It is the end of the month, and that means it is time for my favorite part of the blog… the monthly “you should read more” column! Every month I I recommend a few things you can read to improve your academic reading skills. I mostly focus on short non-fiction magazine articles, but sometimes (like today) I mention longer materials. Everything I recommend is something I, personally, read in the previous month. And to keep things a bit more unpredictable, I only mention stuff that I am able to track down in hard copy form.
First up, this month I read Tara Westover’s memoir “Educated.” That book was one of the best-selling books of 2018, with recommendations from all of the usual celebrities: Bill Gates, Barak Obama, Oprah (and more). Normally I avoid stuff like that because I’m a snob, but this book was recommended by a reader of this blog. In fact, it was recommended in the comments section of the very first one of these columns! Basically, I will read anything you guys recommend, as long as I can find a cheap (or free) copy of it. The book is actually quite good, and not at all what I expected. It tells the true story of Tara Westover, who grew up in an abusive family presided over by her paranoid survivalist father. Tara’s experience is more terrifying than I expected it to be. Again and again and again the book depicts horrific events that the young Tara lived through. Besides that, there is an important message about the beneficial effects of education and how it helps us to expand our world. I think that many of the eager and talented students that read this blog will appreciate it. You can buy a copy on Amazon in a zillion different formats. Sadly it is too recent to be on the Open Library.
Next, I read the January 2022 issue of “Apollo – the International Art Magazine.” I started reading this magazine last month, and I am really digging it. A few articles stood out:
- The Shock of the New Towns is about the “new town” movement in the United Kingdom after World War II. It talks about how the government there dealt with a housing shortage by constructing wholly new towns in parts of the country. These were unique in that they were heavily planned and not organically created in a hodge-podge like most towns and cities across the world. This exactly the sort of topic that the TOEFL writers would use on the test. I bet that over the past 17 years of the TOEFL iBT it has appeared at least once!
- Has the Humboldt Forum Got it Horribly Wrong? is a longer article that discusses the debate around whether European museums ought to display cultural works acquired (or, some would say, stolen) from Africa and Asia. It also discusses how they can be displayed if they choice is made to keep doing so. This is too controversial to be on the TOEFL, but I can picture a third-party prep book turning it into an integrated writing question. In any case, it is great academic reading practice, and quite interesting.
Finally, I read the Winter 21/22 issue of “Modern Dog.” Yeah, last month I said that I had no more animal magazines coming… but I was wrong! There was one more. In between advertisements for canine CBD supplements I read a very nice profile of the Berger Picard dog. It’s basically academic reading practice. And highly recommended if you like dogs.
That’s it for January, but check in next month. I’ll list a travel book I’m currently reading and something from a new magazine subscription I managed to get for cheap.