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Girton College Gift Ideas for Book Lovers (2023)

Stack of books shaped into a tree topped with a gold star

Looking for a gift this festive season? Then look no further! We have compiled a list of fantastic books suitable for a broader audience, written by our very own Girton Fellows!

Carol AdlamGirton Time

Carol Adlam's Girton Time book coverGirton Time is a conversation in artwork and poems about Girton College. Here you’ll find paradoxical boxes, giant eggs, teenage trees, homesick students, outlaw cyclists, optical prostheses, interstitial vacuities, an Arnolfini mirror, thumb wrestling, mummies, mistresses, Crackers (the dog, not the snack), black cider, saxophones and violins, lost orchards, hidden staircases, secret basements, the occasional squirrel, and even a Girtonian captured in their natural habitat. Here you’ll see the College as never seen before: as a place of daily work and camaraderie, and as a paradoxical queendom that teeters on the edge of the A14.

Artwork by Carol Adlam (Former Mary Amelia Cummins Visiting Fellow Commoner), featuring poems by Adam Crothers (English, 2002) and James Wade (Jane Elizabeth Martin Official Fellow).


The Reverend Dr Charlie Bell, Light to those in darkness

Charlie Bell's Light to those in darkness book coverNow widely recognised within palliative care, the concept of 'total pain' is an intensely theological one at heart. In Light to those in Darkness clinician and theologian Dr Charlie Bell holds up the concept to theological scrutiny. Bell reflects on the ways that the doctrine of 'the communion of saints', might be used to help the church understand how it can address "total pain" within individuals, and collective trauma within the wider community. As such the book offers both an important theological reflection for those in pastoral care roles and a broader challenge to the church to become a place of solidarity and accompaniment.


Juliet Campbell CMG, Playing Britannia: How I Became Her Excellency

Juliet Campbell Playing Britannia paperback coverJuliet's lively memoir draws on diaries and letters to her parents, which are full of observation, analysis and colourful – often comic – detail. A picture emerges of a woman focussed not only on her career, but on friends, family and the people among whom she found herself, and of a life of hard work leavened with a great deal of fun.

Juliet Campbell CMG joined the British Diplomatic Service in 1957, when only a handful of women served on its 1100 staff. Specialising in European Affairs for much of her career, both in London and abroad, Juliet also served in Thailand, Laos and Indonesia. She was British Ambassador to Luxembourg from 1988 to 1991.Appointed CMG in 1988, Juliet Campbell left the Diplomatic Service in 1991. She became Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge in 1992 and was a member of the University’s governing Council, before retiring in 1998.


Professor Dame Athene Donald, Not Just for the Boys

Athene Donald's Not Just for the Boys paperback coverNot Just For the Boys looks back at how society has historically excluded women from the scientific sphere and discourse, what progress has been made, and how more is still needed. Athene Donald, herself a distinguished physicist, explores societal expectations during both childhood and working life using evidence of the systemic disadvantages women operate under, from the developing science of how our brains are--and more importantly aren't--gendered, to social science evidence around attitudes towards girls and women doing science.


Dr Seb Falk, The Light Ages

Seb Falk The Light Ages paperback coverAn illuminating guide to the scientific and technological achievements of the Middle Ages through the life of a crusading astronomer-monk. It was a Book of the Year in The Times, Daily Telegraph, TLS, BBC History Magazine and Tablet. The Times called it “As fascinating as it is exquisitely written.” “unambiguously and successfully an antidote to the cliché of the ‘Dark Ages’” said Literary Review.


The Hon. Julia Gillard AC, My Story

Julia Gillard My Story paperback coverHere, in her own words, Julia Gillard reveals what life was really like as Australia’s first female prime minister. "I was prime minister for three years and three days. Three years and three days of resilience. Three years and three days of changing the nation. Three years and three days for you to judge."

The Evening Standard said "[This] should be required reading for anyone who says feminism’s work is done."


The Reverend Dr Malcolm GuiteSounding Heaven and Earth

Malcolm Guite's Sounding Heaven and Earth paperback coverThe back page column of the Church Times, famously occupied for many years by Ronald Blythe, continues to be a breath of fresh air in the hands of poet and priest Malcolm Guite.

