What must I be reading in order to improve my written english? On occassion, and my temperament willing, I do pick up the dailies. More frequently, I resort to a thorough study of word meanings from the dictionary. This happens when I come accross a word that is new to my vocabulary from a source such as television or random reading.

So, I do read some stuff, but I am keen on speeding up my progress. What are you guys reading, never to miss a beat?
Also, is it really important to read the newspapers? I find the language in the newspapers a bit modern for my taste, besides finding the news particularly boring and artificial. I've read Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and lots of poetry and seem to chime with the old school english. Regular attendance on online forums has rubbed off some Americanisms too, on my prose. I really want to pick up the best of both the worlds and evolve my own style.
Thanks for reading.
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What must I be reading in order to improve my written english? . . . Also, is it really important to read the newspapers?

Few newspapers are good models for style, and
almost as few worth reading for sheer pleasure.
The fastest route for the ESL student seems to be
to find a class of literature he either enjoys or wants to read for professional reasons, whatever the language. If he likes puzzle books, there are many "detective novels" e.g. by Conan Doyle and Ed McBain; if he
likes funny books, P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn
Waugh are models of style. If he likes history,
Simon Schama and Barbara Tuchman are models.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
What must I be reading in order to improve my written english? . . . Also, is it really important to read the newspapers?

Few newspapers are good models for style, and almost as few worth reading for sheer pleasure. The fastest route for ... P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh are models of style. If he likes history, Simon Schama and Barbara Tuchman are models.

Recommending books for the non-English speaker that wants to improve his English is more difficult than it would seem. Without knowing the reader's taste, genre alone is a tough call. Then there's the jargon and regionalism problem.
McBain's books contain police jargon that can be misleading to the English learner. McBain's characters refer to their police station as the "One-six" instead of the sixteenth, for example. The uninformed reader might think we use that style for all numbers.

Wodehouse and Waugh use some construction that is now considered archaic or dated.
I think I'd go with recommending non-fiction, and possibly in the biography or political areas. Less jargon, less slang, and usually rather vanilla style. Unknown references are usually easy to Google.
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Wodehouse and Waugh use some construction that is now considered archaic or dated.

Such as?
I think I'd go with recommending non-fiction, and possibly in the biography or political areas. Less jargon, less slang, and usually rather vanilla style. Unknown references are usually easy to Google.

I recommend Roundabouts of Britain by Kevin Beresford. Easily googlable references, little jargon, little slang, nice pictures, worthy but not too worthy, dull but at least the paragraphs are very short.

In a similar vein there's Mo and Harris's Birdwatching by Train .

Mickwick
The fastest route for the ESL student seems to be to find a class of literature he either enjoys or wants to read for professional reasons, whatever the language.

As a non-native English speaker, I found "The British Museum Is Falling Down" by David Lodge rather easy and funny.
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Domanda: "Era il figlio di Iside e Osiride".
Risposta: "Thor".
(quiz televisivo)
Wodehouse and Waugh use some construction that is now considered archaic or dated.

Such as?

Do you not accept the premise and expect me to search out examples as support, or are you just inquiring if I might know of examples off-hand?
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Such as?

Do you not accept the premise and expect me to search out examples as support, or are you just inquiring if I might know of examples off-hand?

I assumed that you already had a couple of examples in mind when you posted your advice. (I mean, if you didn't have any particular construction(s) in mind, why on earth would you make such a pronouncement?) Have you forgotten them already? Or are you just being shy?
Don't be. I haven't re-read any Waugh for about five years but he was my favourite author for a while in my late teens, and when later I tried to write fiction myself it was Waugh's clarity and simplicity of style that I tried to copy. (Ha!) Wodehouse was also a master of clear and simple prose. If he hadn't been, he never would have got away with all those playful verbosities and other nonsenses. (Which I also tried to emulate. Also 'Ha!') So I'd genuinely like to know in what ways you think the structure of their language has dated. I'm not saying it hasn't - I don't know: I haven't read them for a while - I'm intrigued, that's all.

I'm not talking about the slang, of course, or Waugh's occasional racism, but the construction(s), like what you originally mentioned.

But if you were just blathering again, I forgive you.

Mickwick
I assumed that you already had a couple of examples in mind when you posted your advice. (I mean, if ... occasional racism, but the construction(s), like what you originally mentioned. But if you were just blathering again, I forgive you.

OK, first paragraph of the first Wodehouse bit I turned up:

"It was Harold who first made us acquainted, when I was dining one night at the Cafe Britannique, in Soho. It is a peculiarity of the Cafe Britannique that you will always find flies there, even in winter. Snow was falling that night as I turned in at the door, but, glancing about me, I noticed several of the old faces. My old acquaintance, Percy the bluebottle, looking wonderfully fit despite his years, was doing deep breathing exercises on a mutton cutlet, and was too busy to do more than pause for a moment to nod at me; but his cousin, Harold, always active, sighted me and bustled up to do the honours."
Forget whether or not you like the writing and like the style, but consider if this what an English learner wants to use to improve his conversational English. None of the following are errors or to be criticized, but they are not the way most of us now use conversational English:
first made us acquainted
turned in at the door
Percy the bluebottle
mutton cutlet
Next paragraph:
"He had finished his game of touch-last with my right ear, and was circling slowly in the air while he thought out other ways of entertaining me, when there was a rush of air, a swish of napkin, and no more Harold."
Our English learner reads the above and asks about this. I couldn't begin to explain it. Perhaps you can, but it's going to be tough going for the English learner to use anything from that paragraph in conversation.
Next paragraph:
"I turned to thank my preserver, whose table adjoined mine. He was a Frenchman, a melancholy-looking man. He had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life's gas-pipe with a lighted candle; of one whom the clenched fist of Fate has smitten beneath the temperamental third waistcoat-button."
OK, I know what is meant here even if I had to pause a bit with this usage of "preserver", but - again - the English learner gains little knowledge of everyday conversational English from this.

Next paragraph:
"He waved my thanks aside. 'It was a bagatelle,' he said. We became friendly. He moved to my table, and we fraternized over our coffee."

Our English learner reads the above and can discern the meaning by looking up the words. Then he asks the female in the next cubicle over if she wants to go fraternize over coffee. Hopefully, she too knows the meaning of "fraternize" and doesn't think it's a rude invitation.
That's a randomly selected example of Wodehouse's writing snatched off the web after a quick search. I'm not criticizing Wodehouse, and I've bookmarked the site to read more of him. It's from a short story site and contains some things I haven't read.
My point is that this is not what I think is best recommended to an English learner that wants to improve his conversational English.
OK, first paragraph of the first Wodehouse bit I turned up:

(snip)
My point is that this is not what I think is best recommended to an English learner that wants to improve his conversational English.

In which case, your point is entirely irrelevant. If you look back a few posts, you will see that the question was:
What must I be reading in order to improve my written english?

Which is an entirely different matter.

Don Aitken
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