The most important component for cracking the verbal section in CAT is reading ability, this much is obvious. Swaminathan does a fine point in driving it home in this piece
giving an outline for the prep plan for the verbal section.
This takes us on to the next question - What should one read?
The simple answer is "anything works". Fiction or non-fiction, humour or thriller, newspapers or magazine, short articles or long pieces, it does not matter that much (anything better than Chennai Times or Mumbai times is useful). If you do not have the reading habit, you need to pick that habit up immediately. In the initial phases, read stuff that is easy to read. Read from topics that you like reading about, and read material that is not too tough to 'get'. We can expand the range of reading slowly. It is absolutely vital to build the habit in the first place. If you pick something too hi-funda to begin with, then there is a chance that you will be put off from reading.
I am going to give a simple reading list here - broken into two parts; for beginners and then for students who already have the reading habit. For beginners, the stress will be more on the "unputdownability" (if that is not a word, they should include it) of the book. For more seasoned readers, it will be based on the need to pick up a wider range of ideas to read from.
Magazines and Newspapers: The Open Magazine, The Hindu editorials, Times of India center page articles. Blogs from Swaminomics, (here
). Cricinfo has excellent reading material as well.
Novels: Dan Brown is brilliant - "Angels and Demons", "Da Vinci Code" are tough to put down. Sidney Sheldon's "If tomorrow comes", "Rage of Angels", etc are good. Jeffrey Archer's "Kane and Abel" and "Shall we tell the president" are good. Books by Alistair Maclean also move at lightning speed. These are readable books, with decent writing. More importantly, they are gripping. In many of these books, the story unfolds at a reasonable clip and should set the pace well.
List for someone who has the reading habit
Magazines: Economist, NYtimes, NewYorker, Guardian (select articles). Hindu Opinion articles, Blogs from Ramachandra Guha, MJ Akbar, Slate is also considered good.
Novels: Anything written by PG Wodehouse. You can expand and read more stuff from books written by Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham, etc. Among Indian authors, Aravind Adiga and Ashish Taseer are good.
You do not need to read the classics. As you get more comfortable with reading, consistently look to expand the variety.
As a way of preparing for the interviews as well, you can read "India after Gandhi". You can read stuff from the Economics Times and Business Line as well.