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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Why do you love the VSIs?

The 400th Very Short Introduction, ‘Knowledge‘, was published this week. In order to celebrate this remarkable series, we asked various colleagues at Oxford University Press to explain why they love the VSIs:

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“Why do I love the VSIs? They’re an easy, yet comprehensive way to learn about a topic. From general topics like Philosophy to more specific like Alexander the Great, I finish the book after a few trips on the train and I feel smarter. VSIs also help to quickly fill knowledge gaps that I may have–I never took a chemistry class in college but in just 150 pages, I can have a better understanding of physical chemistry should it ever come up during a trivia challenge. It’s true, VSIs give you the knowledge so you can lead your team to victory at your next pub trivia challenge.”

Brian Hughes, Senior Platform Marketing Manager

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“They’re very effective knowledge pills after taking which I feel so much better equipped for exploring new disciplines. Each ends with a very helpful bibliography section which is a great guide for getting more and more interested in the subject. They’re concise, authoritative and fun to read, and that’s precisely why I love them so much!”

Anna Ready, Online Project Manager

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“I love VSIs because it’s like talking to an expert who is approachable and personable, and doesn’t mind if it takes you a while to understand what they’re saying! They walk you through difficult ideas and concepts in an easily understandable way and you come away feeling like you have a deeper understanding of the topic, often wanting to find out more.”

Hannah Charters, Senior Marketing Executive

VSI cake
‘VSI 400 cake’, by Jack Campbell-Smith. Image used with permission.

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“With the VSI series, you can expect to see a clear explanation of the subject matter presented in a consistent style.”

Martin Buckmaster, Data Engineer

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“A book is a gift. The precious gift of knowledge hard earned by humankind through generations of experience, deep contemplation and a bursts of single minded desire to push the very limits of curiosity. But I’m a postmodern man in a postmodern world; my attention span is wrecked and presented with all the information in the world at my fingertips the best I can manage is to look up pictures of cats. I don’t know what I need to know from what I don’t or even where to start. What I need is a starting point, a rock solid foundation of just what I need to know on the topic of my choice, enough to know if I want to know more, enough to light that old spark of curiosity and easily enough to win an argument down the pub. Not just the gift of knowledge, but the gift of time. That’s why I love VSIs.”


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“I love the VSIs because there is a never ending supply of interesting topics to learn more about. Whenever I found out I would be taking on the Religion & Theology list, I raided my neighbors cubicles for any religion-themed VSIs to read. Whenever I’m out of a book for the train ride home, I go next door to the VSI Marketing Manger’s cubicle, to see what new VSIs she has that I can borrow. They’re the perfect book to fit in your purse and go.”

Alyssa Bender, Marketing Coordinator

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“I told Mrs Dalloway’s this week that purchasing the VSIs from Oxford was just like printing money. They’re smaller than an electronic reading device and fit in my cargo shorts, I mean blazer pocket. I can’t wait for Translation: A Very Short Introduction.”

George Carroll, Commissioning Rep from Great Northwest, USA

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“I love the VSI series because it is so wonderfully wide-ranging. With almost any topic that comes to mind, if I wonder ‘is there a VSI to that?’, the answer is usually yes. It’s a great way to learn a little more about an area you’re already interested in, or as a first foray into one which is entirely new. Long live VSIs!”

Simon Thomas, Oxford Dictionaries Marketing Executive

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“I like Very Short Introductions so much because they offer such an easy way into a whole range of subjects – literally hundreds – that I might not want to study in great depth, but nevertheless feel I need to know something about. Often, of course, this can lead to greater interest in the subject and a desire to go further. But, whether you want to take your reading in a particular subject further or not, a Very Short Introduction is always the best starting point for anyone who wants a concise, authoritative, and stimulating overview of anything from archaeology to quantum theory.”

Matthew Cotton, Editor

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“VSIs allow me to sound like I know a lot more about a subject than I actually do, in a very short space of time. An essential cheat for job interviews, pub quizzes, dates etc.”

Rachel Fenwick, Associate Marketing Manager

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“I love the VSIs because they make such broad subjects immediately accessible. If you ever want to understand a subject in its entirety or fill in the gaps in your knowledge, the VSIs should always be your first port of call. From my University studies to my morning commute, the VSIs have, without fail, filled in the gaping holes in my knowledge and allowed me to converse with much smarter people about subjects I would never have previously understood. For that, I’m very grateful!”

Daniel Parker, Social Media Executive

Recent Comments

  1. Jon Jacobs

    There is a lot to love about the VSI series. I haven’t left the house without one in my pocket in about 5 years.

    I’ve learned more than I would have thought possible from VSIs. I now understand a bit about particle physics and cosmology which I never thought I’d know.

    Most of the books in the series are absolute gems. Let’s take ‘Herodotus’ as one, of many examples. It’s an incredibly informative book and is full of charm and humor as well.

    The Happiness VSI is a book that everybody on the planet should read as happiness may be the ultimate goal and the VSI offers profound insights into the topic.

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