GRE Vocabulary Books: Recommended Fiction and Non-Fiction (Updated for 2021)

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For those of you who live near a bookstore: To simply walk in and pick up a book that is captivating and charged with GRE Verbal type of language is tantamount to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

To save you the time of engaging in such a futile 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, looking them up as well.


The Best American Series

The annual Best American series culls the best writing from hundreds of journals and magazines. Not only are you provided with engaging and informative articles and stories, but you also can choose from many genres. That’s right — the Best American series is not one book, but many books, broken down into different genres.

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For nonfiction, 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.

You can also find some excellent GRE-like nonfiction reading in 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 American Food Writing. (Food writers use some very flowery–or should I say floury writing that is GRE-worthy.)

If you prefer fiction texts for your GRE practice reading, the Best American line of books still has you covered. The Best American Short Stories is a great place to start, since it gives you such a wide variety of fictional stories. But if you like specific genres of fiction, you may enjoy GRE reading practice with Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy or Best American Mystery Stories.

Last but certainly not least, there is The Best American Nonrequired Reading. This series collects both fiction and nonfiction into one volume. If you want to read the widest possible variety of writing, all in one volume, this is a good all-in-one option.

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.

The Classics

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 for 200-300 pages of a protagonist’s vicissitudes is far easier than doing so for science writing.

A great place to start for fiction is in 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. Of course, if Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, two prominent 19th-century authors, make for highly enjoyable reading, read them! Indeed, they use GRE words such as supercilious, peremptory, and impetuous as though those words were colloquial (perhaps 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 Finnegan’s Wake, most of these novels will have many GRE vocabulary words.

By the way, a fun little tidbit: if you want to read the first few pages of any of these books to see whether the story is for you and whether GRE words abound, go to Amazon. Click on the image of any novel and you will be able to read at least the first ten pages of it (depending on the book, you can read much more than that).

From doing this Amazon preview experiment myself, I discovered that novels by Robert Ludlum and Agatha Christie are especially GRE-like. What GRE-practice worthy novels can you find? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments below.

Tips and Tricks for Using the Reading Listed In This Article

It’s important to remember that the resources I’ve shared with you collect a wide variety of writing. While nearly all of the writing is good for GRE prep, some of the novels, essays, short stories and so on will be more useful to you than others. Here are a few tips and tricks for using the books above.

  • Make sure your reading is not so laden with vocabulary as to be inscrutable — you want to be reading more than underlining. To avoid this, simply choose a book or article that is less rife 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 megastore a moribund feature of the shopping landscape, we may soon be doing most of our reading – GRE prep or otherwise – in 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. Now you need not wander through a cavernous bookstore or click through the endless forest that is
  • 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.
  • Is pop culture more your thing? Check out our post on learning GRE vocabulary with Moira Rose!


Reading is an excellent way to supplement vocab lists and flashcards. Be a word detective to significantly augment your vocabulary.


P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

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120 Responses to GRE Vocabulary Books: Recommended Fiction and Non-Fiction (Updated for 2021)

  1. Aditya January 16, 2020 at 3:06 am #

    Hi Chris,
    What do you think of Robert Greene’s books? I enjoy reading his books and often come across new words which I am not familiar with. However, I am not sure how relevant they are for GRE.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 24, 2020 at 11:37 am #

      We haven’t reviewed his books specifically, so we can’t really say how they compare with GRE level vocabulary. But all reading that exposes you to complicated sentence structures, new vocabulary words, and critical reasoning can be helpful in your preparation for the exam! Read, read, and keep reading!

  2. Moulika September 13, 2019 at 5:34 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    Does Best American Magazine Writing comes under Best American Series of books.

    Thank you.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 17, 2019 at 8:30 pm #

      Hi Moulika!

      It doesn’t look like “Best American Magazine Writing” is a part of the Best American Series of books. However, many of the essays/articles in the Best American Series come from magazines! You can find the full Best American Series here:

  3. Howie March 24, 2019 at 6:59 am #

    Hi, Chris

    I love your article for preparing GRE verbal by reading more and more.I decide to start reading The Best American Science and Nature Writing to improve my capacity.

    I found the amazon provide two versions of the book.One is 2018 (with blue cover), another one is 2019 (with green cover). I was wondering which version is best for me to prepare GRE verbal.

    Thank you.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 27, 2019 at 6:02 pm #

      Hi Howie!

      You really can’t go wrong with any version of The Best American Science and Nature Writing. All of them are written at GRE-level, so both the 2018 and 2019 versions will be able to help you prepare. You can choose either one. 😀

  4. Zaidur Rahman May 21, 2018 at 9:56 am #

    The Modern Library link is not working

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 24, 2018 at 4:10 pm #

      Hi Zaidur,

      I just checked and it is working for me! Perhaps you can try again or open it in another internet browser?

  5. kaushik April 30, 2018 at 10:30 pm #

    Hey Chris, where can I download the American series pdf? I couldn’t find any pdfs on the net.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 1, 2018 at 9:52 am #

      I don’t know if these are available anywhere in PDF, but most (maybe all) of the Best American books are downloadable in Kindle format from Hope that helps. 🙂

      • SUNEET SAURABH December 4, 2018 at 4:03 am #

        Hi Chris

        Best american books are avaialble only in Hard Copy format not the kindle version.

