New film series Novel Thoughts reveals the reading habits of eight Cambridge scientists and peeks inside the covers of the books that have played a major role in their lives. In the fourth film, Professor Simon Redfern talks about how Jamila by Chinghiz Aitmatov made his recent trip to Kazakhstan about more than just rocks.

As a mineral scientist, Professor Simon Redfern from Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences travels widely, and likes his visits to be about more than just the rocks. A recent trip to Kazakhstan was enlivened by reading Jamila by Chinghiz Aitmatov, a novella set in post-war Soviet Kyrgyzstan, on the borders of Kazakhstan. 

Here he talks about this favourite book as part of ‘Novel Thoughts’, a series exploring the literary reading habits of eight Cambridge scientists. From illustrated children’s books to Thomas Hardy, from Star Wars to Middlemarch, we find out what fiction has meant to each of the scientists and peek inside the covers of the books that have played a major role in their lives.

‘Novel Thoughts’ was inspired by research at the University of St Andrews by Dr Sarah Dillon (now a lecturer in the Faculty of English at Cambridge) who interviewed 20 scientists for the ‘What Scientists Read’ project. She found that reading fiction can help scientists to see the bigger picture and be reminded of the complex richness of human experience. Novels can show the real stories behind the science, or trigger a desire in a young reader to change lives through scientific discovery. They can open up new worlds, or encourage a different approach to familiar tasks.

View the whole series: Novel Thoughts: What Cambridge scientists read.

Read about Novel Thoughts.

Is there a novel that has inspired you? Let us know! #novelthoughts

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