Suggested reading and resources for your summer holidays

Whether you have another year of sixth form left and want to get ahead with university applications or you’re heading off to university in a few months’ time and want to prepare for your lectures and seminars, the summer holidays are a great time to do some useful reading.

The top UK universities are not only looking for students with a solid understanding of the core A-Level curriculum, they’re keen for students who are engaged with their subjects beyond their school studies and who find alternative ways of exploring the topics they find interesting.

Read ‘deeply’

You may have heard the phrase ‘read widely’ used often in the context of university reading, but it can be hard to know what this actually means and whether it’s really the best approach to tackling your summer reading list.

If you’re keen to do some reading that will help with your personal statement or potential university interviews, here’s our top tip:

Pick fewer books than you might think you need to read, but read them ‘deeply’

Although it’s good to read ‘widely’, i.e. wider than your A-Level set texts, it’s also important to know the content of your wider reading in depth. Choosing a few books and reading them well is much more productive than reading what seems like an impressively long list of books but only scanning the introductions to each one.


Universities will be far more impressed if you know a few books extremely well and can write or talk about them in detail than if you’ve ‘read’ a big list of books but are unable to discuss the content of any of them in great depth.

Remember! In university interviews, the lecturer or tutor may ask you to talk about some books you’ve mentioned in your personal statement, so make sure you feel confident talking about their content in detail and are able to give your opinion on anything you’ve read or any resources you’ve listened to.

How to go the extra mile

If you’re preparing for potential university interviews, it’s a good idea to have some knowledge of what’s going on in the world around you. Interviewers will often expect you to be aware of current affairs, particularly if a theme that crops up in your reading is topical in the news at that time. Reading short articles is a quick and easy way of bringing yourself up to speed and giving yourself the confidence to talk about the context of your wider reading, so make sure to have a check the BBC online news pages or other news outlets regularly.

Alternative resources

If you’re keen for a more relaxing way to find out more about a subject you’re interested in, try watching documentaries or listening to podcasts, as these can often be more helpful and more impactful than reading a chapter of a book.

Compiling your reading list

Why not make a list of books you’d like to read or podcasts you’d like to listen to over the summer, which you tick off as you go along? You could also keep a notebook to make notes alongside your reading and listening.

To kickstart your summer reading regime, we’ve put together a list of useful resources and reading material that you can add to your summer reading list:




Oxford suggested reading and resources:

Oxford University podcasts:

Cambridge University podcasts:

In Our Time:

Open Yale Courses:

Warwick University Courses:


BBC documentaries:


Department of Justice:

Judiciary of England and Wales:

Counsel Magazine:

Guardian Law pages:

BBC Law in Action:


Medieval and Modern Languages:

Read newspapers and magazines, watch TV and films and listen to the radio.


Le Monde:

Suddeutsche Zeitung:

El Pais:

Corriere Della Sera:





Oxford Department of Politics and International Relations:

Political Studies Association:

UK parliament:





The Economist magazine:

Institute for Economic Affairs:

National Institute of Economics and Social Research:



British Sociological Association:

British Journal of Sociology:

BBC Thinking Allowed:



Current Archaeology Magazine:

British Museum:



Discover Anthropology:

Royal Anthropological Institute:

Association on Social Anthropologists:



Ian Ramsay Centre for Science and Religion:



Philosophical Society:



Oxford Classics Outreach:

The Roman Society:

The Hellenic Society:



Royal Academy of Music:



Reviews in History:

British Museum:

History Today Magazine:

BBC History:

Historical Association:

Royal Historical Society:

Fitzwilliam Museum:

Ashmolean Museum:


History of Art:

Royal Academy:



British Geological Survey:

Geological Society:

National Geographic:

Geographical Association:


General Science Interest:

New Scientist Magazine:

The Naked Scientist Podcasts:

Oxford Science Blog:



Richard Feynman lectures:

Institute of Physics (including free membership for 16-19 year-olds):

British Physics Olympiad:


Biological, Biomedical and Life Sciences and Zoology:

Wellcome Trust:

Educational resources at the National History Museum:

Institute of Zoology:

Botanical Sciences at Kew:



Chemistry World Online:

Biochemical Society:



Dilnot, Andrew & Blastland, Michael, The Tiger That Isn’t

BBC Radio 4, More or Less:

Millennium Mathematics Project:

Institute of Mathematics:

Plus Magazine:

Further Maths Support Network:

STEP website:



Online library and Engineering web forum:

Royal Academy of Engineering:

Institution of Civil Engineers:

Chemical Engineering Resources and web forum:


Computer Science:

Oxford’s Geomlab:

The Guardian’s list of Computer Science resources:

Medicine/Veterinary Medicine:

British Medical Association:

Royal Society of Medicine:

Radio programme on medical ethics:

Oxford Medical School Gazette:

Institute of Biomedical Science:

Physiological Society:

British Veterinary Association:

Kay, Andy, This is going to hurt

Marsh, Henry, Do no harm

Westaby, Stephen, Fragile Lives


Geological and Materials Sciences:

British Geological Survey:

Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining:

UK Centre for Materials Education:


Psychological and Behavioural Sciences:

British Psychological Society:

The Psychologist Journal:


English Literature:

The British Library, Discovering Literature:

Poetry Society:

Literary Review:

Times Literary Supplement:

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