Do you know the benefits of reading some interesting articles in English whenever you can? It's a great way to build your vocabulary and general English! It will even develop your English grammar skills. These articles can open new perspectives to you, sharing the concerns, experience, and wisdom of so many people.
This page has recommended some general interest articles and links from the English Detective newsletter as described on Reading Articles to Improve Your English. That page explains how I choose the articles and why I share their links and descriptions here.
Most of the articles are intermediate level or above, so if you are just beginning to read English, don't start here. Instead, check out Easy Reading for ESL Beginners.
Each section below gives most of one English Detective newsletter from early 2020 on. Each newsletter has a theme. On this page many are related to history and its relations to current events.
The Reading Articles page above links to other topics: English communication skills, the environment, leadership, psychology topics, various reading related to science, and more.
That means the articles will often have related vocabulary, helping you learn any new words. They also provide several different perspectives on the subject.
After introducing the theme, I tell a little about each article and why it's worth reading.. I link to it and sometimes add some vocabulary discussion or practice.
Occasionally I devote a whole page to the topic, and the article descriptions and links are on it instead. In those cases there is just a link to that page here.
If you find these articles helpful, you can subscribe to English Detective below (or learn more on Building Vocabulary.) The benefit of subscribing is that you'll get each new issue directly.
Choose the articles that interest you and build your English vocabulary a little twice a month (or every week if you spread them out).
I’ve been thinking (like many others in the U.S. and around the world) of recent events in Washington D.C. and about the inauguration on Wednesday. We wonder how (if it’s even possible) to restore trust and civility and to build a society based on justice and truth.
I found a number of articles suggesting ways President Biden could address these things in his inaugural address. Many referred to the messages of presidents in earlier times of national crisis—and almost all mentioned the speeches of Abraham Lincoln.
The article I chose (an opinion piece from Fox News, not my usual source of ideas) quotes Lincoln extensively. I feel the author presents a very persuasive case for “extending a hand of friendship and reconciliation” toward Republicans, even people who still question whether Biden won.
It may not work, but I believe it’s necessary to try. As the second article (on Martin Luther King Jr.) begins, “bringing down the temperature of the nation and quelling partisan divisiveness is of paramount concern.” In simpler language, we need to calm down and come together.
That article lists MLK’s principles of nonviolence. It argues, as King wrote, that nonviolence, though difficult to practice, is “one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.” The author discusses the origins of King’s thinking on nonviolence, its success in challenging segregation, and brief descriptions of six core principles.
I decided to add a third article that is less hopeful but also addresses an urgent need in American society. NPR asks “Can the forces unleashed by Trump’s big election lie be undone?” It talks about the results of Trump’s insistence that he actually won the election (which he claimed was then stolen from him). The attack on the U.S. Capitol was a direct consequence of the anger he stirred up in his supporters.
The article includes a seven-minute video by Arnold Schwarzenegger on the dangers of a big lie. It’s a very personal story, describing his childhood watching his father and other desperate, broken men in Austria after WW2. He cannot forget the consequences of Hitler’s big lies and makes an urgent appeal to come together to support our democracy and Constitution.
Capacity is the amount of something a person or container can hold or the ability to hold or do something.
An inauguration is a ceremony in which someone begins a new position. It’s most often used when presidents or governors take an oath of office before beginning their duties. Inaugural is the adjective. So, an inaugural address is a speech that a president gives at the beginning of his or her term.
Malice is deep, bitter hatred-- a desire to harm someone.
An opponent is someone who is against you (an enemy) or is competing with you (a rival).
A principle (as used in these articles) is a basic truth or value that guides a person’s or a group’s actions.
To resonate usually means to cause an emotional response. “Your suggestion really resonated with me.”
A rival is a competitor: someone who wants the same position you want.
You can practice different forms of words for truth or falsehood (and sort them from most definitely truthful to most dishonest) on that page on EnglishHints.
This description of the massive transformation of the U.S. economy after Pearl Harbor is amazing. I had learned about it in school, but I had no idea of the size of the mobilization.
There’s nothing like being attacked to unite a divided people, though.
Even with all the evidence we have now, I wonder if we (Americans and others living in politically polarized countries) will decide climate change is a great enough threat to be willing to work with people on the “other” side.
I’ve heard that there was an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Our times are certainly interesting!
Can we pull it off again?
The world feels even more interconnected now…
The past few weeks (late Feb. to early Mar. 2022) I’ve spent more time than I should reading news and history and trying to make sense of what’s happening in Ukraine. (So have so many other people!)
The biggest impressions have been emotional: horror and disbelief at the disaster unfolding there, and awe at the courage many have shown, as well as the creative messages some have had for the Russia soldiers. (I’m thinking of the old Ukrainian woman who offered sunflower seeds to a Russian soldier. She told him to put them in his pocket, so that when he died there at least sunflowers could sprout.)
I’ve also been looking for explanations of why this attack happened, and what implications it may have for the future. I want to share two articles you may not have seen. They remind me again of how interconnected the world is.
They have terrible and hopeful news for the rest of the world (beyond the obvious inflation and energy problems.) They look at the war’s grim possible effects on world hunger and on potentially hopeful ways it may make people a little more skeptical of lies and disinformation online…
NPR points out that both Russia and the Ukraine make significant contributions to the world’s grain, sunflower, and fertilizer supplies. If the war disrupts spring planting or later harvesting and distribution, it could impact the prices of staples and add to already-growing world hunger.
