How clever are Cambridge students based on the last book they read?

Do mathmos even read?

Having been told the other day by my friend (a physnatsci) that she could only identity the first line of a book if it was Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I thought I’d put some of the other subjects to the test. Now we all know that reading makes you smarter, but what was the last book that arguably some of the cleverest students in the world read?

Having literally nothing else to do (besides my degree) since I have had my social life rather forcibly restricted by the government, I thought I’d take the trouble to investigate myself. How smart are Cambridge students? Do they read as much as the world thinks they do? Spoiler: probably not.

Since I’m about to expose all of my friend’s reading habits, I thought it was only fair to disclose my own. Having gone through a bit of a love/hate phase with reading, I managed to motivate myself enough to power (if not speed) through Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, a title which could well be the name of my biopic at this point.Note the English translation because, yes, despite being a Spanish student, reading in my own language proved itself to be challenging enough for my poor, tired brain.

Slightly annoyed at myself for having spent so long on that book, I got my mum to recommend the shortest book she possibly could and read Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss which I’d highly recommend, its only 152 pages long.


When it comes to law, I’ve found it can go one of two ways: those who’ve had quite enough of reading thank you very much, or those who, once started, just can’t stop. Take Max for example, his last read was Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan, his review is as follows:

“For those who believe the Percy Jackson series is for children, think again – the age rating clearly says 9+. A thrilling set of books fraught with danger, romance and death. A must read for any self-respecting human being.”


Photo credit: Max Willis


Ines, on the other hand, is on her 16th book since quarantine started, which impressed me greatly – I think I’ve read maybe 16 books in my lifetime.

I’ve had to ask her multiple times what the last book she read was, since I’m clearly as slow at writing this article as I am at reading the books I’m reviewing. I think the last one was Conversation with friends by Sally Rooney of Normal People fame but honestly, you’d have to ask her. Check out her Instagram; her handle is even a pun, which I believe further proves just how much she reads.


Photo credit: Sophia Kjeldbjerg

Another reading intensive subject is the social sciences. Being neither an arts nor science student, I was interested to see which way this would go and apparently they don’t just reread The Communist Manifesto all the time (although some definitely do). Sophia is a self-confessed bookworm but she isn’t about to get all high and mighty about genre or any of that, her last read was Bring down the stars by Emma Scott which, as you may be able to tell, she highly recommends.

“I cried and laughed and swore within one chapter. It feels like an emotional rollercoaster (and I’m not just saying this), and the writing is so beautiful. The author centres a good chunk of the story around her own poetry, and it just makes you fall in love with the characters even more. Also, I need escapism from the dreary world that I study in HSPS, which is why [I go to] fiction.”



Do medics read? I just assumed that they didn’t, and probably hadn’t since school, which John confirmed to me was true, having last read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes when he was in sixth form (he’s a third year now!). Claudia however, one of many superhuman medics I’ve encountered, demonstrates that reading alongside approximately 437+ contact hours a week is indeed possible, her last book being Memories of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

She contemplates: “It is a beautifully written story based on the life of becoming, thriving and failing as a Geisha. This novel gave me an insight to the Japanese culture, carefully portraying their values and their traditions. It was eye opening to understand the manner in which females were viewed and their dependence on males, yet so closely related to our modern social status.” Pretty impressive, right?


And last but not least, mathmos. They must have some interests besides maths, right? Wrong, I’m afraid.

Picture this, you’re in the garden on a warm summer’s day, cold drink in hand, unwinding after some really hard problem sheets, flicking your way through *drumroll please* Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, or at least Jahnvi is. She assures me that she does read fiction too and even gave me the name of a play she’d read, but I’d prefer not to mention that because it doesn’t fit the picture of the stereotypical mathmo I have in my head.

What about you? Are you inspired enough by your subject to read about it, even after lectures have finished? Or do you prefer a bit of Rupi Kaur just so you can show everyone that you read poetry?