        Highly disappointed to learn that , was looking o buy whole series.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 5, 2018 at 10:01 am #

          Hi Suneet,

          Sorry to hear you’re facing this problem with the Best American books! That sounds frustrating! I do have somewhat good news for you, though– Kindle books do exist for all of the current Best American editions. However, they may not be available in every country. If you are viewing form outside of America or have a non-American mailing address on your account, you may not be able to see the same Best American kindle books that I can see from the USA. There are possible workarounds for this, such as buying a non-Kindle eBook through Google Play/Google Reader or getting the eBook from a different, non-American website, so you may want to try searching online for those.

          If you’re trying to order the Kindle book from America or with an American address, but you still aren’t being a given a Kindle option, I would call Amazon customer service for help.

  6. Prateek Singh April 1, 2018 at 3:08 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Can you suggest which one of the Best American Essay books should I buy in order to improve my reading skills and vocab for GRE?

    You suggested the best American essays 2012 by David Brooks in a post few years ago. I was wondering if it would still be a good idea to buy the 2012 edition considering the new arrivals of the same series.


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 2, 2018 at 9:44 am #

      Hi Prateek,

      You can buy whichever edition of these books that you can find! There’s nothing particularly special about the 2012 edition–it was just the latest edition when this blog post was originally written! Any edition of the “Best American” series will provide you with high quality reading practice 🙂

  7. Prateek January 8, 2018 at 2:32 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Can you please explain the phrase ‘puritanical hang ups around gustatory indulgence’ as expressed in the context of the following article:(1st paragragh, last sentence)

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 8, 2018 at 1:14 pm #

      Hi Prateek,

      Just so you know, we usually aren’t able to answer questions like this from non-Magoosh sources–we are a small team with a lot of students, so we couldn’t provide this sort of personalized support to everyone! That being said, I can make an exception this time and help you out with this 🙂

      First, I’d like to direct you to some useful resources. and are both excellent places to look up difficult words because they provide sentences that allow you to understand how the word is used in context. The first step here is to break down some of the difficult vocab words: look up the definitions for puritanical, gustatory and indulgence. “Hang-up is an English idiom that means “psychological impediment”–it stops you from doing something. ” A “puritanical hang-up” refers to a something that is not done because it’s not “puritanical” or strict and proper. A gustatory indulgence is something that has enjoyable flavors and is pleasant to eat. So, this sentence is referring to psychological impediments (hang ups) that keep people from enjoying food and the flavors in food.

      I hope that helps!

      • Prateek March 21, 2018 at 9:16 am #

        Hi Magoosh team,

        I appreciate the painstaking effort to clarify my doubt. Thanks a lot.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 21, 2018 at 10:24 am #

          You’re welcome 😀

  8. Jake January 11, 2017 at 4:37 am #

    Hi Chris,

    First of, I appreciate your immediate responses in helping people out and your dedication.
    I wrote my GRE 2nd time but didn’t improve on the verbal part as I got a 145 for verbal but improved on the Quant with 160 totaling to 305. I’ve decided to give it once more after a rigorous practice of 3-4 months. The trouble I found with verbal section each time I gave my exam were 2 things;

    1) I’ve already mastered more than 800 words contextual wise but I hardly came across any of those words on the text completion. The option words were more often normal day to day words but it was the convoluted sentence structure and prose that left me flummoxed to the point that meaning was hardly comprehensible. Is it just me or have you guys noticed the trend? While practicing with Manhattan, they gave emphasis on difficult words rather than the sentence structure itself. How can I get more acquainted with sentence structure as those?

    2) I could barely complete 2 RCs within the limited time and had to go on a random guessing spree. My point is, I was seriously lacking in speed. I realized it has more to do with me spending too much time on comprehending the meaning of TCs and the complexity of the sentence structure of RC itself. I’m an avid reader and I used to read books, like HP, Alchemist, Dan brown novels, but the sentence structure in GRE was somehow alien to me.

    So how can I get around these problems? As I’m having 3-4 months prep, do you think reading books from ” the best American essays” is the right strategy? Can you suggest some books that has GRE like non fiction RC’s so that I can improve my comprehension speed as well?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 12, 2017 at 8:16 am #

      Hi Jake,

      Don’t worry, this is a common issue that many students face and overcome! With regards to learning vocabulary, you should continue with this habit of learning new words, but as you’ve said, the GRE also has complex sentences. Actually, you’re absolutely right about this trend! The GRE does test your ability to comprehend complex sentences, rather than just know extensive definitions. As such, you want to definitely practice GRE-level reading. The Best American Essays are a great resource and one that we highly recommend. You can also read articles that are GRE-level and have GRE vocabulary.

