Best Novels to Read for GRE Preparation

Posted by on August 1, 2015 in GRE Reading Comprehensions | 2 comments

Should you read novels to improve your GRE verbal section? Don’t if you plan to give the GRE within the next 2 to 3 months, but if you spend hours every day just staring at a wall then better to read something. However if you plan to sit the GRE exam after at least 6 months then reading novels can be beneficial.

If you are constrained on time then cracking flashcards will improve your score much more than reading novels. I know flashcards are boring but even if you spend half the time on flashcards as you would on reading novels then your score will improve much quickly in the shorter run. You will have to read a lot in order to come across those words that come on the GRE. Plus GRE deliberately uses obscure words so that most people don’t know them. Even for GRE reading passages, the novels are often long, while reading passages much shorter. Books do not ask you questions, but the GRE passages questions are deliberately designed to be confusing. For training reading comprehension in less than 3 months, I would recommend that you should simply do hundreds of practice questions over and over.

However I highly recommend novels and books if you want to give the GRE after about 6 months to a year. Reading good quality GRE type novels will help you improve your contextual understanding and usage of GRE words and also your reading speed and comprehension gradually and permanently. The vocabulary will appear in the context of a continuous story in a novel, which you will enjoy and retain for a longer period of time.

The Best American Essays: This will help you read and practice convoluted GRE writing style and will twist your brain. It primarily focuses on hard sentence structures and organization of ideas. The language, and the way words are used, is more consistent with the GRE language.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: This is a science fiction novel but has lots of GRE words.

How to be Alone by Jonathan Franzen: This is a collection of fourteen essays, that mix history and culture. These essays are challenging and contain a lot of tough vocabulary!

This Best American series: This series is a collection of best writing from many of the best journals and magazines. It is not one book, but many books. Do read the Science and Nature Genre as it not only uses some frequent GRE words but also has a complex structure of writing.

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This novel gives a harrowing look at New York City’s cafe society during the emergence of the Jazz Age. It contains a lot of music and literature content, which is a hot favorite for GRE.

Anything by P.G. Wodehouse, Dickens: This is a small book that can be completed in a week’s time and can be read by those who want to give the GRE in a couple of months.

The Art of Manliness – Manvotionals – Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues by Brett McKay: This book mostly consists of passages that are GRE size and is a good reading practice in more formally written English.

The Corrections and Freedom, both by Jonathan Franzen: Both novels are full of GRE vocabulary.

Some additional Fiction Books that you can read as well

A Movable Feast by Earnest Hemingway: Great language, good sentence structure, and great useful vocabulary.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro Fantastic language and a very interesting book about the life of a British butler.

Shogun by James Clavell Good English, though language can get tough sometimes.

Guns Germs and Steel Certainly improves RC skills.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: The book is meant to be read with concentration and a sound mind. It trains the reader’s mind for complex texts.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Stunningly beautiful language and great history insights

Men without women by Earnest Hemingway

Daisy Miller by Henry James: Has fantastic English

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: Great language and style

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Some additional Non-Fiction Books that you can read as well

The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal by Desmond Morris

The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler


  1. Avatar

    Only GRE student would prefer reading these books, reading habit dying out in Pakistan

    • Avatar

      Oh please. Pakistanis love to read. The trend is just shifting from hard copy to soft form reading.

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