I have never read any computer books from cover to cover. I bought a book on Delphi7 from Amazon when D7 was first released. But, I never went beyond p35. I had that C++ book for about a year now. No one else who's using the library seems to be complaining about it. In a year, I read about 200 pages, which doesn't cover a lot. I stopped just before the bits about pointers.
The first program I wrote was in Java. But I didn't like the idea of have to type in java followed by the name of the bite codes. Then again, I never understood Java. Then I went onto perl, spent 3 or 4 weeks on it and moved onto Pascal. Got a copy of P7 which is always a plus. Borrowed a book from a library, read a bit and stopped when it got to pascal units.
Can't really say I know very much about programming. In fact, I'd probably be better off if I had applied for a Maths degree. The recommandation they set was Python due to its "Simplicity". But I see no point in you doing much preparation for the course. In fact, modifying CamSIS would be a better preparation than doing Python, in my opinion. Then again, there's no harm in learning a new language. After all, Dr Michael Wise of Pembroke College uses it a lot.