ACT/SAT Reading List Recommendations – 8 Points

Introduce to ACT/SAT Reading List Recommendations

ACT and SAT are two exams that are very helpful in the admission to good and prestigious colleges in the United States. The exam is one step to get closer to your dream college and then to a dream career. ACT and SAT are standardized tests that assess your high school level knowledge to select the best-suited career for you.

Every student has a question about how they can score well in these tests and which books can help them improve their reading scores. This is not simple to answer, but several tips can help you improve your reading score.

Tip 1: Read more or read anything

Before starting with study material for the exams, one should give themselves time to get acquainted with reading. The best way to do that is to start with short stories, magazines, technical articles, and news pieces. Reading develops concentration and also improves vocabulary and speed. This ability, if developed over time, helps you in managing time during the exam. It also helps in understanding the passages and essays easily.

Tip 2: Target your weaknesses

SATs and ACTs are tests that require consistent efforts. Each of the exams comprises of essays that contain over 500 words. It is thus very important to keep track of your weaknesses during the preparation as well. Tracking weaknesses and improvements mark the journey of learning. Many people face difficulties in different parts of the essays. Some face difficulties with science passages, while some face difficulties with dialogue-heavy narrative passages. So, you have to keep reading stuff from your weak area to improve it.

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Based on these two tips, we have curated a list of books to guide you through your preparation. So, let us list down all of them.

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Testing the waters for preparation

The first focus is laid on the development of the skill set for ACTs and SATs. The following books that are selected here are anthologies that are from various authors. The primary focus is to pay attention to ideas and details. This helps understand the words, their use, the figure of speech, and the author’s writing style. Following are the four books suggested for this purpose.

  1. Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History by William Safire
  2. 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology by Samuel Cohen
  3. Crafting the Very Short Story: An Anthology of 100 Masterpieces by Mark Mills
  4. Speed Reading in 60 Seconds: 100 One-Minute Speed Reading Sprints by David Butler

Short stories

Once you develop the patience and concentration for books, you can start with short books under 100 pages. They expose you to a variety of genres and writing styles. They help you in developing your speed as well as in exploring different varieties of content. Since these are short books, they do not require a lot of time to complete, and so you don’t have to stick to a particular book for a long time.

  1. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  2. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  3. Flatland: A Romance Of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
  4. Bartleby, The Scrivener by Herman Melville

Digging in larger ones now

Once you get along with short novels, it is best to gradually start with larger ones. It is good to switch to larger books of 200 pages or above in the transition to help you with exploring more content. The suggested readings to maintain your speed and concentration are as follows.

  1. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  2. Candide by Voltaire
  3. Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  4. Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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19th-century themed testing

Sometimes it is difficult for students to follow the masterpieces of the 18th century because of the language. The language used in the 18th century is different from the modern one and poses many challenges in understanding. The solution to this problem is going for the 19th-century novels. Some of the great novels in this category are:

  1. The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  3. Silas Marner: The Weaver Of Raveloe by George Eliot
  4. Hound Of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Experimenting with language

In many passages, students may find different dialects and slang. They belong to different languages. Hence once you have tried period novels, the next step should be to explore different-language novels. Following books will give you a taste of different dialects to help you expand your knowledge.

  1. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
  2. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  3. Pudd’nhead by Mark Twain
  4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Social sciences

It has been observed that SATs and ACTs consist of passages from social science alot. Thus to take a step in the direction of strengthening your reading list. It is suggested to read some social science books too. The following mentioned books are the best-suited ones for the SATs and ACTs.

  1. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value Of Work by Matthew B. Crawford
  2. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
  3. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side Of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  4. Enlightenment Now: The Case For Reason, Science, Humanism, And Progress by Steven Pinker
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The world of science

ACTs and SATs have constantly been involving passages from science. To avoid surprises during the test, it is best to get acquainted with the few terminologies of science that can help you during the tests.

  1. Welcome To The Universe: An Astrophysical Tour by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott
  2. The Double Helix: A Personal Account Of The Discovery of the Structure Of The DNA by James D. Watson
  3. A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking
  4. On The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin


To stay updated with the current issues and world updates, it is generally advised to read magazine articles. They give you brief updates on the world, market, style, economics, etc. They help you uncover the technical articles as well and also helps in building your skimming ability.

  1. The New Yorker
  2. Nature
  3. Time


We hope this reading list gives you a head start in your preparations. For more details, do visit our website: Miles Smart Tutoring. Our experts at Miles Smart Tutoring can help you with the right set of career guidance.

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