Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A year in Very Short Introductions: 2013


By Chloe Foster

2013 has been a busy year for the Very Short Introductions (VSIs). Keeping our authors busy with weekly VSI blog posts is not the only thing we’ve been up to. Here’s a reminder of just some of the highlights from our VSI year.


Last year we partnered with the Guardian to launch a student film competition. Students were tasked with creating a minute-long film on a subject they felt passionate about. The deadline for entries was January 2013, and we certainly had a lot to choose from. Eventually we managed to whittle it down to a longlist. Ultimately though, it was up to the public to decide the shortlist of three.


On the 21st of March, we held a live final event at the Guardian premises in London. VSI authors, student journalists, and some high profile judges were amongst the crowd. Sally Le Page, with her film on Evolution, was crowned the winner of the competition and won £9000 toward her studies. VSI publisher, Luciana, was on hand to present the enormous cheque.


March can only mean one thing to the VSI publicist, and that is the annual Very Short Introductions  soapboxes at the Oxford Literary festival. This year, we had 14 authors across the week, giving short talks on everything from the British Empire to the Gothic in Blackwell’s bookshop. We particular enjoyed the props that Elleke Boehmer brought to her talk on Nelson Mandela.

Photo 1


Very Short Introductions are now known the world over for filling in the gaps in your knowledge, so who better to judge the ‘Debating Matters’ final than our VSI marketer Julie?



With nearly 375 titles in the series, we now have more authors than ever to take part in talks at festivals. Ways with Words festival in Dartington loved having five of our authors do short talks, with the room packed out with fans old and new. The subjects couldn’t have been more diverse (one of the reasons why people love us), with talks on engineering, the French Revolution, the Gothic, contemporary fiction, and rhetoric. Luckily for the festival organizers, it was the most gloriously sunny day!

July also saw the launch of Robert Eaglestone’s Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. This central London launch was attended by academics, friends, and family. Of course a launch wouldn’t be a launch without an accompanying playlist.



We decided it was time to put as many of our VSIs as possibly onto one platform. Very Short Introductions online launched on the 24th of September, giving students, librarians, and academics the opportunity to access over 350 titles through their institutional library. Over 350 VSIs were launched online in an discoverable, accessible format, available via institutional subscription. Through the Oxford Index, a free search and discovery tool from Oxford University Press, this exciting new online resource places the VSIs directly alongside reference, biography, bibliography, monograph, dictionary, scholarly, and journal content, allowing them to become a more integrated and accessible part of all digital research journeys.

VSI fan and journalist GrrlScientist was thrilled with the idea. Our publisher also explained why it’s so important for VSIs to be part of Oxford’s online platform.

Home VSIs Online - Windows Internet Explorer_2013-12-03_15-25-33

An unusually warm and sunny summer in the UK gave the chance for our favourite animal fans to pose with Happiness: A Very Short Introduction. Nothing says happiness like dogs basking in the sun.



We were very proud to hear of The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction winning the BSHM Neumann Prize 2013. It was presented to author Jackie Stedall on the 31st of October.

By the end of October, the VSI series had grown so much, that we had to create new furniture for them to be housed in bookshops!

new spinner


The 27th of November saw the launch of the 366th Very Short Introduction in the series. Lord Krebs gave a short speech to launch his Food: A Very Short Introduction.


The Very Short Introductions Facebook page reached 5,000 likes in November. We love hearing from fans from all over the world, whether it’s a question or simply telling us your favourite book in the series.

Very Short Introductions - Windows Internet Explorer_2013-11-29_11-38-38

2014 already looks like it’s going to be just as busy, with events lined up for Oxford Literary Festival, Chipping Norton Literary Festival, Words by the Water, and Edinburgh Science festival with more to be announced. We’ll also be publishing our 400th VSI in autumn 2014 – who would have thought it, almost twenty years ago?

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Image credits: (1) supplied by Monia Antonioli. Image (3) by Debating Matters. All other pictures by Chloe Foster

Recent Comments

  1. Hoda

    Good job! Happy New year 2014!

Comments are closed.