For those of you who live near a bookstore (and my heartfelt condolences to those who live near what is now the carcass of an erstwhile Border’s store), to simply walk in and pick up a book that is captivating, and charged with GRE-style language, is tantamount to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
To save you the futility of such a search, I will recommend books that I feel are topical, engaging, and filled with enough GRE vocabulary that you will be underlining words as you go along, and, of course, entering them as you go.
At the same time, make sure your reading is not so laden with vocabulary as to be inscrutable – you want to be reading, not underlining. To avoid this, simply choose a book or article that is less dense with challenging words. Work your way up to this level, but do not start there.
For those with e-books, you can avail yourself of the latest Internet tools to make your own flashcards. And with the mega-store a moribund feature of the shopping landscape, we may soon be doing most of our reading – GRE prep or otherwise – under the futuristic glow of an e-reader.
Whether on an e-reader or in paper-based form, the books below offer an alternative to sifting through magazines looking for engaging stories. And now, you need not wander through a cavernous bookstore, or click through the endless forest that is Amazon.com.
(If you’re interested in shorter reading, head over to Vocabulary in Context: The New York Times, The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, and the New Yorker).
The Best American Series
This annual series culls the best writing from hundreds of journals and magazines. Not only are you provided with engaging and informative articles, but you also can choose from many different genres. That’s right – the Best American Series is not one book, but many books, broken down into different genres.
I recommend the Best American Science and Nature Series. For those who are a little more intrepid, and up for the challenging stuff, then the Best American Essays is for you. The thoughtful, eloquent prose here will help prime your brain for the more difficult verbal section of the Revised GRE.
There is also a Best American Sports Writing (yes, sports writers use GRE vocab as well), a Best American Travel Writing (travel writers love descriptive GRE words) and a Best Short Stories (if fiction is more your thing).
So, whatever your predilections, the Best American Series has something to tickle your fancy. Or, for a potpourri of genres, styles, and voices, you can order the whole bunch. Your reading brain will grow exponentially.
In order to learn vocabulary, and become accustomed to an elevated prose style, I do not recommend fiction as highly as I do non-fiction. At the same time, we all love a good story. And, staying hooked over the course of 200-300 pages of a protagonist’s vicissitudes is far easier than doing the same for science writing.
A great place to start for fiction is the Classics. Pick them up – they are classics for a reason. I lean towards 20th Century literature. Especially from a GRE prep angle, the language, and the way words are used, is more consonant with the language found on the Revised GRE. That doesn’t mean that if Jane Austin or Charles Dickens, two prominent 19th Century authors, make for highly enjoyable reading you should pass them up. Indeed, they use GRE words such as supercilious, peremptory and impetuous, as though those words were colloquial (I presume back then they were).
Otherwise, you can try Modern Library’s Top 100 Fiction Works of All Time (they also have a non-fiction list) if you need some guidance on where to start reading. Besides the odd take on language, namely James Joyce’s later works, most of these novels will have many vocabulary words.
BTW, a fun little tidbit – if you want to read the first few pages of any of these books – to see if the story is for you, and if GRE words abound – go to Amazon.com. Click on the image of any novel and you will be able to read the first ten pages of any book (depending on the book, you can read much more than that).