His acute observations of the local, the everyday, moments of conversation and life’s simple pleasures are doorways into a bigger reality of a world suffused with the meaning and beauty that lies beneath surface appearances.

His lucid, perceptive and imaginative musings follow a similar pattern to the sonnets for which he is so renowned. In his own words, he treats these 500 word essays ‘a little in the spirit of the sonnet, with a sense of development, of a ‘turn’ or volta part way through, and a sense that the end revisits and re-reads the opening’.

These draw together everyday events and encounters, landscape, journeys, poetry, stories, memory and a sense of the sacred, and fuses them to create richly satisfying portraits of the familiar that at the same time opens the way to an enchanted world.


The Rt Hon. The Baroness Hale of Richmond, Spiderwoman

Lady Hale Spiderwoman paperback coverWise, warm and inspiring, Spider Woman shows how the law shapes our world and supports us in crisis. It is the story of how Lady Hale found that she could overcome the odds, which shows that anyone from similar beginnings will find that they can cope too.

As President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale won global attention in finding the 2019 prorogation of Parliament to be unlawful. Yet that dramatic moment was merely the pinnacle of a career throughout which she was hailed as a pioneering reformer.


Dr Arik Kershenbaum, The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy

Arik Kershenbaum's Zoologist Guide to the Galaxy paperback coverWe are unprepared for the greatest discovery of modern science. Scientists are confident that there is alien life across the universe yet we have not moved beyond our perception of 'aliens' as Hollywood stereotypes. The time has come to abandon our fixation on alien monsters and place our expectations on solid scientific footing.

Using his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin's theory of evolution - which applies throughout the universe - Cambridge zoologist Dr Arik Kershenbaum explains what alien life must be like. This is the story of how life really works, on Earth and in space.


Dr James Riley, The Bad Trip

James Riley's The Bad Trip paperback coverLiterary and cultural historian James Riley descends into this underworld and traces the historical and conspiratorial threads connecting art, film, poetry, politics, murder and revolt. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the Manson Family and Roman Polanski, ley-line hunters and Illuminati believers, Aldous Huxley, Joan Didion and the Beat poets, radical protest movements and occult groups all come together in Riley's gripping narrative.

Steeped in the hopes, dreams and anxieties of the late 1960s and early '70s, The Bad Trip tells the strange stories of some of the period's most compelling figures as they approached the end of an era and imagined new worlds ahead.


Professor Stephen Robertson, B C: Before Computers

Stephen Robertson BC: Before Computers front coverVery much written for the general reader, this is an account of all the ideas we had to have, all the things we had to learn, before we could enter the digital age.  It starts with writing and the alphabet, and ideas about communication, both between individuals and more broadly in society.  It discusses the organisation of information, and how picture and sound came to be thought of as part of the same universe – how the digitisation of both depends on our perception of them and how this has changed over the centuries.  The more obvious roles of calculation and of codes and cyphers are also discussed.  No prior knowledge is assumed – all technical ideas are explained.


Dr Caroline Shenton, National Treasures. Saving the Nation’s Art in World War II

Caroline Shenton's National Treasures paperback coverThe astonishing, ingenious and sometimes hilarious story - reminiscent of an Ealing Comedy - of how London's museums, galleries and archives packed up the country’s greatest cultural treasures in 1939 and, in a race against time, dispatched them throughout the country on a series of top-secret wartime adventures. Written by Girton’s Secretary to Council, Caroline Shenton, and shortlisted for the HWA Non-Fiction Crown in 2022. ‘Geeks triumph over the forces of darkness…nothing could have given me greater pleasure’ – Lucy Worsley.


Sandi Toksvig, Toksvig's Almanac 2021: An Eclectic Meander Through the Historical Year

Sandi Toksvig's ' Toksvig's Almanac' hardback cover'Toksvig's Almanac is intended merely as a starting point for your own discoveries. Find a fabulous (or infamous) woman mentioned and, please, go looking for more of her story. The names mentioned are merely temptations. Amuse-bouches for the mind, if you like. How I would have loved to have written out in detail each tale there is to be told, but then this book would have been too heavy to lift.'




  • A full list of publications by our Fellows can be found on our webpages.