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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 29 Mar 2016, 09:36
I haven't gone through all 12 pages of this post viewing all the recommendations, I only viewed the main post by BB with all those suggested books, so maybe this book has already been recommended. I have read The Naked Ape as well as Guns, Germs, and Steel. I loved both of these books, and both provided improvement in my RC/CR abilities (especially GMAT questions in the science realm, of course). As someone who used to shy away from science during high school and undergrad, I have 'evolved' into someone who loves science NON-fiction. Finally (and the main reason for writing this post), I'd like to recommend Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye. Below I will post a link for amazon, where you can read the first chapter or so for free. Out of the three non-fiction science books I've listed in this post, Undeniable came out on top for me, and just wanted to share with others since the Non-fiction recommended list is a bit small (currently about three books). The reviews on Amazon are articulate, and provide a better sense of the read than I could, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though I'm a bit biased towards the genre.



http://www.amazon.com/Undeniable-Evolut ... undeniable

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New post 08 Apr 2016, 07:41
Hi,

Any opinion of the book Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn with respect to GMAT reading? Is it a solid resource?
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kreel11 wrote:
Hi,

Any opinion of the book Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn with respect to GMAT reading? Is it a solid resource?



I would suggest looking at older titles (things that are more than 50 years old or classics) - usually better language and more formal structures that follow the GMAT patterns.
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bb

Whats your opinion on books by following authors
    Jane austen series
    Sydney sheldon
    agastha christe or
    Jphn grisham

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New post 25 May 2016, 22:30
Nevernevergiveup wrote:
bb

Whats your opinion on books by following authors
    Jane austen series
    Sydney sheldon
    agastha christe or
    John grisham


This is interesting as i just got a notification about your post here :-)
I think Jane Austin will be fantastic but probably the least entertaining. Don't know about Sydney Sheldon, unfortunately. I would guess Agatha and John will be the most interesting but less transformational - they are good starter books but you want to move up the food chain to harder and longer sentences.
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New post 23 Jul 2016, 05:50
This is my first post here.
Great thread, I tried to read Lolita by Nabokov. Almost finished but found too hard.

Now I will try to read Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk
It would be great if you recommend books and indicate their difficulties.

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New post 09 Aug 2016, 09:01
reading does work, ive been reading 30 minutes a day for the past few weeks and my reading comprehention has improved.

pd. non-native speaker.

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This verbal book comprises rightly established and efficient with current regulations awaiting the new book of edition, the top ten subjects Essentials (issues 1 to 10) of the last endorsed program available for access to the group of verbal book.

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New post 17 Nov 2016, 12:24
Big lebowski all the way

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New post 17 Nov 2016, 13:57
Great list!!! Thanks a lot!!

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New post 21 Nov 2016, 01:43
Hello everybody, I'm also non-native speaker. Now I'm trying to improve my RC from about 70% of correct answers to 90%. I highly recommend "Thinking fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman. It helped me to improve my RC from 50% to 70%. What do you guys think about vocabulary lists like Vocabulary web-site TOP-1000 words? My only problem now is a vocabulary. Will it be helpful if I'll just try to learn all of them from the list?

And my second question is - what's better to read? Magazines? Fiction? Non-fiction?

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New post 28 Nov 2016, 12:41
Great list! Will be adding some of the mentioned books to my reading list.

I also wanted to suggest "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi. He's a neurosurgeon who also studied English literature and I just loved his writing when I read the book.

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New post 13 Dec 2016, 01:37
Hey guys, wanted your quick review on the following if you have read them,

"An end to suffering by Pankaj Mishra".
"A case of exploding mangoes by Mohammad Hanif".
"The Prophet by Khalil Gibran"
"To Sir with Love by E.R.Braithwaite"
"1984 by George Orwell"

Is any of the a good read?

Thanks in advance.

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New post 03 May 2017, 10:24
Hi.
my name is Taha and I'm quite new in this forum.
as most people in this forum, my main concern as a non-native English speaker is to ace GMAT with a score above 700. I saw so many people wrote that GMAT does not require a high level of vocabulary like GRE. however, when I read economist magazine, as my main reading source, I face with lots of new vocabularies every time even though I scored 100 on TOEFL. so, what should I do? should I go for memorizing new vocabularies, even if it hinder my reading pace?

