Very Short Introductions, published by Oxford University Press
A Little History series, published by Yale University Press
Columbia University's Columbia Global Reports
“Brief informed surveys of complicated subjects are always helpful so I was pleased to see a new book in the Yale University Press Little Histories series: art critic Charlotte Mullions taking on 100,000 years of art history in A Little History of Art. Theoretically aimed at young adults, these books are great for older adults too.” Read more...
Notable Nonfiction of Spring 2022
Sophie Roell, Journalist
A Little History of Philosophy
by Nigel Warburton
"More recently I wrote A Little History of Philosophy, which is in the Little Histories series that was spawned from a book that Ernst Gombrich wrote called A Little History of the World. So it’s in that format, written for a general readership. It covers some of the same areas as Philosophy: The Classics, and Philosophy: The Basics, but in a more story-driven way. I think it’s more accessible for a general reader. I’ve tried to bring in some aspects of the philosophers’ lives and context, briefly. The idea was that an intelligent 14 or 15 year old could get a lot out of the book and there’d be nothing threatening in terms of language or presupposed ideas. That’s a book that has surprised me greatly in the way it’s been taken up. It’s been translated into over 20 languages and has sales all around the world. I’m delighted to have been part of that movement to popularize philosophy through this dispersal of ideas. It’s very encouraging that so many people are interested in philosophy today."
“What’s important about In the Camps is that there hasn’t been a short, deeply informed book about Xinjiang that you could point somebody to who says, ‘I don’t have a lot of time to devote to this subject, but I want to go deeper than I can even through a long-form journalism piece’…In the Camps is designed to give a feel for the human experience of having the ground pulled out from under you in every conceivable way. Forms of movement become constrained, everything you’re doing is watched. People are disappearing into camps, but also going silent because of fear of being targeted. It’s an incredibly important story.” Read more...
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Historian
“I chose this book because it’s a wonderful introduction to all the different facets of Hobbes’s life and writings and context. It’s very short. It’s very readable. If you don’t know Hobbes, it’s a great way to get a first taste. The first part is dedicated to biographical details and is particularly of relevance for understanding the intellectual context he’s operating in. The second part deals with the various branches of his philosophy, his science, his ethics, his politics. The third part of the book is also interesting. He gives you an overview of the scholarship on Hobbes—all the different ways that Hobbes has been interpreted.” Read more...
Arash Abizadeh, Philosopher
“She packs a lot into the book. She gives an overview of the nature, history and function of Egyptian hieroglyphs. She covers all the basics, everything you need to know about them if you’re starting from scratch. If you were to visit the British Museum and take a close look at the Rosetta Stone, or you were going to take a walk through the Egyptian gallery at the Louvre , it’s a book you might read before visiting, so that you could know a little bit more about what you were looking at before you got there, and be able to make more sense of what you see.” Read more...
The best books on Hieroglyphics
Diane Greco Josefowicz, Historian
“This one is a really loving account of Ovid, with a very simple structure. It just takes you through his major works, with the Metamorphoses obviously at the centre. It’s also, to a certain extent, a meditation on exile. Ovid is one of the great figures of exile. It’s very good on that perspective. It’s a wonderful little book. I can’t think of a better introduction to the work of this figure who is, arguably, the single most influential poet of antiquity.” Read more...
The Best History Books of 2020
Paul Lay, Historian
“Vigil is a great, snappy introduction to how Hong Kong got where it is today. Whereas many Sinologists focus on the exceptional qualities of Xi Jinping’s China, Wasserstrom, a historian, looks at Hong Kong’s troubles through a comparative lens. He reaches back into China’s past, as well as looking around the world, to help the reader make sense of events in Hong Kong.” Read more...
The Best Books on the Hong Kong Protests
Viruses: A Very Short Introduction
by Dorothy H. Crawford
OK, OK, this book isn't strictly speaking new–it came out in 2018. However, the outbreak of a global pandemic featuring Covid-19 has meant we all need to know more about viruses, and Dorothy Crawford's introduction is excellent. She also spoke to us about the best books on viruses, and you'll find out a lot just by reading the interview (no need to buy/borrow any books).
Alexander the Great: A Very Short Introduction
by Hugh Bowden
Professor Hugh Bowden explores the history of Alexander, using sources beyond the traditional historical narratives to build a picture of the man and his achievements.
Secularism: A Very Short Introduction
by Andrew Copson
Andrew Copson’s short book covers a lot of ground. In his role as Chief Executive of Humanists UK, he is practically involved with secularism on a daily basis, and is an eloquent defender of secularist principles, but nevertheless here provides a balanced and generous interpretation that presents arguments on different sides.
Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction
by Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek & Peter Singer
***🏆 A Five Books Book of the Year ***
“This book is quite brilliantly done. It’s a very concise book, but it’s intelligible and precise in the way it describes the varieties of utilitarianism. It’s very readable and it covers a lot of ground. It covers what you would cover in a university undergraduate course on utilitarianism, but you can read and take it in in four or five hours or so. Because Peter Singer is a co-author, it has a certain authority in its description of thinkers and positions. It’s got a bias, obviously, because it’s written by people who are extremely sympathetic to utilitarianism.” Read more...
The Best Philosophy Books of 2017
Nigel Warburton, Philosopher