      Now, with regard to speed, this will come with practice. Once you get more comfortable with these complex sentences, you’ll go much faster. Start slow. Make sure you build up the skill of breaking down sentences. Then, work to move faster. I would recommend that you check out this blog post. In addition to practicing and reading more, you also want to have a good pacing strategy for the Verbal section as a whole. Check out this blog post as well. I hope this helps! You’ve got this! 😀

      • Jake January 12, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

        Thanks for the immediate response, by the way, which edition should I pick for the best American essays? I see different editions having different authors for each of those books. I see Chris as mentioned 2012 edition by David Brooks and 2013 edition earlier in the comment section. Should I get those or get the latest ones as of 2016/2017?

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 15, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

          Hi Jake,

          Any of the content that is found in any editions of these books will work well for your needs! The point of reading these books is to become familiar with complex ideas and texts to build your general reading comprehension skills. It’s not the specific content in the books that is important, but rather the way in which they are written. By it’s very nature, any of these books will give you the reading practice you need, so it doesn’t matter which edition you buy 🙂 You can check to see what is available or take a quick look at the content to see which ones interest you most!

      • Jake January 13, 2017 at 10:07 am #

        Thanks for your immediate response, by the way, can you suggest me which edition of “the best American essays” should I buy? I see that different editions have different authors here. I have seen Chris mention the 2012 version by David Brooks and 2013 earlier in the comment section. Should I buy those or is it better to buy the latest 2016/2017 ones?

        Kindly awaiting reply,

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 14, 2017 at 10:29 am #

          Hi Jake,

          I think that any edition would be fine. All of them have good writers!

      • RAFAQAT HUSSAIN March 29, 2017 at 1:55 am #


  9. Nur-E-Alam November 6, 2016 at 1:16 am #

    Lately i am studying GRE. I find difficulties in verbal section most. can reading Readers Digest help to increase Vocab as i am reading this book?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 7, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

      Hi Nur-E-Alam,

      I don’t think Reader’s Digest will have the sort of difficult vocab and sentence structure that you need to really prepare for the GRE. Their stories are interesting and enjoyable, but they are not written to the “GRE” level. I recommend that you check out our article of the month series (link below) for some great recommendations of GRE-level reading. They are challenging to read, but will really help you to improve the most!
      Article of the Month Roundup:

  10. Divyanshi Sharma October 18, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Hi Chris, I think you misspelled Jane Austen’s name there. 🙂

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

      Hi Divyanshi,

      Great catch! Even our verbal guru Chris makes a spelling mistake now and then, it seems 🙂 I corrected it here, and please let us know if your eagle eyes catch any other mistakes like this!

  11. Rob August 31, 2016 at 9:45 pm #


    I recently started studying for the GRE and I do enjoy reading but I read fiction more often than not. I am currently reading the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. Will reading this rather than something with more verbiage be a laden attempt to learn more vocabulary?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 5, 2016 at 9:53 am #

      Hi Rob,

      First of all–great use of some GRE vocab! Learning and using words in context like this is a great way to expand your vocabulary 🙂 I am also a fan of the Game of Thrones book and know that George R.R. Martin does use some complex structures and advanced vocabulary. Whether or not this may be a good reading source depends on you, however. Does his writing challenge you? Do you often encounter new and difficult words? Do you have to use active reading strategies to understand his prose? The point of this reading practice is to challenge yourself and ‘stretch’ your reading comprehension muscles. If the Game of Thrones books are too familiar or comfortable for you, then you may not be getting maximum benefit from reading them!

      Either way, I do also recommend that you add some articles to your reading repertoire. The passages you will find on the GRE will be non-fiction articles on a wide variety of subjects, which means that you need to be comfortable reading many different types of writing. So at least a few times a week, I suggest that you wade through one of the articles in our Article of the Month series so that you continue to challenge yourself to reach for new reading heights 🙂

  12. nihila August 19, 2016 at 1:26 am #

    i have started with Da Vinci code…would that help?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 20, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

      The DaVinci code can definitely help you prep for GRE Reading. Dan Brown has the same descriptive, playful tone as many GRE passages, and he also uses some of the complex sentence structures you’ll see on the GRE. I would place the overall reading level of the DaVinci code at just a little below the average difficulty of GRE though. So treat the DaVinci code as a warmup practice activity. As you progress, start to supplement the book with other recommended GRE reading practice, and with real GRE passages.

  13. Sachin August 18, 2016 at 10:02 am #

    Hey Chris.
    I have been prepping for GRE for quite sometime now. Reading was never my strong suite and I just started off with the Jack Reacher series. Found loads of new words to learn though I don’t think they are much of GRE material. Bourne series and books on World War(s) (covering fiction and non fiction) pique my interest and would love if you could maybe tell me if they are good reads or if there are some others you might recommend for someone like me.

    I tried ALDaily but it gets boring after a while. Sleepy sometimes :p

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 20, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

      Jack Reacher books are fun and very gripping. So they’re a good way to cultivate a love of reading, which can really help you on the GRE if reading hasn’t normally been your strong suit. However, the writing style in the Reacher books isn’t all that GRE-like. The sentences are shorter on average, and the vocabulary is a bit easier. Robert Ludlum books– the Bourne series and others– are great though! That’s a really good next step for you, as Robert Ludlum’s writing style is full of very GRE-like vocabulary and sentence structure.

