Happy April, folks!

First up – new versions of the Official Guide to the TOEFL and the two Official Tests books were published this month, but my copies haven’t arrived so no news about those in this month’s column.  Maybe next month.  Meanwhile, I did read a few things.  They are…

  • Nancy’s Isenberg’s White Trash: The 400-year Untold History of Class in America.  This scholarly look at the class divide in America had been on my to-read list for some time.  It was worth the effort it took to find a copy in Korea.  Check this one out to learn about the sometimes deplorable conditions of the poor in North America, beginning with the early days of colonization.  The story of America, I think, is the story of the poor.
  • In the March 2024 issue of “History Today,” I liked Was the Trojan Horse Real ? , a short article about the fake horse of Greek Mythology.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it – Greek soldiers apparently hid inside of it to better facilitate the capture of the city of Troy.  But was it real or is it just part of a made-up story that has endured for centuries? 
  • I also liked The Golden Age of Medieval Nostalgia.  You’ll have to pay for this one so I will keep it brief, but it’s a fun look at life in Europe in the 14th century when “the world turned upside down” due to significant social changes.  Any number of the trends and events described here could be turned into TOEFL reading questions.  Real TOEFL nerds might recognize “the Little Ice Age,” which is referred to early in the article.
  • Measuring the Shape of the Earth is about the exact sort of “why this?” thing that might show up in a TOEFL reading passage.  Is the earth flatter at the poles or around the equator?  Who cares?  Well, geographers, I guess.  As I’ve written here before, physical geography is a common topic in the TOEFL reading section.

By the way, you can get three issues of History today for Five GBP.  That’s like the best deal in magazines out there.  Just make sure to unsubscribe before the auto-renewal kicks in.

  • Finally, I read the June 2023 issue of the Literary Review of Canada.  It included a short article about the work of John Tuzo Wilson, the so-called “Charles Darwin of Geology.”  He contributed greatly to the theory of plate tectonics.  Geology is another common topic on the TOEFL (really, check out the link above).  And I am 100% sure that plate tectonics have come up more than once on the test.

That’s all for now.  Catch you again in May.

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