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Politics & Social Sciences

Machiavelli, The Prince- rarely seen on Personal Statements, a classic book that analyses the
use of power. To quote one Oxford PPE graduate, ‘the book possibly has a permanent home on
Lord Mandelson’s bedside table.’

David Marquand, Britain Since 1918 – a superb study of post 1918 British political history.

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis – a graphic novel about an ordinary girl’s life in Tehran. Beautifully
illustrated and an interesting insight into what life might be like under a religious dictatorship.

Sattareh Farman Farmaian and Dona Munker, Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from
Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution - an interesting personal account exploring
life as a member of a dynasty important under the old Shah, but who was forced to flee during
the Islamic Revolution as a result of her relations and connections.

Humanities & Arts

Ryszard Kapuscinski, Imperium- Pulling together his journalism from three visits to disparate
parts of the Soviet Empire, in the 1960s, mid 1980s and just after the collapse of the USSR,
critically acclaimed author and journalist Kapuscinski’s account is easy to read, yet full of terrible
but captivating stories.

Nicholas Stargardt, Witnesses of War– an account of children’s experiences in Germany and


the occupied territories of Eastern Europe, Stargardt uses a range of surprising sources such as
children’s letters to their parents, diaries and pictures to explore how a whole generation of
European children were shaped by the horrors of 1939 – 1945.

Richard Hillary, The Last Enemy – an evocative and highly readable account of Hillary’s own
experiences as a fighter pilot in World War II, (he was studying at Trinity College Oxford when
he joined up in 1939) in which he was shot down and spent months in hospital, undergoing
plastic surgery (then in its infancy) to rebuild his face and hands.

Henri Barbusse, Le Feu (‘Under Fire,’ in English) – one of the first accounts of the First World
War from the perspective of the French trenches.

W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants– four meandering and beautifully written stories of displaced
characters. The use of words, the subtlety of the expression and feeling, and the evocation of
mood, is Sebald at his best and a classic of our generation.

Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory –
broken down into easy to read chapters which make quite complex ideas manageable. They
also have lots of suggestions for further reading. Definitely a saviour for lots of English students
all the way through to finals.

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women – one of the earliest works of
feminist philosophy, responding to traditional eighteenth century political and educational theory
that believed women should not have an education.‘

Philosopy & Theology

J.S Mill, Utilitarianism– essential reading for any budding philosopher. One of the most
important and contentious works of moral philosophy. Its articulation of a ‘hedonic calculus’ and
its development of Mill’s mentor’s (Bentham) ideas on what makes mankind ‘happy’ make it a
classic.

The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Rousseau argues for the preservation of
individual freedom in political society. An individual can only be free under the law, he says, by
freely embracing that law as his own.

John Gray, Straw Dogs – This is a march through the history of philosophy.

Alain de Botton, Consolations of Philosophy– In this, Botton explores different philosophies to


cope with the stresses of modern day living. A great introduction to the philosophers he uses,
while at the same time being a useful way of feeling better about your life (and not getting in to
your chosen university if that is the way it turns out).

Thomas Kempis, The Imitation of Christ– one of the best known books on Christian devotion.
An insight into how Catholic devotion was changing in this period in Northern Europe and how
far removed it was from common practices today.

Mohsin Hamad, The Reluctant Fundamentalist – A novel exploring how American culture might
have fostered Islamic fundamentalism.

Micklethwait and Wooldridge, God is Back, How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the
World – A new book by Editor in Chief of the Economist and Washington Bureau Chief about
the rise of fundamentalism in the West as well as the East.

Maths & Economics

James Gleick, Chaos, Making a New Science - Covering the physical side of maths, this is an
accessible introduction to Chaos Theory, which has been quite popular over the last 50 years.

Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money – tells the history of banking, brilliantly written, giving great
insights into how globalisation came about.

Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, Nudge – how you can get people to do things by making
them opt out rather than opt in – a more psychological approach to economics.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swan – Arguably the most pertinent book to read right now on
flawed economics.

Science, Medicine & Engineering

Adrian Vaughan, Isambard Kingdom Brunel – the biography of one of the greatest engineers
who ever lived.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Emperor of all Maladies – a look at modern day views on cancer as a
disease and its various treatments.

Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia – Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University


looks at the healing effect of music on the brain. An interesting interdisciplinary approach.

Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution- Everyone has read
The Selfish Gene, but this is the latest offering from Dawkins. With every book, he continues in
his relentless crusade against creationist theories. Like his others, this is well written, but be
careful not to adopt too many of his opinions without proper thought and deliberation. Even
better…what DON’T you agree with?

Steve Jones, The Single Helix– ‘I read this when I was applying’ says one of Oxbridge
Applications’ PPP graduates (Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology) – brilliantly written
overview of where research currently stands on genetics. Obviously a few years old now, so not
fully up-to-date but still fascinating.

Also, worth noting, Jones has recently published a book calledDarwin’s Island. He is a less well
known Dawkins, but with similar values and an excellent scientist. One Oxbridge Applications’
tutor suggests it may be interesting to put his writing in the context of ‘Everyone reads Dawkins,
but does Jones give a much better argument?’

Richard Feynman, several different works - From Six Easy Piecesto Six Not-so-easy Pieces,
right through to his imaginative Lecture series. A great read from a prestigious and witty
physicist. Some would say legendary within the physics community.