  14. Ross August 3, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    I am reading “Arguably: Selected Essays” by Christopher Hitchens. Finding it to be an incredible resource for new words, and bonus, you will get in the headspace of how to write in the form of arguments!

  15. hazel July 23, 2016 at 6:47 am #


    I have just started to read “The best American Essays – 2015”, and I have already completed the first four essays. I just found that “Arts and Letters Daily” has more GRE-like vocabulary than “The best American Essays – 2015 does.

    Appreciated, if you can share your comments on it.


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 24, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

      I can get this one for now, Chris. 🙂

      Both A&L Daily and the Best American Essays series collect (or link to) very similar kinds of material. However, each individual volume of Best American Essays is limited, compared to the vast, ever-changing arrangement of web links on the Arts and Letters website. I haven’t checked out the 2015 Best American Essays collection yet, but my guess would be that this volume just happens to have a slightly less GRE-like sampling, compared to other volumes, and compared to the current online mix at A & L. (I know the current A&L has a selection from the Vice website, and Vice tends to be less-than-academic in tone at times. Sounds like some of the other Best American Essays are less GRE-like this year as well.)

      And hopefully Chris can give a review of this essay anthology book series soon.

  16. Avin June 12, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

    I am reading books of Dan Brown, Jeffrey Archer, Agatha Christie and Paul Coelho. Will that be helpful for my gre vocabulary? Which fiction author you suggest?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 20, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

      All four of those authors are fairly good for GRE reading practice. Dan Brown and Agatha Christie are especially good because their books contain long, GRE-like sentence structures and a very GRE-like range of vocabulary. So it’s a good idea to try other “thriller” novels with political undertones, in the style of Brown and Christie. Offhand, I can recommend Robert Ludlum as another good author of GRE-like fiction. Tom Clancy could be good too.

      • roge July 4, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

        nice i can jump on the bourne series

  17. Tanmayee Pathre May 23, 2016 at 3:09 am #

    Hello Chris! Is it advisable to read Daniel Goleman’s books and Jared Diamond books? I am a physics student and facing a bit of difficulty in comprehending passages pertaining to Arts and Humanities. What do you recommend?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 23, 2016 at 11:31 am #

      Daniel Goleman and Jared Diamond both write some really amazing books that cover GRE-like scholarly topics. However, the actual vocabulary level in Goleman and Diamond’s writing is not quite so GRE-like. Goleman and Diamond write their books with a very broad group of readers in mind, including high school kids, and perhaps even middle school kids. So you should only read these authors’ books to get better acquainted with certain academic subject matter that might appear on the exam— they aren’t GRE vocabulary builders.

      For Arts and Humanities, I’d actually recommend two online resources, rather than print books. One of those is Arts and Letters Daily. They have a collection of very good GRE reading practice onsite, and a lot of very useful external links. The articles they index tend to be of the Arts and Humanities variety.

      I would also recommend reading online movie reviews, both from general news websites and from places like Entertainment Weekly and People Magazine. This may sound a little strange— movie and TV reviews are often thought of as light reading. But reviewers use some really advanced vocabulary and complex GRE-like sentence structure. (Perhaps this is because most professional film and TV critics have English degrees!)

  18. Rahul May 16, 2016 at 11:49 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    What about the books written by Alistair MacLean, Federick Forsyth, Raymond Chandler, Eric Ambler. I believe these books to be of immense help in building one’s vocabulary !.

    Could you name a few, if possible ?

    Thanks ! Have a great day !

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 23, 2016 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Rahul,

      The books listed here are simply intended to provide guidance for students who are at a loss about where to begin with their reading. If you’re a fan of the authors you’ve listed, you should read them! On your list, Raymond Chandler jumps out to me as an especially renowned author 🙂

  19. Marie May 4, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    A tip that might be helpful: A lot of libraries allow you to checkout ebooks and magazines. I know I can check out current issues of the New Yorker on any device and I can get all kinds of books on my kindle and other devices. My library had all the current Best American Series available to check out as eBooks. So, it might be worth it to look into that at your local library to save a little money.

  20. Makarand Hazarika April 28, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    What do you think of Oliver Sacks’ books? I just read his The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and I must say, he has a way with words. He portrays his patients so vividly and elucidates their bizarre and intriguing stories with such eloquence that the book is hard to put down. However, I am not sure how relevant they are for GRE.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 9, 2016 at 1:07 am #

      Hi Makarand,

      It’s great to hear that you’ve been enjoying Sacks’s books! While I’ve only read excerpts of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, from what I have read, the level of the writing and vocabulary are appropriate for preparing for the GRE. In general, reading works from a variety of authors and that utilize different writing styles is excellent preparation for the Verbal Section of the GRE, as on the actual exam, the passages cover a myriad of topics from various sources. With that in mind, it’s also important to enjoy what you’re reading, and it sounds like you are! 😀

      Happy reading 🙂

  21. Pari November 19, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Hi Chris!

    I would like to know what you think about Agatha Christie’s mystery novels? I really like to read adventure mystery genre. So, any suggestions?