The article points out it’s not likely to reduce food supplies so much that people starve—but it will raise prices so much that those most in need will go hungry—or may die—unless food distribution patterns change. (The countries with the most production and wealth have not done well in supporting poorer areas in the past.) NPR has some suggestions—if the world takes the problem seriously enough.
Wired’s article is titled The Spectacular Collapse of Putin’s Disinformation Machinery. It analyzes why Russia got away with spreading as many lies and half-truths as it did for so long, but also how an actual war broke it down so quickly.
They make some very interesting arguments about how not to wage a disinformation campaign. I liked their point about not being too arrogant. “While Zelensky engages on a human level through his accounts, Putin, Lavrov, and the other graying men sit at comically oversized tables in Moscow. Russia… should know that the very best manipulation is led by apparently humble—though morally bankrupt—and ideally anonymous groups of people who don’t take credit even when they are successful…”
The article points out another major mistake: “Lie to others, but not to yourselves. Stories from the frontlines say it all.” Russian soldiers were told they would be welcomed by Russian-speakers being oppressed by their Ukrainian rulers. They found that even many Russian-speaking Ukrainians considered them invaders. No wonder their morale has been so low!
In the past month I’ve read at least three articles that have reminded me of the power of words—for good or otherwise. (The first two are linked from the beginning paragraphs of Examples of Persuasion-- see below.)
An article in Wired described the achievement of Ukraine’s president Zelensky in reminding Europe and the world of why democracy and human rights matter.
His courage and also his persuasion have helped bring about an unexpected unity of purpose in Europe and the U.S. (Of course, the shock of Russia’s full invasion of a sovereign nation also unified western feelings!) It may be even more impressive that Zelensky has retained the West’s attention and support as the war has gone on and on.
While thinking about that, I found an article in The Harvard Business Review that discussed Aristotle’s principles of persuasion and how they still apply today. (It gives some great examples from TED talks and from Warren Buffett, who frequently applies Aristotle’s suggestions for using metaphors.)
These discussions seemed important enough to make a new page on EnglishHints: Examples of Persuasion. So you can find links, and read more examples from both articles, at the start of that page. (I also moved a discussion of persuasive speeches in American history there from another page.)
The third article concerns the problems some words can cause. A couple of researchers found that using the phrase ‘white privilege’ in describing racial injustice “can actually decrease support for racially progressive policies.” It hindered conversation and increased polarization.
Their explanation of their results makes a lot of sense to me. Briefly, the phrase implies that whites as a group are the problem, resulting in hurt, anger, and less engagement among some people who might have supported proposals explained with different terms. This is greatly over-simplified. If you’re interested in these issues, it’s well worth reading the original article. Attention to word choice can make a big difference in the way ideas are received.
I guess that’s my main point.
I keep thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and the partisanship that has seemed more extreme recently.
Both have a long historical background it's important to understand. Reading about the movie release of Hamilton, it seemed to me one question sums up so much: Who tells their stories?
I found two articles that I felt tell urgent stories on these issues:
Thought Co. tells the story of Ida B. Wells, a black journalist of tremendous courage. She crusaded against lynching in the late 19th and early 20th century American South.
(Lynching was mob execution without a trial, often by hanging. Large numbers of black men were lynched during those years. Some were accused of rape or trouble-making; others had “gotten out of their place.”)
Wells brought international attention to the issue in spite of threats and violence. (The small newspaper she owned in Memphis was destroyed. She later had to leave the South.) She was also active in the NAACP & campaigned for women’s rights.
The second article, from the Guardian, is by a 95-year-old Israeli who fought in World War II in the Polish underground. He writes about his fear that we’ll fail to learn the lessons we need to from those terrible days.
He argues that we need to recognize that “no nation has a monopoly on virtue.” People are imperfect and situations are complex. He urges us to take the power of lies very seriously and to not get complacent.
As many of us have learned these past months, the life we are accustomed to can change forever in such a short time.
I want to add one TED talk, if you haven’t already seen it: The danger of a single story. This Nigerian author tells stories from her experience. She emphasizes the importance of knowing many stories about a culture or a person, not just one.
A single story limits your perception of them to one part of their experience. She points out, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
These experiences deserve to be considered and taken to heart. I hope they make a difference!
Have you been wondering more about the future of work in the past few months? I know I have. (We have a new granddaughter now. I can hardly even imagine what jobs may be available when she grows up!)
There are some things we do know about future jobs, however. We know there will be fewer jobs in manufacturing as robots do more and more.
We know there will be increased needs for health and eldercare personnel. We’ll need more people with computer, technical, and STEM skills.
Most of all, we know the needs for clear communication, creativity, and teamwork skills won’t disappear. Neither will the need for critical thinking, focus, persistence, and a strong work ethic.
I found five different perspectives on 21st-century jobs that are well-worth sharing. They’re linked from the page above. Each has a brief description so you can decide which you want to read.
You can practice the key vocabulary with a crossword puzzle. (The link is below the article descriptions on that page.)
I hope you've enjoyed reading some of these interesting articles in English!
I'd love to hear in the comments if you especially liked a particular article! Remember to keep reading in English whenever you can!