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A Literary Guide to Cambridge


The beautiful city of Cambridge is famous for it’s world class university, punting on the river Cam, boat races and it’s rivalry with Oxford and this peaceful city is only 50 miles north of London.

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Cambridge has a rich literary history with a huge number of famous faces attending the university and going on to change the world.

Books Set in Cambridge

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‘One Perfect Summer’ by Paige Toon

When Joe and Alice meet during the summer, it’s not long until they’re head over heels in love, but then Joe suddenly leaves and Alice heads to university in Cambridge with a broken heart. It’s not until years later than Alice hears of Joe again, but is it too late to relive those summer days?

‘Jacob’s Room’ by Virginia Woolf

‘Jacob’s Room’ was Virginia Woolf’s third novel and one of her most experimental – and if you’ve read Woolf then you know that’s saying a lot! Though the novel is about Jacob, the story of his journey through Cambridge university, his adult life in London and European travels is told by the people around Jacob. It’s a bit brain-hurty, but SO clever.

‘How to Be Both’ by Ali Smith

This is probably Ali Smith’s most famous novel – it won the Goldsmiths Prize, the Baileys AND the Costa! ‘How to Be Both’ is split into two perspectives and two timelines, 16-year-old George living in current day Cambridge and Franecssco del Cossa, a painter in the Italian Renaissance.

Authors From Cambridge

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Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams was the author of the cult classic ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, a trilogy that spawned five books and several spin-offs after his sad death in 2001.

Paige Toon

The wonderful author behind the Jessie Jefferson trilogy and 10 adult novels, including the books that kicked off Jessie’s story – ‘Johnny Be Good’ and ‘Baby Be Mine’. Paige has actually lived in Austraila and America as well as the UK as she toured with her racing driver dad as a child.

Ali Smith

Though Ali Smith was raised in Inverness in Scotland, she now calls beautiful Cambridge home. Ali is a literary powerhouse with 5 short story collections, 7 novels, 2 plays and a hoard of prestigious award wins and nominations to her name. Oh, and she was given a CBE for her services to literature. Not bad, really.

Bookshops in Cambridge

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The Haunted Bookshop

This hidden away little shop, named after the legendary White Lady who haunts the shelves, is a treasure trove of second-hand and rare books, collector’s editions and even some genuine first editions! It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon hiding from the rain and getting lost in the stacks.

Heffer’s Bookshop

Heffer’s has been providing Cambridge with books since the 1800s and is still going strong. With a killer event line-up and books ranging from the latest YA to maps from all over the world, we’d probably spend a whole weekend in Heffer’s…

Waterstones Cambridge

Catering towards the academic crowd as well as the general reader, the Cambridge Waterstones branch has something for everyone. Set over three storeys, there are thousands of books for you to get lost in.

Best reading spots in Cambridge

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Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum is a treasure trove. Settle yourself in the comfy chairs peppered through the galleries and get your read on surrounded by Titian, Turner, Monet and Rubens – that’s not an experience you get every day.

Afternoon Tease

This indie cafe is a total hidden gem. Wifi, the usual hustle and bustle of a cafe and amazing cakes to get you through the stressful moments in your book, we’re totally sold on Afternoon Tease. Apparently the Earl Grey cakes are to die for…

Cambridge University Library

Not gonna lie, we’d probably get distracted by the sheer amount of unexplored books on the shelves and watching the furious studying of the crazy clever people all around us, but we’d love to give reading a go in here.

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Written by Sophie Waters

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Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.