  22. Suhail November 3, 2015 at 3:45 pm #


    I have a book that I recently started and am curious if this may be a good option for this. The tilte is “Inverting The Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics” by Jonathan Wilson.

  23. Lajpat Bishnoi October 9, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for this recommendation.
    But my problem is that i hate reading, this is from my childhood.
    I was never read the novel just read the study books. How can i improve my vocabulary by making this hate into habit?
    Lajpat Bishnoi

  24. CJ Lee August 1, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    As for a good fiction book for GRE prep, I find The Citadel by A.J. Cronin to be very good. I saw so many good GRE words (fresh from Magoosh’s flashcards) neatly packed in the awesome narrative. It’s an enjoyable read too!

    • Suliman Sharif October 8, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

      This was an amazing book to read. It was a really enjoyable book that also had me googling a lot of words. It not only helped me improve my vocabulary but also how to actually use these words in a correct manner. Thanks a lot for the recommendation.

  25. Cody Ritt July 24, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    I would like to recommend the Temeraire series authored by Naomi Novik. This is a fantasy series intertwined with alternate historical events during the Napoleonic era.

    This recommendation is perfect for any student who would like to read a captivating fantasy while also improving their vocabulary. I am currently reading the 6th book, and it seems that every page I turn there is at least a couple of words from Magoosh’s vocabulary list which Novik uses in a wonderful and entertaining context.

    Carpe diem,

  26. Mo Mz July 23, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Would you recommend articles in The New Yorker?

  27. Krystyn July 14, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    I have read through your recommendations, and I was wondering if you knew anything about the Best American Crime Reporting series? I am looking in to a new book for GRE vocab, and since I study Forensic Psychology, it is always helpful if the text I read aligns with that topic. I am also picking up a copy of the Best American Essays 2012, as you recommended this text as being beneficial. Thanks !

    • Mo Mz July 23, 2015 at 10:23 am #

      Would you recommend The New Yorker?

  28. Anonymous June 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm #


    Can you recommend some magazines from uk to read articles. I also want to know about book related to non-fiction including philosophy , literature to study as i am already from science background.

  29. Ameen Muhammad December 10, 2014 at 12:10 am #

    Hi Chris!
    I started my GRE preparation by early October using Magoosh. Although my Quant scores have improved on the practice test but my verbal skills are still wanting. I shall give the GRE on the 18th of December, nxt week . I have communicated with some Magoosh experts and glimpsed over the Magoosh blogs to find way out. I have memorized almost 700 words from the vocabulary flash cards. I later knew that my limitation is not reading enough comprehension passages. Just a week to go. I have been scoring within the range of 141 – 144 on the practice test. I need more improvement. Pls can you suggest for me, a plan to follow religiously with the few days left? I have started reading articles from New York times but not satisfied with them.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 10, 2014 at 10:31 am #

      Hi Ameen,

      I think what’s needed at this point is not general vocab learning or reading in-context (nytimes), but a specific focus on how you are approaching verbal questions. Clearly there is something off in your approach (I say this based on the rough correlation I see between people’s ability to write and their GRE verbal scores). In other words, when scores are much lower than that person’s verbal ability, the approach is typically to blame.

      For instance, on TC/SE, many people (myself included!) often look at the answer choices before sufficiently thinking about the question. The idea of thinking up your own words for the blanks, based on understanding the structure of the paragraph/sentences and the phrases used is key. For RComp the list of possible areas in which the approach is off is much longer.

      What you need to do is think carefully on how you’ve been approaching verbal questions. Try to get inside your head to see what you are thinking when you arrive at a wrong answer choice. Are there any patterns?

      Let me know, and I will be able to come up with a better plan for you in these remaining days 🙂

  30. Girish September 22, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    “A Tale of Two cities” is available on Itunes Library for free for iOS 8 devices. Downloadable onto iBooks.

    This is really good as one can highlight difficult words, and review later.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 22, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      Hi Girish,

      I know this will sound sacrilegious but I find Dickens’ writing unnecessarily dense, his descriptions weighed down by so many words that I’m not really sure what to visualize. Again, I’m probably in the minority on that viewpoint so I recommend everybody give the work a shot.

      Personally, I lean towards the writing on, which too is chock full of vocabulary, but hews far more closely to the style found on the GRE verbal section. And is also free :).

  31. Anushri July 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I am a voracious reader. I enjoy reading so much that I have all the Archers and Grishams in my phone.

    But I am a little concerned about the vocabulary part. As these writers tend to not use extremely complicated words, my vocabulary , I am afraid is wanting.

    What step would you recommend so as to improve my vocabulary. Do I need to change the genres of the books I am reading?

    And also I am using the Magoosh Flash Cards, and I am not doing well with the advanced words. Is there some way to drill them in?

    Thanks in advance,

  32. Zoe May 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    For those going into the Biological sciences, you might want to try Cajal’s: Advice for the Young Investigator.
    …That’s right, Cajal as in the famous Santiago Ramón y Cajal, for all you neuro nerds out there like me..
    This book, gifted to me by an old PI, was inundated with GRE words.
    It was also a very encouraging book. I’ll read it a few more times in my life time, I’m sure.
    Happy studies..

