Very Short Introductions

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Very Short Introductions

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Editado: Jun 23, 2015, 12:26pm

I've decided to try an experiment in broadening my exposure to unfamiliar knowledge. I intend to check out and read random books from the "Very Short Introductions" series by Oxford University Press.

My method is to hit the online catalog of my local library and search for the string "very short introduction" in titles. Then I check out the first title to appear. My first hit was Plate Tectonics: A Very Short Introduction.

I'd recently run across a few volumes from the series and found them well done. Some are reissues from earlier UOP series with such names as "A Brief Insight."

- LT series page:
- OUP series page:

Any opinions on books in this very extensive series?

ETA: links

Jun 22, 2015, 4:42pm

I agree that the ones I have read have all been very good.

Jun 22, 2015, 5:26pm

Me too.

Beware: You may find yourself using the bibliographies to get more deeply involved in the subject.

Jun 22, 2015, 7:27pm

>3 aulsmith: This. Oh so much this :)

I love that series - they are short enough to give you a basic level of understanding on the topic and if you get interested in the topic, it is easy to pick up a longer and more involved book. But do not expect light reading - most of those books pack a lot of information and data - they are dense books. Some of them actually contain more information and details than a 800 pages book on the same topic.

Editado: Jun 23, 2015, 1:55am

That, too. On the other hand, you don't have to wade through the 800 pages to get the information. A big plus in my book. The other thing I have found is that if I start with bits and pieces of knowledge I get a frame to hang it all on.

Most of the ones I have read have been theologically oriented. but it is quite possible that the library has others. Must check.

Editado: Jun 23, 2015, 2:00am

If I don't know much about a topic, I'd rather read something short and difficult than wade through 800 pages of something I don't quite get.

I might just join you in this. I see that my library has a lot of these. Great idea. (But they don't have Plate Tectonics.)

Jun 23, 2015, 12:09pm

I keep Plate Tectonics on the nightstand, so am only about one-fourth of the way through. I'm noticing with appreciation that the early chapters give a lot of attention to the history of discoveries, with names of scientists and a frank account of the resistance "continental drift" encountered from established consensus. I had a vague idea that plate tectonics was a recent theory, but it's eye-opening to find out how recently some of the key discoveries occurred.

This has invited some reflections on the course of the even younger global warming theory, which has met a headwind of public political opposition after winning the scientific consensus.

Anyway, readers who are impatient with the history of scientific discoveries, or who just want to get The Facts as we now know them, could skip the first chapter and some paragraphs in the second.

>5 MarthaJeanne:

The "theologically oriented" ones seem popular at my nearest library branch; someone had checked out Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, but Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction was available. So I guess that's my next title. It will be interesting to compare to Karen Armstrong's Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, which is the only life of Muhammad I've read.

Jun 23, 2015, 5:10pm

If you are interested, I wrote a review of the Galaxies one earlier this year: here. Should give you some ideas on what the science ones sounds/look like. Plate Tectonics sounds built the same way basically :)

>6 MarthaJeanne:

Absolutely agree. I was just trying to convey that the shortness does not make them overviews or shallow looks at things :)

Jun 24, 2015, 11:20pm

>9 aulsmith:

Good reviews, though the latter is from "Great Courses."

Jun 25, 2015, 10:51am

>10 Muscogulus: Oops. I fixed it.

Jul 12, 2015, 8:45pm

I feel sure that the plate tectonics book is not one of the series' strongest entries, but I am glad I red it.

I've found one example of a replaced item in the series. The title Muhammad : a very short introduction has been given to two books by two different authors.

1. The first was a 2001 reissue of a 1977 title from the "Past Masters" series: Muhammad by M(ichael) A. Cook.
2. The second, by Jonathan A.C. Brown, is a new work released in 2011.

According to one LT reviewer, the 2001 edition didn’t last very long. I've just started the 2011 book.

Jul 13, 2015, 1:12am

What are good science ones? I read the Planets: A Very Short Introduction and it didn't rock my worlds, er, as it were. But I'm open to try more. Other suggestions?

Jul 13, 2015, 2:23pm

>13 timspalding:

I'm trying to stick to random selection, but the cards have dealt me: stem cells, superconductivity, "the cell," and plants. I also drew a few more religion titles: Quakers, Kabbalah, Mormonism. I know the series as a whole doesn't focus so intently on religion, but my library system apparently does. It's probably due to an accurate assessment of patrons' interests.

Personally I'm looking forward to Corruption : a very short introduction. I've been wanting a global and historically informed view of the subject.

Jul 13, 2015, 3:21pm

>14 Muscogulus:

Religion is also a good "just enough but not too much" topic. To read one book about XYZ-ianism is to be educated. To read 10 is to be a devotee :)

Jul 13, 2015, 3:40pm

>15 timspalding:

I agree, but would specify at least three subcategories under "devotee": believer, enemy, scholar.

Dez 8, 2015, 11:23am

Wikipedia editors are trying to keep track of the whole series, and of which volumes are reissued.

Editado: Dez 14, 2015, 2:55am

I was surprised to find several dozen of these books in the VCE (high school curriculum) study help section of our amazing brand new library.

Mar 14, 2016, 7:39pm

I’ve read Genes: A Very Short Introduction and could tell it is going to need a revision quite soon. There was nothing at all about CRISPR, the newly discovered vehicle for editing genes.

This is going to be a tough one to keep up to date, no matter how often it's revised.