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Very Short Introductions

CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherOxford University Press
Media typePrint (paperback), e-book
No. of books700+ (List of books)

Very Short Introductions (VSI) is a book series published by the Oxford University Press (OUP). The books are 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.[1]

The series began in 1995, and by March 2023 there were 730 titles, published or announced.[2][3] The books have been commercially successful,[4] and have been published in more than 25 languages.[5] Institutions can subscribe to an online service to allow their users to read the books.[6]

Most of the books have been written specifically for the series, but around 60 were recycled from earlier OUP publications: several had been in OUP's Past Masters series,[7] and numbers 17–24 used chapters from The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain (1984).

Each book of the series is numbered on its spine. These numbers broadly, but not exactly, correspond with the publication dates. Two books have been removed from the series: #60, "Shakespeare" by Germaine Greer was replaced by "William Shakespeare" by Stanley Wells; and #116, "Anarchism" by Colin Ward was replaced by "Anarchism" by Alex Prichard.


Writing in the New Yorker in 2017, Kathryn Schulz praised the diversity of topics covered but noted significant gaps in coverage, including an absence of women and people of colour in its 54 biographies and "a British bias in the choice of subjects".[7] Schulz also described the quality of the books as variable, favourably comparing the books written about Teeth, Deserts and Robotics against those written on Mountains, Home and Archaeology.[7]

In the Fortnightly Review, Michelene Wandor said that the series "successfully bridged the gap between academic and trade publishing" and reviewed six volumes.[8]

List of books in the series

See List of Very Short Introductions books.

Boxed sets

Six boxed sets, each with a different theme, were released in 2006. Five books from the series on the given theme were included, plus the series' promotional volume A Very Short Introduction to Everything.


The body text is set in Miller in some books, and others are set in OUP Argo; the front page title (and other book titles within the book) is set in Lithos; the sans-serif used for headings and in other places is OUP Argo.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Very Short Introductions". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Very Short Introductions – General Series". Oxford University Press (UK). Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Very Short Introductions". Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ "Languages: A Very Short Introduction". Oxford University Press (UK). Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  5. ^ Glendinning, Simon (2011). Derrida: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. ii. ISBN 978-0-19-280345-0.
  6. ^ "Very Short Introductions". Oxford University Press (UK). Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Schulz, Kathryn (9 October 2017). "How to Be a Know-It-All". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  8. ^ "A brief guide to Oxford's 'Very Short Introductions'". The Fortnightly Review. 8 December 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2023.