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Natural Sciences Tripos


Natural Sciences Tripos, Part IA, 2020-21

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.

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

* Indicates which books are considered best to read.


Biology of Cells


Lewis Wolpert

How we live and why we die: the secret lives of cells

Faber and Faber (paperback)

For those wishing to look at a suitable course textbook beforehand we suggest:

B. Alberts et al

Molecular Biology of the Cell

Garland (paperback) (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 (2014) Essential Cell Biology, 6th 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: Biochemistry, 8th edition, Jeremy M. Berg, John L. Tymoczko and Lubert Stryer.


Evolution and Behaviour


Holland, P

The Animal Kingdom: A very short introduction

O.U.P. 2011


Dawkins, R. & Yang, W.

The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life

Weidenfield & Nicholson (2016)

Carroll, S.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Quercus (2005)


For those wishing to look at a suitable course textbook beforehand we suggest:

Barton, et al




Cold Spring Harbour Lab. Press (2007)




P.W Atkins


Scientific American

*J Keeler & P Wothers

Why Chemical Reactions Happen



Earth Sciences


Langmuir, C. & Broecker, W.

How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind


Princeton University Press, 2012

For those wishing to look at a suitable course textbook beforehand we suggest:

*Press, F. & Siever, R.

Understanding earth

W. H. Freeman; 4th edition, c2004


Materials Science


*Ball, P.

Made to Measure: New Materials forthe 21st Century.

Princeton University Press

Gordon, J.E.

New Science of Strong Materials


Miodownik, M.

Stuff Matters





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 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 Physics 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


Ashcroft, F.

King, J

The Spark of Life

Reaching for the Sun


C.U.P (2nd edition)

Widmaier, EP

Why Geese don’t get Obese (and we do)

W H Freeman




Gowers, T

Mathematics: a very short introduction

O.U.P. (2002)

Tom W. Körner

The Pleasures of Counting

C.U.P. (1996)

*Sivia, DS & Rawlings, SG

Foundations of Science Mathematics


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, since mathematical skills quickly atrophy if not used, we do recommend you remind yourself of certain topics before arriving at Cambridge. What should be done depends on whether you intend to study Mathematical Biology A or Mathematical Biology B (details on the difference between these two options are at 

If you intend to study Mathematical Biology B, you should remind yourself of the following topics from A Level Mathematics or equivalent, since they will be used heavily: exponentials, logarithms, differentiation, integration and curve sketching.  If you have studied any probability or statistics at school it would also make sense to look over your notes, but if not, do not worry, these topics will be taught assuming no prior knowledge. 

If you intend to study Mathematical Biology A, you must do the preparatory reading and work through the online course as described at