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 28, 2014 at 10:09 am #

      Hi Zoe,

      Great read! I’m already a few pages into it. Definitely lots of words. And I like the chutzpah on this guy–taking on Philosophy’s specious pantheon! And the GRE words are great. You don’t see “chimera” that much these days.

      For those of you who also want to read the book, here is a link (don’t worry, it looks like it’s in the public domain, so no copyright infringement here 🙂 :

      Thanks Zoe for letting us know about this work 🙂

      • Zoe May 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

        I’m so impressed that you took the time to even crack it open. 🙂

  33. Swapandeep Singh February 27, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    You are doing a wonderful job. All your posts are very interesting read.

    Could you please suggest some books to read both in fiction and non-fiction category.

    I saw few of the books the recommended in the post but I am not sure I would be able to read them properly. My interest is inclined towards autobiographies or books written on world historical events e.g World Wars.

    Could you please recommend me with few books which can help me increase GRE vocab as well. For fiction genre I just started with ‘The Great Gatsby’.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 28, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Swapandeep,

      I’d love to provide some recommendations!

      For non-fiction in your bailiwick, check out Bill Bryson. He really makes history come alive. His two works, A Brief History of Everything and One Summer 1927 are so engrossing and deftly written that they are more addictive than some T.V. shows. If you want something a little more meaty, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (it’s about Lincoln and his cabinet and was the basis for the movie Lincoln). Also, any presidential biographies by David McCullough are always good.

      For fiction, try A Separate Peace, 1984, and To Kill a Mockingbird (all filled with vocabulary and dense with character development–okay, maybe not 1984).

      Hopefully those are enough to get you started 🙂

  34. Jordan January 27, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    Hi Chris!

    This is Jordan from Australia! Thanks so much for the article, it helps a lot.

    One question though, I’m actually deciding to take gre around June/July in 2014, and I have been looking at the book lists you suggested. I’m going to apply for a economics PhD, and I noticed Keynes’ ‘The general theory of employment’ was on the top of the nonfiction list. The book is a must read for my field, and I can improve my vocabulary at the same time (what a good deal!). And I have thusly bought the book. But I noticed the book is very very harsh in terms of its arguments (even given my economics undergrad BG) and sentence structuring. I was really depressed and wondering should I go on? Or should I pick another book? Perhaps an easier one?

    Many thanks,

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele January 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      Hi Jordan,

      If the Keynes is a little too dense and dry, by all means read something that is slightly more enjoyable–and not so difficult. There is a lot of intriguing stuff out there that is by no means easy. You might want to give the “Best of Series” a try, specifically the Essay volume (I prefer the 2012 David Brooks edition).

      Hope that helps!

      • Jordan January 29, 2014 at 12:15 am #

        Hi Chris,

        Thanks heaps for the reply!

        Yea I will definitely check out the best of series as you recommend!

        Just one more thing, how would you categorise the fields from which gre vocabulary was drawn? I remember reading someone about the vocabulary mainly comes from art&science, is the info any accurate?

        And I thought I might need to select some books from the economics field as well, so how do you think of Krugman’s books? I have read a few samples from amazon and found his books are far less tedious than Keynes’ (at least for his non-textbook publications!). However the books are rather focused on political economy, how do you think a politics-related books for a source of vocabulary learning?

        Many thanks!!!


        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele January 29, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

          Hi Jordan,

          The vocabulary chosen is academic-level vocabulary, but is not drawn from one specific academic field. So econ. words like stagflation or poli. sci. words like revanchism will not be used. As long as a word can apply to any field or situation, then it is fair game.

          As for Krugman, go for it. His prose is going to be tad more modern than Keynes :). And Krugman has got to sell books, so he’s going to make it more dry than Keynes. The thing is some writers are fond of using GRE-level words, whether they are writing about the birth of the solar system or the pitfalls of a free market economy. I haven’t read Krugman, but if his books aren’t too vocab dense, I’m sure another economist’s is. Far from technical, but likely to use big words, is Niall Ferguson. If you haven’t already read his stuff.

          Hope that helps, and good luck!

  35. trish December 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Hey Chris!
    I’m an avid reader but i just cant get myself to read non fiction books. Is that something I should work upon changing? Could you please suggest some good fiction books that’ll help my vocabulary( and also keep me hooked)?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 31, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      Hi Trish,

      So for non-fiction, you might want to try long-form journalism. It is less of a commitment time-wise, since, unlike the typically sprawling works of non-fiction, long-form journalism tends to be more focused. The New Yorker has about four in-depth articles in each issue. Best of all you can pick the ones that interest you. And most, though not all, employ GRE-level vocabulary. The Atlantic Monthly and New York Times weekend magazine also contain long form journalism.

      All in all, you should try to get more into non-fiction. As I always tell people, you’ll never know when that knowledge will come in handy. You can also kind of carve out your own niche of quasi-expertise in a particular subject (which is always cool!).

      For fiction, there is just so much out there. A good idea is to look at the books reviewed in resources like The New Yorker. These books will tend to be a little more sophisticated and have GRE-level words.

