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Reading List

Part IA 2015-16 Suggested Reading List

We are often asked to make suggestions for preparatory reading and for introducing new subjects that you might be considering. There is no pre-requisite reading that needs to be done, but you may find the following books interesting and informative at a general level. Please note that the books present an initial view of the subject and may not include material covered by the undergraduate course.

* Indicates books in the lists that are the preferred one to read.

You are NOT expected to purchase any of the books on this suggested reading list.

Biology of Cells

Author Title Publisher
Lewis Wolpert How we live and why we die: the secret lives of cells Faber and Faber 
For those wishing to look at a suitable course textbook beforehand we suggest:
Alberts, B. et al Molecular Biology of the Cell Garland (2014), 6th Edition
Although A level Biology is not a requirement for the Biology of Cells Course, if you have done little or no biology before, you may find it helpful to begin with a less advanced textbook. We suggest: Alberts, B. et al (2013) Essential Cell Biology, 4th Edition (Garland). In addition, some knowledge of Chemistry beyond GCSE is assumed and those who have not done A level Chemistry may find helpful explanations of chemical principles in a biological context in the following book: Berg, JM, Tymoczko, JL, & Stryler, L (2011) Biochemistry, 7th edition.


Author Title Publisher
P.W Atkins Molecules Scientific American
*J Keeler & P Wothers Why Chemical Reactions Happen O.U.P.

Computer Science

Author Title Publisher
Dewdney, A Kee The new Turing omnibus Computer Sciences Press 1993 (reprinted 2003, Palgrave Macmillan)
Körner, Tom W The Pleasures of Counting C.U.P. (1996)

See also:

Evolution and Behaviour

Author Title Publisher
Holland, P The Animal Kingdom: A very short introduction O.U.P (2011)
Dawkins, R. The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life Phoenix (2005)
Carroll, S. Endless Forms Most Beautiful Quercus (2005)
For those wishing to look at a suitable course textbook beforehand we suggest:
Barton, et al Evolution Cold Spring Harbour Lab. Press (2007)

Earth Sciences

Author Title Publisher
*Nield, T Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet Granta 2007
Zalasiewicz, J.A. & Williams, M. The Goldilocks planet : the four billion year story of Earth's climate O.U.P. 2012

For more information about Earth Sciences at Cambridge:

Materials Science

Author Title Publisher
*Ball, P Made to Measure: New Materials for the 21st Century. Princeton University Press
Cotterill, RMJ The Material World C.U.P.
Gordon, JE New Science of Strong Materials Penguin
Miodownik, M. Stuff Matters Penguin


We do not recommend any particular books, although you are encouraged to read widely on subjects that interest you. You may find the Richard Feynman freely lectures available at interesting. The most important thing you can do by way of preparation for the Part IA Physics course is to revise your A-level (or equivalent) courses in physics and mathematics, and to work through the mathematics worksheet that you have been sent by your college. If you would like to try some problems before arriving, you may find the Isaac Physicas website worth looking at, in particular the level 3 to 5 problems; however, this is not an essential requirement. The web address is 

Physiology of Organisms

Author Title Publisher
Ashcroft, F The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body.  Penguin Books
King, J Reaching for the Sun C.U.P (2nd edition)
Widmaier, EP Why Geese Don't Get Obese (and we do) WH Freeman


Author Title Publisher
Gowers, T Mathematics: a very short introduction O.U.P. (2002)
Körner, Tom W The Pleasures of Counting C.U.P. (1996)
*Sivia, DS & Rawlings, SG Foundations of Science Mathematics O.U.P.

Web links:
Plus magazine:
Stem_nrich for Natural Science Maths:

 Mathematical Biology

We do not recommend any particular books, as there are none covering appropriate material at the correct level that would be suitable for self-study. However we do recommend some revision of the following topics from A Level Mathematics (or equivalent) as they will be used heavily in the first term: exponentials, logarithms, differentiation, integration and curve sketching. If you have studied any statistics at school it would also make sense to look over your notes for that, but if not, do not worry, all statistical material will be taught assuming no prior knowledge.