Hey, I found a new library! That’s a big deal. The thing is, I live in a working class part of Seoul with a somewhat poor library system. That’s because we don’t really have money for libraries. But I learned this month that my district (only) has reciprocal lending privileges with the city of Gwangmyeong (just across the river), which has very nice libraries. That means this installment of “You Should Read More” has a few interesting titles. This list includes one great book that was recommended by a reader. If you’ve got any books that I ought to track down, please leave a comment below. I’ll do my best to find a copy.
First up, I read “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz. You can read this for free via the Open Library (or you can just buy it on Amazon). This is the one that was recommended to me by a reader. I’m glad they took the time to make the suggestion, as this is an absolutely perfect book to sharpen your academic reading skills for the TOEFL. The paradox mentioned in the title is the idea that the overwhelming number of choices we have in the modern world (and are free to pursue) cause us to feel stress and anxiety. The author supposes that we would be happier with fewer choices to make or if we could learn to focus on choices that really matter. What makes this a great book for future TOEFLers is that the book describes a series of academic terms or concepts (one after another) and then illustrates them using examples from the author’s life, or by describing simple experiments. It’s basically speaking question four… in book form. Indeed, students might want to try listening to the audiobook version instead of reading the book! Seriously, if I were tasked with making a practice test, I might grab this book and use it to create questions about “maximizing,” “second-order decisions,” “opportunity costs,” “omission bias,” “regret aversion,” and a half-dozen other concepts. Indeed, I’m sure that most of these have appeared on the test at some point in the past 15 years. For what it’s worth, the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease score for a random selection of text I tested is 53, which makes this book a little bit easier than a typical TOEFL reading passage.
Next, I read “The Martian,” which you can also find on the Open Library (or, again, on Amazon). Yeah, this one is fiction… but I think it will help. This is an example of hard science fiction, which means that accurate science is at the forefront of the story. Indeed, there is a lot of science-y stuff in here. And I’m pretty sure ETS has written a lot of questions about whether or not we can survive on Mars. One of the third-party textbooks I use on a regular basis has an integrated writing question about the danger caused by Martian dust, a hazard which actually plays a pretty big role in the plot of this novel. Meanwhile, for added fun you can watch the film adaptation which stars Matt Damon. Note that the prose here is pretty easy to follow, which should make it a relaxing read.
Finally, I read the July-August issue of Analog Science Fiction. I know, I know. I need to stop mentioning these magazines. They aren’t exactly easy to find, and might be a bit niche. However, this one has some great stories. It’s my favorite issue of the year (so far)! Keep an eye out for “Retention” by Alec Nevala-Lee, which is a funny little story about a fellow who is having a really hard time cancelling his Internet service; “Ennui” by Filip Wiltgren, which is a great story about an AI struggling to run the systems on a colony ship that spends hundreds of years in space (a favorite SF concept of mine); and the final installment of “House of Styx,” which I mentioned in the blog a few weeks ago.
Okay. Over and out for now. I’ll have some more articles next time, and some short fiction you can read online.