      Good luck!

  36. Mimi November 26, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    Hey, Chris!

    According to your comments, I have one question. So, you do recommend to read A Game of Thrones book series? I just want to read something interesting and not scientific. For me A Game of Thrones books would be a perfect choice. I just want to be sure that reading those books will be not only interesting but also helpful for me to approve my vocab. How do you think?

    Thank you
    Regards, Mimi

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      Hi Mimi,

      I’m happy you asked! So I actually picked up a copy, and while I see a scattering of GRE words here and there, I wouldn’t really recommend this. Well written, but swift paced (meaning straightforward sentences).

      There are a world of other books out there. Tell me what makes a good read for you and I’ll recommend a non-fiction or fiction book :).

  37. Mirwais November 18, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Hi Chris,

    You talked about non fiction and I wondered if there is any series of fantasy/ scie fi books that may incorporate some important GRE vocabs. That would be a dream for me.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Hmm…I have to be honest–I’ve only read a few sci-fi/fantasy books over the year. My friend was telling me that the Game of Thrones series was well-written with many GRE-level words. I’ve only watched the show (which I’m sure they’ve gutted script-wise of any GRE words).

      Also, you might want to check out Isaac Asimov’s work–only because he was such a polymath, whom probably had a penchant for GRE words :).

      Hope that helps!

  38. Gayathri October 15, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I decided to pick a Non-fiction book instead of articles because I just felt I would be spending more time thinking which article to choose.Could you please recommend the book which would help the most. I see that you have said, the nature and science is the best among ‘Best American series’. Could you please let me know which edition should I pick.I see that different editions have different authors, if I am not wrong.Please suggest an appropriate book.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 17, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      Hi Gayathri,

      I’d actually recommend this year’s edition, the one edited by Siddhartha Mukherjee. He has chosen articles that are thoughtful and ruminative–many are quite challenging. Sometimes, the guest editor will tend to choose pieces that make for a good story (nothing wrong with that!) but that aren’t as challenging to read.

      Also, you might want to check out the Best Essays of 2012 by David Brooks. Lots of great, challenging articles in there.

      Good luck!

  39. Tara September 4, 2013 at 8:12 pm #


    I am lucky and get to get out of the office and drive to see study subjects often; generally travel time is around 2 hours each way. I love audiobooks from Audible to feel the time. Any suggestions for audiobooks that may sharpen my vocab without the danger of putting me to sleep? 🙂

    Loving Magoosh so far.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 5, 2013 at 10:25 am #

      Yes, you definitely don’t want a soporific vocab lecturer while you’re driving :)!

      I hear Verbal Advantage is pretty good. Granted the words start to become a little obscure towards the final chapters. You might also try some podcasts and then burn the ones you like on a CD. It’s been awhile since I looked into vocab podcasts, but hopefully there is something good out there :).

  40. lewis August 1, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Another question. I am trying to at least get into the 80 percentile for the Verbal portion. I am in the 55-65 percentile. How many vocab words do you recommend that I learn in total? (In addition to the reading) Approximately how many per day? Thanks!

    • lewis August 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      Upps, 53-62% currently. My goal is at least 81%. I know I can do it, it will just take time and effort. I am not sure on a good number of vocab words… Thanks!

    • Tejas August 3, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      I recommend around 2500 and you should try to read varied materials and books to learn meanings on word in context instead of memorizing words from a list. I too am preparing for gre and am finding vocab tough too.
      But I recently came across It helps to learn new words in an incremental fashion which I found out very useful. I keep aside some part of day to learn from it

      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele August 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

        Thanks Tejas for recommendation. Lots of students seem to benefit from as well. And thanks for echoing my sentiments 🙂 — the reading-in-context method is better than a tedious list.

  41. lewis July 30, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    I had biology/psychology majors in undergrad. I tend to gravitate toward reading scientific journals. In fact, I have trouble maintaining concentration/relating/understanding sometimes during practice exams questions involving other topics (e.g. fiction). I have recently started studying for the GRE, and I am reading scientific american. I was previously considering medical school. I am now contemplating MS Biology-> Ph.D or Ph.D clinical psychology.

    I think what catches me in articles I’m having trouble with, is the abstract verbosity. What are your recommendations? Thanks!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 31, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Hi Lewis,

      You ask for abstract verbosity? I present a one-stop shop, so to speak:

      This website draws from hundreds of high-brow journals and features a glut of verbosity on recondite topics.

      Enjoy 🙂

      • lewis July 31, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

        Thanks so much!!

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele August 1, 2013 at 11:20 am #

          You are welcome!

  42. vsn July 30, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    I just went through all of your Vocab Wednesday videos. I have been following your blog posts for a while now. Nobody does vocab tutoring better than you. Now, enough of encomiums.
    Can you recommend me any books covering issues in economics (preferably development and political science) that have copious GRE words?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 31, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      Hi Vsn,

      Hmm…I think a good mixture of economics and political science–besides The Economist, of course–is Foreign Affairs magazine. It is a bi-monthly magazine and worth subscribing to (the level of writing and analysis is excellent).

