World Book Day 2023- Literary Tales Involving Cambridge

What is World Book Day?


World Book Day is a charity event, originally started by UNESCO in 1995, to encourage young people to read. With over 100 countries taking part in this scheme, in the UK and Ireland’s World Book Day runs annually on the first Thursday in March. Every child in full time education is given a book voucher.


Cambridge’s Reputation


Cambridge University is globally renowned, therefore it is not surprising that Cambridge has been the location in which many literary tales have been set. The wealth of knowledge that the university has educated throughout its 800 years is second to none.


Some of the worlds most iconic literary figures have attended Cambridge University including Christopher Marlowe, Lord Byron, EM Forster, fellow Bloomsbury Group member Leonard Woolf, Sylvia Plath, her husband Ted Hughes and fellow poet Rupert Brooke.

Touring Cambridge on World Book Day


For those of you interested in learning about the history of Cambridge and following in the literal footsteps of some of your favourite literary figures, then taking a Punting Tour with us will be one of the best ways to do so.


Not only will you see seven of the most iconic colleges during your 50 minute punt tour with us, you will also pass 3 libraries. The first university establishment you will pass is Magdalene College which is home to the Pepys Library which holds the full collection of Samuel Pepys’ diaries. The second, Wren Library, houses the original Winnie the Pooh, Isaac Newton’s annotated copy of Principia Mathematica and over 70,000 books printed before 1820.

Seven pieces of literature inspired by Cambridge

  • Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf, 1922

One of Virginia Woolf’s early publications, Jacob’s Room cemented her as an poetic and experimentalist writer whose emphasis on streams of consciousness and character psyche would be a common denominator throughout all her subsequent works.


Jacob’s Room is set in prewar England. The novel follows the protagonist Jacob throughout his life, from his childhood, to his university studies in Cambridge into adulthood, told mainly through the point of view of the women in Jacobs life.

  • A Room of Ones Own, Virginia Woolf, 1929

Woolf’s 1929 essay is considered to be a key work of feminist literary criticism. A Room of Ones Own was written the following year after Woolf delivered lectures at Girton College and Newnham College about Women and Fiction.


  • Tom’s Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce, 1958

Tom’s Midnight Garden isn’t technically set in Cambridge, it is set in a fictional town called ‘Castleford’. However it is widely agreed that this fictional town represents Cambridge and the mansion in which Tom is quarantined with his aunt and uncle resembles Mill House in Great Shelford where the author, Philippa Pearce, grew up.


  • Ariel, Sylvia Plath, 1965

Although Ariel was first published two years after Sylvia Plath died, parts of Ariel were written during her years studying at Cambridge University.


This nostalgic poem was written whilst Brooke was in Berlin. The poem contains very specific references to parts of Cambridgeshire and more notably his residence at Grantchester. 


  • A Brief History of Time, Stephan Hawking, 1988

Stephan Hawking is synonymous with Cambridge, among many of his legacies is his book on theoretical cosmology. Hawking wrote the book specifically for people who had no prior knowledge of physics, in it he writes about the structure, origin, development and fate of the universe.


Initially publishers weren’t sure that the book would sell to the ‘average reader’ as it included scientific equations, diagrams and models to help explore what Hawking was saying, however, to date, it has sold more that 25 million copies and has become a bestseller.


  • The Version of Us , Laura Barnett, 2015

The One Day style novel explores the idea of fate and human relationships all whilst using Cambridge as it’s backdrop. The Version of Us goes through three versions of what life for one couple could have been whilst studying at Cambridge University. The first one where the couple meet and fall in love, the second one where they never meet and the third one where the meet but don’t fall in love. The novel explores the paths we take in life and how they can change in an instant.


Who knows, on your next trip to Cambridge you might walk past the next literary icon.

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