A Very Short Competition

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Oxford University Press recently announced the 500th title in its Very Short Introductions series: Measurement: A Very Short Introduction. Selling over 9 million copies worldwide, the series is an incredibly popular way of gaining a quick insight into a wide variety of subjects. It even includes titles from Durham University authors, Penelope Wilson (Hieroglyphs: A Very Short Introduction) and Michael Carrithers (The Buddha: A Very Short Introduction).

One of their most recognisable characteristics is their wonderfully colourful covers, designed by the late Philip Atkins. Freelance and in-house designers create the paintings in their own workspaces, before logging them into an extensive spreadsheet of different colour combinations for editors to choose from. They look incredible lined up on a bookcase, and Palatinate is giving you the opportunity to win your own shelf-full! Just read to the bottom of the article to find out more.

With the series marking its 21st birthday, the same age as many students, we decided to explore how else the series links to student life…


Measurement by David J. Hand9780198779568

Due to be released on the 7th October 2016 as the 500th Very Short Introduction, Measurement may not initially sound like the most riveting read, but this book reveals how integral the concept is to our everyday lives. We measure everything – the time in an exam, units of alcohol, how many page we have left to read!

As author David J. Hand writes, “Measurement underpins human progress, in the physical sciences and engineering, in medicine, and in the social and behavioural sciences, as well as in domains such as public policy and government. For a series such as the Very Short Introductions, one very obvious measure of how well it has done is the number of books in the series – and, however one looks at it, to have reached the 500th book is a sign of extraordinary success.”

9780199663842Love by Ronald de Sousa

With the inevitability of love-related drama at university, this guide to the basic philosophical problems of love should be essential reading. Love is not just something that evolves when you lock eyes in Klute, but, as de Sousa explores, has many varying manifestations: affection, affiliation, philia, storge, agape, and eros. This guide even summarises recent scientific theory on love – excellent for seducing the clinically-hearted science student!

Sleep by Steven W. Lockley and Russell G. Foster9780199587858

This book answers all those questions that float into your head when you realise it is somehow 2 a.m. and you have a 9 a.m. tutorial tomorrow (you mean today): What is sleep? Why do we need sleep? How much sleep is enough? What happens when we don’t get enough sleep? Its exploration of the effect of our modern 24/7 society on patterns of sleep is especially pertinent in exam time given the increased library hours.

9780198735281The Future by Jennifer Gidley

You may have thought ‘future studies’ was just something fearful final years did when entering the Careers Centre, but this book introduces this exciting new field which spans social, cultural, and environmental innovations, as well as technological advances. Ironically it also looks at the history of the concept of the future.

The History of Cinema by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith9780198701774

So you are planning Netflix and Chill, but you know your date is a (slightly pretentious) arts student – what do you watch? Read this book to learn about historically defining moments in the history of cinema and choose a suitably landmark film. It also looks at the rise of home viewing with videos, DVDs, and mobile phones. Ideal preparation for planning a home viewing of your own.

9780192804280Existentialism by Thomas Flynn

Perhaps, during a caffeine-fuelled all-nighter in the library, you begin pondering the meaning of life and existence. But now’s not the time for a crisis, as your deadline looms, so why not pick up this book to reassure you about the nature of existence? You might learn something along the way. Your tutor might even be impressed by your essay as you delve into the intricacies of free will, individuality and personal responsibility.

Happiness by Daniel M. Haybron9780199590605

Nothing beats that happy feeling of post-exams freedom. You have a whole month ahead of you to enjoy your time in Durham without the stress of deadlines and lectures. But what exactly is happiness? Why and how should we strive for happiness? This book explores the psychology and philosophy of happiness, and attempts to search for a definition of this evasive word.

9780198747239Home by Michael Allen Fox

Home was probably on your mind frequently during Freshers’ Week, but hopefully by now Durham has become your home from home. The idea of ‘belonging’ can be difficult to pin down, and it’s something that so often affects university students, most of whom are living away from home for the first time. This book also looks at some of the more complex global issues related to home and belonging, such as homelessness, refugeeism and migration.

Intelligence by Ian J. Deary9780192893215

Maybe you don’t always feel it after making many a drunken mistake in Loveshack, but Durham University students are (supposedly) among the most intelligent in the country. But how do you measure intelligence? This book debates whether some people actually are more intelligent than others. So when your friend brags about their first class essay, you can be proud of your 2:2, happy in the knowledge that intelligence might not even matter after all.

9780199688364Learning by Mark Haselgrove

Maybe you’ve forgotten this since the long-past days of UCAS forms and UMS points, but university is meant to be an institution of learning. You might be questioning the point of learning when you’re half asleep in the middle of an excruciatingly boring lecture, but this books shows us that without learning, things like language, intelligence and memory would be impossible. Perhaps university’s good for something after all?


Hopefully now you’re inspired to dip into some of the Very Short Introduction series! But before you head to Bill Bryson to check out one of these colourful, pocket-sized little books, here are details on how you can win your very own.

For the chance to win a set of ten Very Short Introduction books, including English Literature, William Shakespeare, and several from this article, we want you to come up with an idea for a new title in the series. To enter, you must like the Palatinate page on Facebook. Then, just comment with your answer on the Facebook post that links to this article. Please make sure to comment on the original post (found on the Palatinate Facebook page) rather than any shared versions of the article, as unfortunately any other entries will not count. The deadline for the competition is 15th June.

Good luck!

Images: Oxford University Press


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