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Hi.
my name is Taha and I'm quite new in this forum.
as most people in this forum, my main concern as a non-native English speaker is to ace GMAT with a score above 700. I saw so many people wrote that GMAT does not require a high level of vocabulary like GRE. however, when I read economist magazine, as my main reading source, I face with lots of new vocabularies every time even though I scored 100 on TOEFL. so, what should I do? should I go for memorizing new vocabularies, even if it hinder my reading pace?


Hi tahamh95 ,

Welcome to the forum. :)

Fortunately, GMAT is not serious on checking your vocabulary as GRE is. So, you should be not worried about high level vocabulary.

And yes, having the knowledge of basic terms is a MUST. If you are not aware of basic terminologies, it is gonna pay you a lot, no matter which ever English exam it is.

Good Luck with your preparation. :)
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New post 07 May 2017, 23:34
Hi BB,

I am also sailing in the same boat, i am a non native English speaker as aspiring for gmat. I started reading economist,scientific american, NY times etc and also started to note down new words and their meanings in an spreadsheet. I never had a reading habit except for newspapers. After reading your post, i started reading novels and completed a few - great gatsby (couldnt complete full though), of mice and men, daisy miller, Cannery Row,A Movable Feast and reading Lolita now. Currently, i have 650 words with meanings in my list. I regularly revise the list and almost remember the words. One good that i found is that, if i get these words while reading anything now, i can recollect the meaning and if not i go and refer back to my list. This has really improved my vocab.

However, i want to know where should i stop ? The words are numerous wont come to an end. Even after so many words, i feel there are many that i dont know and i should know. So, what is a descent number to stop at and the way going forward ? Also, i need to start on other verbal aspects like the RC, SC, CR etc. I have just been reading actively for last 7-8 months now.

Also, after i started to read novels, i started to love reading. But, if the novel is a tough one, noting down meaning while reading slows my pace. For example, Lolita is really tough one and i have become very slow in there. So, i wanted to know if this is the right way to go ?

--Samir

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New post 07 May 2017, 23:43
SamirGmat wrote:
Hi BB,

I am also sailing in the same boat, i am a non native English speaker as aspiring for gmat. I started reading economist,scientific american, NY times etc and also started to note down new words and their meanings in an spreadsheet. I never had a reading habit except for newspapers. After reading your post, i started reading novels and completed a few - great gatsby (couldnt complete full though), of mice and men, daisy miller, Cannery Row,A Movable Feast and reading Lolita now. Currently, i have 650 words with meanings in my list. I regularly revise the list and almost remember the words. One good that i found is that, if i get these words while reading anything now, i can recollect the meaning and if not i go and refer back to my list. This has really improved my vocab.

However, i want to know where should i stop ? The words are numerous wont come to an end. Even after so many words, i feel there are many that i dont know and i should know. So, what is a descent number to stop at and the way going forward ? Also, i need to start on other verbal aspects like the RC, SC, CR etc. I have just been reading actively for last 7-8 months now.

Also, after i started to read novels, i started to love reading. But, if the novel is a tough one, noting down meaning while reading slows my pace. For example, Lolita is really tough one and i have become very slow in there. So, i wanted to know if this is the right way to go ?

--Samir


Hi SamirGmat ,

Welcome to the forum :)

Are you preparing for GMAT or GRE?

I am assuming you are preparing for GMAT, as your ID suggests.

Note that GMAT is not very strict with vocabulary.

The main ideas of reading these books are as follows:
1. Get comfortable reading topics, which are not of your interest.
2. Start understanding the structure of the passages.
3. Try to get the main ideas.
4. Determine the purpose of each paragraphs.
5. Understand the change in ideas or tone of the passages.
6. Have understanding of basics vocabulary (Not the tough ones, as tested on GRE). So, if you know them, good. If not, then also you are good.

GMAT RC is all about having the in-depth knowledge of all the points I mentioned above.

So, your focus should be there. I hope that makes sense. :)
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New post 13 Jun 2017, 10:15
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 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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Great compilation bb.
How is Mein Kampf and books by Amish Tripathi?

Well!! I have heard a lot about these books but don't know if they will help me to improve my skills for GMAT RC.


Thanks.......

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

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New post 04 Jul 2017, 01:18
are you sure? Reading these books will do lots of help in GMAT?
How do I know which is formal language, and which breaks the grammar rules?
I also have some books to offer you, BB.
What if I read a book twice? Does it count?
I want to read a book written by you, BB.

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Re: Books to Read (Improve Verbal Score and Enjoy a Good Read)   [#permalink] 04 Jul 2017, 01:18

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