June 9, 2016 at 10:24 am #1973
The LSAT is in large part a test of your reading ability, and especially at the highest score levels, I believe that reading ability is an even greater differentiating factor than reasoning ability is.
Reading non-LSAT materials should not be considered LSAT prep — only LSAT prep is LSAT prep — still, I do think it’s helpful to keep yourself in “good reading shape” by doing a lot of extracurricular reading while you are studying for the exam —
And so if you are studying for the LSAT this summer, here are three suggestions (+ a bonus) for complimentary reading materials —
1. A Short History of Nearly Everything By Bill Bryson
This is always my first suggestion when LSAT students ask for suggestions on reading material. Here are a few key reasons why —
– the book discusses science for non-scientist readers — which is what LSAT passages do.
– the book covers nearly every significant scientist / scientific discovery / scientific theory of the past few hundred years — there is a very good chance that whatever science topic is on your exam will have been discussed in this book.
– it’s exceptionally well written, and personally I find the stories in it to be incredibly inspiring.
2. On Writing By Stephen King
The LSAT really rewards what I think of as “empathetic reading” — that is, reading that reveals a correct understanding of the author’s intentions (it’s no coincidence that some of the very best LSAT “naturals” I’ve ever been around happen to be writers themselves) — and to have this sort of empathetic understanding, it really helps to have a better sense of how authors think and craft their work.
Stephen King is arguably one of the most gifted and significant writers alive today, and I think this book gives phenomenal insight into how a writing genius thinks about what he writes.
It also happens to be a very, very fun read.
And, by the way, if you like books on tape, there is a great version of this read by King himself.
3. The Week
The Economist is probably the publication most recommended on LSAT forums, and I certainly understand why, but you may want to give The Week a shot as well. In comparison, The Week is much, much lighter and easier reading —
What’s unique about The Week, however, is that it takes one event in the news and shows a variety of perspectives on the matter. Because of this, it is ultra-dense when it comes to *reasoning structure* — points made, counterpoints made, support, background, and so on — and this is related to the structure you will see in LR stimuli and RC passages.
If you are just looking for some smart and dense fiction to read, I suggest Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Reading tastes are obviously very subjective, but I hope some of you find some of those suggestions useful —
And if any of you have any additional suggestions, please share! — MK
June 10, 2016 at 8:47 am #1979LSAT DanParticipant
Your observation about writers doing well on the LSAT is very interesting to me, Mike. I was one of those LSAT “naturals” (I always feel guilty when my students ask me what I did to prepare; the honest answer is “Not much,” but do I as say, not as I did), and I am also a writer, and was one long before I thought seriously about going to law school. I was an English major, I worked full-time in the print journalism field, and I’ve written numerous short stories, and have a couple of unfinished novels and a book on boxing lying around waiting for me to dust them off. But I never correlated LSAT success with writing; I always attributed it to other things I did that had a more direct connection to formal logic – specifically, my years as a competitive bridge and poker player.
Like you, I’m very impressed with Stephen King’s “On Writing.” People who aren’t familiar with King and dismissive him as “Just a horror writer” are often surprised to learn that he wrote the novella that became (with pretty much no changes) “The Shawshank Redemption,” to say nothing of “The Body” (which became the outstanding movie “Stand By Me”) and “The Green Mile.” Not all great writers are great teachers, though; King is. He’s not just written a bunch, he’s obviously spent a lot of time thinking about the craft of writing, and he laid it all out there in “On Writing.” I reread it annually.
With your correlation in mind, Francine Prose’s “Reading Like a Writer” offers a very insightful look at the relationship between reading and writing, and will IMO make anyone who reads it much better at both.
June 10, 2016 at 11:58 am #1980
Hey Dan — it really is starting to get creepy how alike we are — I was also an English major, and I also had a career as a writer and with writers (in the film industry) before I got into the LSAT business, and I also have a closet full of unfinished fiction — I also admit that the younger version of myself would have been one of those people who would turn my nose up at Stephen King.
BTW, the best LSAT “natural” I’ve ever seen is a guy named John Beer, who briefly taught at Manhattan — not coincidentally, he happens to be a respected poet.
Thanks so much for adding the “Reading Like a Writer” recommendation — the Amazon description for it looks awesome and I’ve already ordered a copy for myself — mk
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