Compelling Conversations: Questions & Quotations For Advanced Vietnamese English Language Learners—Volume 1, by Eric H. Roth & Toni Aberson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]
As is the case with many successful book franchises, this particular book marks an elaboration of sorts from the original book in the Compelling Conversations series  with a targeted audience focus that offers extensions on the authors’ previous work rather than a wholesale reinvention of their previous book. Therefore, instead of wholesale novelty, what this particular book offers is a variation on a theme, but a variation that is particular value to its target audience of Vietnamese students of English, and their English teachers.
This particular book comes with the assumption that the people using this book will be ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers in Vietnam and their advanced students. There are quotations and proverbs and questions and worksheets that all show a targeted audience of Vietnamese readers. This particular volume (which appears to be the first volume of a 3 volume set, given the fact that 15 of the 45 chapters of the original book are included here and expanded slightly) keeps the original organization and content from the first volume of the series and makes some additions, including more space to write notes, lots of worksheets that encourage students to do such tasks as to look online for health information, to be a movie critic, to practice propositions by writing customer service complaints, to interview English-speaking visitors to Vietnam, and to evaluate each other on their English competence.
Among the more intriguing additions is the fact that this book offers vocabulary words and definitions in every chapter to help students increase their vocabulary in the subjects of greeting, personality, family, health, movies, agreeing and disagreeing, cities, friendship, being a child and becoming a parent (an interesting set of qualities to combine), eating and drinking, daily habits, and learning in school (to name a few of the subjects covered here). As one of the appendices, the authors include the Academic Word List to help the students who are learning from this book to pass the TOEFL exam and be able to get a high enough score to avoid having to study at the University of Whitehorse . So, besides the authors’ goals of providing questions and proverbs to provoke deep and critical thought, this particular book also has an open goal of helping students to succeed in the TOEFL as a way of furthering their own academic ambitions in North America.
It is important to emphasize that among the questions of this book are very thought-provoking questions that would be of interest to teenage or young adult readers (the apparent target audience of this book) in the United States as well. In particular, in reading the section on being a child and becoming a parent, there were a few questions that if answered honestly would spark worthwhile and very thoughtful conversations among families I happen to know, such as: What would make you a “black sheep” in your family? What things might parents keep secret from children? What things might children keep secret from parents? Therefore, although this book is written with a particular praise of the resilience of the Vietnamese people in the face of the horrors of the 20th century that they had to face, and a particular focus on the concerns of a bright and ambitious Vietnamese teen looking to be educated abroad, the material in the book is of wider relevance and interest as well. Vietnamese teens and young adults, their teachers, and hopefully others as well will find much to appreciate and to ponder in this thoughtful and excellent book.
 I once had a friend who was a high school student in Calcutta who learned English from a Canadian-written book about learning English, and given that the authors of that particular book were Canadian, they made a joke about poor students being forced to go to school in Whitehorse. Whitehorse, of course, happens to be the remote and small and very cold capital of the Yukon Territory, in the far northern reaches of Canada. Obviously, the students who read this book would hope for more prestigious and comfortable lodgings than the tundra to be found there.