When it comes to improving your reading ability and vocabulary, there is no shortcut. To be a better reader, you have to read and you have to read often. So often we hear from students who have a month left before their test and are looking for quick ways to improve their Verbal score. Sadly, there is not a whole lot that can be done in a month besides rote memorization, which we know is not very effective. Only sustained reading over a long period of time will bring the gains that students need for success.
It is for these reasons that we recommend improving your reading ability even before you begin preparations for the test. I always tell my students that they need to allocate at least six months to improving their reading. I tell them to read actively, read often, read material that mimics that of the test, and read about subjects that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
But where to begin? What counts as decent reading material?
We have offered advice on news sources to read when students want to improve their vocabulary or reading ability. But trying to find something worth reading in The New York Times of The Atlantic Monthly can be overwhelming. Students still struggle with making a choice of what to read.
So we are launching a series on authors and journalists that we enjoy reading and think students would enjoy too. What follows is a list of journalists and academics that I enjoy reading. This is just a small sampling of people from The New York Times who have thoughtful and insightful articles on contemporary issues—issues that you might find on the test. I tried my best to give a little bio for each person, a link to a compliation of their writing, and a few choice articles to begin with.
Ultimately, you should find your own favorite columnists and writers to read. Don’t just rely on what I have to say. Ask others. Read authors that write about subjects you know and subjects you don’t know. Expand your literary horizons. I have two prescriptions, though, for choosing a journalist or author to read: make sure they have a wide readership and have been recognized by their peers for excellence in their field. These are two strong metrics for quality writers.
Note: At the time of writing, The New York Times only allows users to read 10 articles per month.
Update: Please read the second comment from Muntasim Ul Haque. He provides some useful tips for avoiding the monthly limit.
Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and linguist at Harvard University. He is one of the more popular and widely-read academics of our time. He often writes opinion pieces for The NYTimes. He’s also a regular speaker at TED.
Mark Bittman is a food writer for at The Times. He focuses on simple, delicious meals and has written a popular cookbook, How to Cook Everything. In addition to writing recipes, he contributes opinion pieces about the environment, the food industry, and the politics of food. He also gave a TED Talk.
Errol Morris is an Academy-Award-winning documentary filmmaker who writes opinion editorials. He focuses much of his writing on the nature of truth, knowing, and deception. He is a deeply thoughtful person writing about culture, film, photography, history, and anything else that captures his attention.
Paul Krugman is a Professor at Princeton, contributor to The New York Times, and winner of the Nobel in Economics. He is a regular columnist, publishing articles every Monday and Friday.
David Brooks is an author and columnist for The New York Times. His topics range from politics to popular culture. He has also given a compelling TED Talk. His articles come out every Tuesday and Friday.
Thomas L. Friedman won the Pulitzer Prize three times while at The New York Times. He is an insightful and powerfully intelligent commentator on international affairs, politics, and economics. His column is released every Sunday and Wednesday.
This list is far from comprehensive and fairly subjective. These are the people I like to read and won’t necessarily resonate with you. So begin here, but search out people that inspire you and challenge you.