT by 31 December 2015. On my previous GMAT about 10 days back, i scored a v29. I know this is because i need improvement in my reading skills. My reading + comprehension speed is lower than what people usually recommend for GMAT.

I started with the Fountain Head, found that that English was a bit high level for me.

My question is -

1) How to read books effectively so that I can get out the maximum from them?
2) How to remember the vocabulary and the usage of the words that we come through while reading?


I usually enjoy reading non-fiction books. Can i start Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, about the leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco? I think i will enjoy it more as it based on a real life story and i can relate to it easily as i am from the finance profession.
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harishbiyani8888 wrote:
Hi,

I am a non - native speaker and planning to appear for the GMAT by 31 December 2015. On my previous GMAT about 10 days back, i scored a v29. I know this is because i need improvement in my reading skills. My reading + comprehension speed is lower than what people usually recommend for GMAT.

I started with the Fountain Head, found that that English was a bit high level for me.

My question is -

1) How to read books effectively so that I can get out the maximum from them?
2) How to remember the vocabulary and the usage of the words that we come through while reading?


I usually enjoy reading non-fiction books. Can i start Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, about the leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco? I think i will enjoy it more as it based on a real life story and i can relate to it easily as i am from the finance profession.


Yes. You can read whatever keeps you engaged and motivated to read 50-100 pages per day but mind the depth of the style and language.
1. I don't know.
2. Write the words out into a notebook

Best Regards,
BB
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harishbiyani8888 wrote:
Hi,

I am a non - native speaker and planning to appear for the GMAT by 31 December 2015. On my previous GMAT about 10 days back, i scored a v29. I know this is because i need improvement in my reading skills. My reading + comprehension speed is lower than what people usually recommend for GMAT.

I started with the Fountain Head, found that that English was a bit high level for me.

My question is -

1) How to read books effectively so that I can get out the maximum from them?
2) How to remember the vocabulary and the usage of the words that we come through while reading?


I usually enjoy reading non-fiction books. Can i start Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, about the leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco? I think i will enjoy it more as it based on a real life story and i can relate to it easily as i am from the finance profession.


I am a non-native as well and in addition to bb 's list , a couple of useful posts by mikemcgarry from Magoosh are very useful to go through for your verbal preparation.

http://magoosh.com/gmat/2013/gmat-verbal-tips/
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/gmat-reading-list/

GMAT RC topics will be from a highly varied source (a few sources wll definitely be not to your liking). So push yourself to understand reading material from sources and topics that you far from your comfort level. This will then help you to understand GMAT RC/SC/CR texts better and in a much more time efficient way.

Hope this helps.
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New post 31 Oct 2015, 13:25
Hi All,

How reliable is the result of Veritas CAT in terms of predicting real gmat exam score?
Furthermore, what are the most successful CATs that reflect candidate's current score performance?

?

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New post 29 Nov 2015, 10:51
Thanks BB for the excellent post!
Wondering ...No mention of George Orwell there :? ?. Two of his greatest works are 1984 and animal farm. Animal farm is an amazing book to start with (especially for new readers). 1984, though a heavyweight, is a must read. You will realize how closely the plot of V for Vendetta is related to that of 1984.

Regards,
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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read)   [#permalink] 29 Nov 2015, 12:05

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