Introductory Reading Lists

Oxbridge graduates have compiled reading lists for students looking to apply to Oxford and Cambridge. They're designed to introduce students to the subject they're looking to apply to, and to give them meaningful topics to discuss in their applications. 

We welcome you to share this resource with students who you are supporting. If you have any questions about anything on this page, please do be in touch

Please remember that these lists are not required reading, but merely suggestions to get students started. All students applying are encouraged to choose wider reading which develops their own interests. 

Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic


Cells & Genes

  • The Human Brain: A Guided Tour, by S. Greenfield (1998)

  • The Language of Genes, by S. Jones (2000)

  • The Music of Life: Biology beyond the Genome, by N. Noble (2006)

  • Molecular Biology of the Cell, by B. Alberts et al (2008)

  • How We Live and Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells, by L. Wolpert (2010)

Ecology & Evolution

  • An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, by N. Davies, J. Krebs & S. West (1978)

  • Evolution: A Very Short Introduction, by N. Charlesworth (2003)

  • The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction, P. Holland (2011)

  • Nature via Nurture, M. Ridley (2003)

  • The Ancestor’s Tale, R. Dawkins (2004)

  • A Sting in the Tale, D. Goulson (2013)

Magazines such as Biological Sciences Review and New Scientist are also excellent for quick overviews of interesting and current topics.


  • Physical Chemistry, by P W Atkins (2006)

  • Inorganic Chemistry, by Shriver and Atkins (2006)

  • A Guide to Mechanism in Organic Chemistry, by Sykes (1986)

  • Organic Chemistry, by Maitland and James (2004)


  • Confronting the Classics, by M. Beard (2014)

  • Classics: A Very Short Introduction, by M. Beard (2000)

  • The Odyssey, translated by E. Wilson (2017)

Computer Science

  • The New Turing Omnibus, by A.K. Dewdney (2003)

  • How To Think Like a Mathematician, by K. Houston (2009)


  • Freakonomics, by S. Lewitt (2007)

  • The Undercover Economist, by T. Harford (2007)

  • The Machine That Changed the World, by J.P. Womack, D.T. Jones, D. Roos (1991)

  • Maths for Economics, by G. Renshaw (2005)

  • The Economist

  • The Financial Times

  • Management Today


  • Engineering: A Beginner's Guide by N. McCarthy (2009)

  • Engineering in Society, by R. Lawlor (2013)

  • Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering, by H. Petroski (2005)



  • The Poetry Handbook by J. Lennard (1995)

  • Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literature (2009)

  • Introduction to the Theory of Narrative by, M. Bal (2007)

  • The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, by W.R. Trask (1953)

Supplement these texts with primary reading in your class, or that which you have done yourself. 


Historians study many different times, places and subjects. You are encouraged to choose reading which develops on your classwork, and which most interests you. To start, you could try: 

  • A History of Britain in 21 Women, by J. Murray (2017)

  • A History of the World in 12 Maps, by J. Brotton (2013)

  • A History of the World in 100 Objects, by N. MacGregor (2012)

  • The History Book: Big Ideas Explained, by DK (2018)

History of Art

  • Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy, by M. Baxandall (1988)

  • The Painting of Modern Life, by T. Clarke (1995)

  • Art in China, by C. Clunas (2009)

  • Women, Art and Power, by L. Nochlin (1989)


  • Eruptions that Shook the World, by C. Oppenheimer (2011)

  • Climate Research is Gaining Ground, by O. Heffernan (2016)

  • Seeing like a City, by Amin and Thrift (2016)

  • The Language of City's, by Sudjic (2017)

Land Economy

  • The Triumph of the City by E. Glaeser (2011)

  • The Undercover Economist, by T. Harford (2005)


  • For texts in translation, visit the Words Without Borders website

  • For TV in French, German and Spanish visit the ARTE website

  • For news in Spanish, look at The Prisma Newspaper

  • For podcasts in Spanish, look at Radio Ambulante


  • What About Law?, by C Barnard (2010)

  • Learning the Law, by G. Williams (2010)

  • Letters to a Law Student, by N. McBride (2010)


  • The Articulate Mammal, by J. Aitchison (2011)

  • The Language Instinct, by S. Pinker (1995)

  • Limits of Language: Almost Everything You Didn't Need to Know About Language and Languages, by M. Parkvall (2008)


  • Towards Higher Mathematics: A Companion, by R. Earl (2017)

  • Alex's Adventures in Numberland, by A. Bellos (2010)

  • The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction, by J. Stendall (2012)

  • Alan Turing: The Enigma, by A. Hodges (1992)


  • Conversations with Neil's Brain, by Calvin and Ojamann (1995)

  • The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, by O. Sacks (1986)

  • Oxford Textbook of Functional Anatomy, by P. MacKinnon and J. Morris (2005)

  • The Selfish Gene, by R. Dawkins (2006) - careful, lots of candidates read this one!


  • Music: A Very Short Introduction, by N. Cook (1998)

  • An Introduction to Musical Studies by J.P.E. Harper-Scott and J. Sanson (2009)

  • The Classical Style, by C. Rosen (1971)



  • Philosophy As It Is, by M. Burnyear and T. Honderich (1993)

  • An Invitation to Philosophy, by M. Hollis (2009)

  • Think, by S. Blackburn (1999)

Politics (And ppe)

  • An Introduction to Political Philosophy, by J. Wolff (2006)

  • Developments in British Politics, by C. Hay et al (2016)

  • Politics, by D. Runciman (2014)

  • Political Ideologies: An Introduction, by A. Heywood (2018)


  • Phantoms in the Brain, by V.S. Ramachandran and S. Blakeslee (1999)

  • Consciousness Explained, by D.C. Bennett (1993)

  • The Private Life of the Brain, S. Greenfield (2002)

  • Madness Explained, by R. Bentall and A.T. Back (2004)


  • Women and Power, by M. Beard (2017)

  • Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union, by M. Goodwin et al. (2017)

  • The Lost Majority, by M. Ashcroft (2017)


  • Not In God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence, by J. Sacks (2015)

  • The Sociology of Religion, by M.B. Hamilton (2001)

  • Thinking about God: An Introduction to Theology by D. Solle (1990)

  • The Making of Moral Theology, by J.D. Mahoney (1989(

  • Comparing Religions Through Law, by T. Sonn and J. Neusner (1999)

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