A Very Short Introduction

The cover of the non-free book, A Very Short Introduction to Everything (2003)

After more than 1.4 billion seconds/ 23 million minutes/ 380 000 hours/ 16 000 days/ 2 300 weeks/ 530 months/ 44 years of marriage, couples may find that those microseconds of conversational lulls, become more frequent. Trish and I have decided to do something about it. We are now reading the same books found in the A Very Short Introduction series, published by Oxford University Press.

Wikipedia describes the books in the series as: concise introductions to particular subjects, intended for a general audience but written by experts. Most are under 200 pages long. While authors may present personal viewpoints, the books are meant to be “balanced and complete” as well as thought provoking.

The series began in 1995, and over 700 titles have been published. Many works, including the first book published in the series # 001, Classics, by Mary Beard (1955 – ) and John Henderson (1948 – ), have not been revised. In contrast #086 Globalization, by Manfred Steger (1961 – ), is now in its 5th edition.

These are ebooks read on a Kobo reader. The first book we read together was #215 Deserts, by Nick Middleton (1960 – ). It was published in 2009, but showed no evidence of being exceptionally out of date. Currently, we are reading #444 Mountains by Martin F. Price (1957 – ), published in 2015 and #175 Documentary film by Patricia Aufderheide published in 2008. That is, Trish has finished reading Mountains, while Brock has just started it; Brock has finished reading Documumentary film, while Trish has just started it.

We use the list of titles found in the Wikipedia article, to find titles of mutual interest.

We do not finish all books started. The first failed reading was #248 Keynes, by Robert Skidelsky (1939 – ). It was about British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946), but failed to hold our attention.

A Short Introduction to Everything, published in 2003, has a cover indicating that it is free. This does not appear to be the case. At Amazon, an ebook version is unavailable. A paperback version costs US$ 30.10 or more new/ US$ 3.65 or more used. In both cases, delivery charges also apply. Harish P, writing about the book on Goodreads, gives the book two stars and comments: ‘Everything’ is misleading. I was thinking that the book could be something like ‘A Short History About Everything’ by Bill Bryson. That’s not the case to be. ‘Everything’ here refers to the titles in the Very short Introduction series. The book is intended as a primer/curtain-raiser of the titles that constitute the series. The book is divided into 7 themes aka chapter, each concerning a certain aspect of life or Universe, at large. The titles relevant to the theme are featured with some interesting summary. Only complaint-why am I charged for the book, when it is a little more than a marketing material of Oxford University Press. Luckily, I borrowed it from a friend.

3 Replies to “A Very Short Introduction”

  1. I’m finding the VSI books very good for learning about a broad range of philosphical topics: free will, causality, consciousness, infinity, ethics, philosophy of science, etc…..various famous philosophers, eg Spinoza, Kant, Hegel…. In fact, this book series seems to heavily favour philosophical topics. Also recommend the one on The Anthropocene. What I like about them is that they are good introductions, fairly cheap, and pretty contemporary, with good bibliographies and suggested reading.

  2. Totally agree with you that books from the VSI series are a great addition to one’s library. I especially like the one’s that cover philosophical topics. For philosophy, you want short books, well written, by professional philosophers, that are written with the general public in mind, so minimally technical. This series fits that bill. The VSI’s on famous philosophers are the best: Spinoza, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Leibniz, Hegel, Kant – you can’t beat a short book on these guys. Also philosphical topics like: causality, truth, ethics, epistemology, consciousness. These books would have come in very handy if I had had them in my first years of University.

    1. Trish and I have taken a short pause from reading more introductory books to read Anthony Barnes Atkinson (1944 – 2017), Measuring Poverty Around the World (2019). With a pandemic, a war in the Ukraine, inflation and other economic disruptions, it is important to focus on what needs to be done to ensure that everyone has the resources needed for a worthy life. It strikes me as exceedingly immoral for the political leaders of the world to allows billionaires to coexist with people living in extreme poverty.

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