The little library in my neighborhood got rid of its entire collection of English books… and replaced it with an entirely new collection. What a strange occurrence. I had to walk to the next city over to get a copy of the first book on today’s list.
Anyways, that book was Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” (available on Amazon, and in the Open Library). This book attempts to explain why events happens in certain places on earth, but not on others. This means it deals a lot with what I’ve called here “early human history,” which happens to be a favorite topic of the people who write the reading section of the TOEFL. Actually, I suppose Diamond’s book is on the shelf of all of the ETS item writers. It truly is just page after page after page of “TOEFL style” stuff. Even the reading level and vocabulary usage seem to be quite similar to the TOEFL. The best part, though, is that the book presents arguments instead of just describing things. Seriously, if you only buy one book mentioned in my columns, get this one.
Next, I read Colin Thubron’s “Jerusalem” (out of print now, but available in the Open Library) I’ve mentioned a few of his other travel books here. They are probably too challenging to be of use to TOEFL test-takers, but I like to mention them here as I’m slowly working my way through Thubron’s complete bibliography of travel books. This one marks the end of Thubron’s trilogy of books on middle eastern locales. If you are interested in the region, you might like the book. Just be prepared to keep Wikipedia open to look up his references, as Thubron assumes his readers already have a well-rounded education.
Finally, I read both of the June issues of Science News. A few short articles stood out as relevant to TOEFL test-takers. They are:
- “A New Technique Could Make Some Plastic Trash Compostable at Home” almost sounds like the beginning of a problem/solution TOEFL integrated writing question. Is this a solution to the problem of plastic waste? Maybe.
- “A Child’s 78,000-year-old Grave Marks Africa’s Oldest Known Human Burial” deals with more of that “early human history” stuff that the item writers really like.
- “Equids Supply Water to Thirsty Wildlife” discusses a unique animal behavior that could possibly be turned into a type three or four speaking question.
- “European Fire Ant Chemicals May Send Spiders Scurrying Away” is another article about a unique animal feature. This sort of stuff is really popular in the speaking section. And somewhat popular in the reading section.
- “Hunter-gatherers First Launched Violent Raids at least 13,840 Years Ago” is another look at early human history.
- “Urchin Mobs Team up to Butcher Sea Stars that Prey on Them” was probably my favorite article of the month. It describes how a bunch of sea urchins turned the table on an unfortunate sea star at an aquarium.
Hey, would you believe that I’ve been writing this column for a whole year? Don’t worry… I’m not going to stop anytime soon. Keep checking in every month for the remaining 88 parts!