Do you have not a lot of time, snatched moments here and there, but still want to learn about new topics? Then the Very Short Introductions series might be just the thing for you. Written by experts in the field, but intended for a general audience, these short books offer a concise introduction to the particular topic, and often contain suggestions for further reading. Ranging from religion, ideologies, science, philosophy, history, and art, there is a Very Short Introduction on any number of subjects you may care to learn about.
Buddhism : a very short introduction / Damien Keown.
“This accessible volume covers both the teachings of the Buddha and the integration of Buddhism into daily life. What are the distinctive features of Buddhism? What or who is the Buddha, and what are his teachings? How has Buddhist thought developed over the centuries, and how can contemporary dilemmas be faced from a Buddhist perspective? Words such as “karma” and “nirvana” have entered our vocabulary, but what do they really mean? Keown has taught Buddhism at an introductory level for many years, and in this book he provides a lively, challenging response to these frequently asked questions.” (Syndetics summary)
Utopianism : a very short introduction / Lyman Tower Sargent.
“There are many debates about utopia – What constitutes a utopia? Are utopias benign or dangerous? Is the idea of utopianism essential to Christianity or heretical? What is the relationship between utopia and ideology? This Very Short Introduction explores these issues and examines utopianism and its history. Lyman Sargent discusses the role of utopianism in literature, and in the development of colonies and in immigration.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)
Galaxies : a very short introduction / John Gribbin.
“Renowned science writer John Gribbin takes us on a journey around the universe, looking at galaxies ranging from magnificent spirals like our very own Milky Way, to the ragged remains of massive intergalactic collisions, active galaxies which pump out jets of radiation into space, and those that we can just detect at the farthest reaches of space and time. Gribbin reveals how and why the study of galaxies has been central to our growing understanding of the cosmos, and why they remain one of the most exciting topics in astronomy today.” (Book jacket)
Kierkegaard : a very short introduction / Patrick Gardiner.
“Scholars have largely misunderstood Soren Kierkegaard, remembering him chiefly in connection with the development of existentialist philosophy in this century. In a short and unhappy life, he wrote many books and articles on literary, satirical, religious and psychological themes, but the diversity and idiosyncratic style of his writing have contributed to a misunderstanding of his ideas. In this book–the only introduction to the full range of Kierkegaard’s thought–Patrick Gardiner demonstrates how Kierkegaard developed his ideas and examines his thoughts in light of the doctrines on society developed by his contemporaries Marx and Feuerbach. Finally, he assesses the profound importance of Kierkegaard’s ideas on the development of modern ways of thinking.” (Syndetics summary)
African history : a very short introduction / John Parker and Richard Rathbone.
“This Very Short Introduction examines the changing ways in which African history has been understood and represented by historians and by Africans themselves. Examples drawn from across the continent and from the African diaspora beyond are used to examine key themes, from the diversity of African cultures, religions, and identities, to the slave trade, Africa’s place in the world, and the rise and fall of colonial rule.” (Book jacket)
Modern China : a very short introduction / Rana Mitter.
“This Very Short Introduction offers a variety of ways to understand the world’s most populous nation, giving a short, integrated picture of contemporary Chinese history, politics, society, and its thriving cultural scene. […] This is an indispensable starting point for anyone who needs quickly to understand the themes and controversies that have shaped China today.” (Book jacket)
English literature : a very short introduction / Jonathan Bate.
“Sweeping across two millennia and every literary genre, acclaimed scholar and biographer Jonathan Bate provides a dazzling introduction to English Literature. The focus is wide, shifting from the birth of the novel and the brilliance of English comedy to the deep Englishness of landscape poetry and the ethnic diversity of Britain’s Nobel literature laureates. It goes on to provide a more in-depth analysis, with close readings from an extraordinary scene in King Lear to a war poem by Carol Ann Duffy, and a series of striking examples of how literary texts change as they are transmitted from writer to reader.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)
Romanticism : a very short introduction / Michael Ferber.
“What is Romanticism? In this Very Short Introduction Michael Ferber answers this by considering who the romantics were and looks at what they had in common — their ideas, beliefs, commitments, and tastes. He looks at the birth and growth of Romanticism throughout Europe and the Americas, and examines various types of Romantic literature, music, painting, religion, and philosophy.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)