      As far as books go in this genre, I can’t really think of anything. Perhaps, Niall Ferguson’s books fit the bill. He is pretty prolific and seems to publish a new book every year. Ascent of Money is good, and, if my memory serves me right, has a few GRE words in it.

      Hope that helps (and glad you’ve been enjoying the Vocab Wed. videos :))

      • vsn August 4, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

        Thanks Chris!

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele August 5, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

          You are welcome!

  43. sindhu June 27, 2013 at 7:42 am #


    I need to know whether the books u referred here are updated ? As because when i was to purchase these books in online i found that new series of these books has been released ?
    Was confused ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 27, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      Hi Sindhu,

      Each year, an entirely new book is released for each of the genres. You can get whichever genre you think you will like the best. The year doesn’t matter so much–though I highly recommend the David Brook’s edited Essay collection from this year.

      Hope that helps!

      • sindhu July 1, 2013 at 3:29 am #

        thank u Chris

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele July 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

          You are welcome!

  44. Shaunak June 2, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    Hey Chris,I wanted to know whether you would recommend books by Ayn Rand(like Fountainhead) for vocabulary ? Would that be helpful from the GRE point of view ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 3, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      Hi Shaunak,

      So I was checking through Fountainhead and there are a few GRE-level words but given the sheer abundance of words not too many. If you are intent on reading her, it wouldn’t hurt from a GRE perspective–as long as you remember to look the words up. I definitely think there are far better places, which are more dense with vocabulary and are written in a semi-academic style.

      Hope that helps!

      • Shaunak June 3, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

        Hey thanks for your advice.Some friends suggested me to read books by Ayn Rand or Nathaniel Hawthorne.Thus I wanted to know how useful it might be.

  45. pavan March 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I don’t know whether reading the books will help to me know recondite words contextually….All i can say following the articles of Chris will definitely helpful…Waiting for your next article..:-)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 12, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      Great! I’m happy my articles have become a font of recondite GRE vocabulary :)!

  46. Nilotpal July 23, 2012 at 5:30 am #

    Hii Chris

    I am always quite intimidated by the essay writing part of GRE, you can say am just like a beginner to this section. Which book and what ways do you recommend for me to excel in this section ??i have 2 and a half months of time in my hand.

  47. abhay May 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Hi Chris
    Could you start a column on anthology from gre point of view….weekly or fortnightly may be….some articles from new yorker/nytimes/economist which you think are good from gre point of view.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm #


      I think that’s a great idea – I’ve had quite a few ask me the same thing. Sounds like a perfect recurring fortnightly feature of the blog. Stay tuned :).

  48. abhay May 13, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    Hi Chris
    It is very helpful. Considering the limited time I have for preparation ( i have GRE at end of July), I have got myself a copy of Best American Essays and Science/Nature Writing 2011. I was queasy if I would be able to pick the right articles from Atlantic/New Yorker so decided to go with this book series. I am already from a science background so I will be focusing more on the Essays book.

    Actually I find the articles on arts, literature and philosophy quite abstruse. Can you please recommend a book which culls such articles.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris May 14, 2012 at 11:52 am #


      The Essay series is good for the literature, philosophy, etc., depending on the year. For the 2011, the editor is more predisposed to personal memories, which while engaging, are light on the abstruse, and heavy on the sentiment.

      The Best Essay Series 2010 edited by Christopher Hitchens has many selections on about literature, arts (I picked up a copy from Amazon for about 7 dollars). For Artsy, recondite stuff, the UK Guardian Art Section is great, as is anything on the London Review of books (both are very tiny and easily navigable so you don’t get that queasiness that comes from sifting through the glut of articles on the New Yorker/Atlantic sites).

      Hope that helps :).

      • abhay May 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

        Thanks Chris. It is very helpful. I will borrow a copy gratis from a friend for Best Essay Series 2010. 🙂

        • Chris Lele
          Chris May 15, 2012 at 11:46 am #

          You are welcome :).

  49. Alex February 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Is there a certain reason why you suggest the science and nature american essays book? I have a strong background in science. Should I choose another genre that is not as familiar to improve my critical reading skills?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Alex,

      The GRE has usually has a few science passages. These mostly aren’t too technical. The writing in science and nature can be very layman to slightly technical. For those without a science background the Best of S&N provides a nice stepping stone to the generally more difficult science-based GRE passages. So def. in your case expose yourself to another genre you may not be too comfortable with, say literary theory.

      Hope that helps!

      • Alex February 29, 2012 at 6:08 am #

        It does. Thanks!

        • Chris Lele
          Chris February 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

          You’re welcome 🙂

  50. lucym December 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Hello Chris, I am really poor in vocabs and i was wondering which approach will be better for me, reading the best american essays or reading articles from the New yorker, Atlantic monthly or Economist. If reading the article will be better how do I choose the best article. I checked on the New yorker website and they have so many articles and I am confused on which one to choose.

  51. Arif September 11, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Thank you once again Chris !!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris September 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

      Great! Let me know if you end up picking up any of my recommendations.

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