Enhancing your vocabulary
English is a tough language to learn as a child. Learning to pronounce ‘though’ (tho) and ‘trough’ (troff), to understanding that ‘the big red ball’ is more correct than ‘the red big ball’. Enhancing one’s vocabulary at university is a great way of getting ahead in essay-writing. It’ll give you the freedom to concentrate on form, structure and content while having the confidence that your knowledge of words will carry you to success.
The main way to enhance and expand your vocabulary is to read. Read anything. Some of the best books to read are classics like this one:
Enhancing your memory
Neuroscientists have proven it. Reading is so demanding on your brain that, like any muscle, it’ll grow and become stronger. It won’t grow in the sense that it’ll leak out your head, but it will become much more capable of taking in vast amounts of information and, by default, your memory will increase.
Further, studies have shown that after having read you should have a 10-minute break to let it all sink in. Your memory will reward you!
Enhancing your knowledge
University tends to leave students with academic with tunnel-vision. They will graduate experts in a specific subject with expert knowledge of a particular branch of said subject. For instance, I can talk for hours about the economic conditions of Dark Ages Spain and their impact on France’s expansionist 8th century empire, but I couldn’t tell you anything about how a plane flies.
Thankfully books do exist that give us a glimpse into other areas of study. Among the most useful are the Very Short Introductions by the Oxford University Press which include about 150 pages of clearly written golden nuggets of information to make anyone vaguely familiar with any subject. You could learn about Classics, Nietzsche, Stuart Britain, Game Theory or any other of the 450 books they’ve published, all in a couple of hours!
Enhancing your writing
Writing is a skill that improves with practice. Even with a great vocabulary and expert oratory skill, writing can still be quite the tough nut to crack. Reading permits you to read other people’s writing, to explore different styles, to learn new ways of expressing yourself. Every student should have their own style, or be consciously developing it – your tutors will thank you for it. Imagine having to grade a hundreds essays on the same subject that all sound like they were written by 15-year olds. Instead, would the world be a happier place if everyone could be inspired by each other’s writing? Your tutor’s world certainly would be!
Here are a few books on the topic of language that I found particularly great. Note the second Bill Bryson mention, he’s a genius, you need to read everything he’s ever written.
Enhancing your grammar
The English language is an ever-evolving beast of well over one million words. When it comes to grammar, things tend to get tricky. By the time you’re at university and having to learn all there is to know about your chosen subject, the last thing you’ll want to be thinking about is the difference between a subjunctive mood and a subjunctive clause. But alas, good writing comes with good grammar, so here are a couple of excellent books that cover how to write ‘well’, not write ‘good’.
At the end of the day, if you read something you enjoy, you’ll improve your cognitive ability to taking in information and processing it.
Do you have a favourite book that could add to this list? Please tell us in the comments below.