Hey, it’s time for another installment of “You Should Read More!”  This month’s installment is heavy on magazine articles, since I wanted to clear my queue of unread magazines.  I get about four magazines in the mail each month, and they tend to build up.  But don’t worry – I’ll have a lot more book length stuff next time.

Science News - August 2020First up, I read the August 1 issue of “Science News.”  This issue has an absolutely wonderful article that could form the basis of a TOEFL integrated writing question.  You can find the article online.  It discusses how DNA from South America  was present on certain Polynesian islands more than 800 years.  This means that South American navigators may have sailed 7000 kilometers to reach those island.  Or maybe it means that Polynesian navigators reached South America… and then went home.  It’s a real TOEFL style debate! 

Science News MagazineNext up, I read the September 26 issue of the same magazine.  It contains a fun article about Stonehenge, which can also be found online.  Reading it will improve your ability to deal with challenging history articles in the reading section of the test.  For something a bit more challenging, check out this article about the geology of the early Earth.

National Geographic - October 2020Moving along, I read the October 10 issue of National Geographic.  The title story about dinosaurs is available online, and is perfect preparation for the integrated writing section!  Those of you who read TOEFL practice materials from ETS will know that they have used a ton of questions about dinosaurs.  And many of the dinosaurs that have been mentioned in those materials are also referenced here!  In the article you’ll hear about:

  • The debate about how heavy dinosaurs could take flight
  • How rapid growth rates suggest that dinosaurs were warm-blooded
  • What the sinosauropteryx’s tail was for
  • How the edmontosaurus lived in herds

That’s like a greatest hits list of the old TPO questions!

What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningFinally, I read a book!  Specifically, Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”  This one is available for free on the Open Library, so go borrow it!  Or you can buy it on Amazon.  The book is a sort of memoir that covers the author’s four month preparation for the New York City Marathon, but also discusses why and how he writes his popular books.  I absolutely devoured his fiction when I was young, but somehow missed this one… despite being an avid runner myself.  Anyways, I recommend the book for two reasons:

  1. It might nudge you toward his fiction, which is fantastic.
  2. Murakami has an interesting writing style that uses a lot of idioms and phrasal verbs (and idioms AS phrasal verbs) that you might learn a lot from.  Improving in this area could make your spoken and written English sound a bit more natural.

The second point was really emphasized by a prior reader of my copy who actually underlined all of the author’s interesting word and phrase choices.  Here are a few that caught their attention:

  • “…free time is increasingly at a premium.”
  • “The thing is, I’m not much for team sports.”
  • “By sticking my nose into all sorts of places…
  • “I’ve gotten older, and time has taken its toll.”
  • “They figured that [I] wouldn’t be able to make a go of it.”
  • “…things I had to rack my brains about.”
  • “I was finally able to take a breather.”

And that’s just in the first twenty-six pages!  The whole book is full of stuff like this. Of course the book was originally written in Japanese, and translated to English by someone else.  I wish I could read Japanese and understand what these sentences looked like originally.  I read somewhere that Murakami sometimes writes parts of his own work in English first, and then self-translates into Japanese.  Perhaps the translator had no choice but to include all of the idioms!  Anyways, it’s a fun book… even if you don’t like running.

Okay.  That’s all for now, but I’ll be back in a few weeks time with more recommendations.  Keep reading.

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