By Sadie Mank ‘23, Staff Writer
Browsing in bookstores was one of the many things I took for granted before the pandemic, so it was especially exciting to walk into a bookstore this summer after the lockdown lifted. I visited Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY and discovered something I didn’t realize I needed: a collection of nonfiction books called Very Short Introductions.
Published by Oxford University Press, the series comprises books (all of which are around 200 pages) of introductions to various subjects, all written by academics. The appeal was clear: I could add value to my time through intellectual engagement while also gaining an opportunity to dive deeply into niche topics with minimal investment. The variety of titles was overwhelming, but I settled on Sociolinguistics by John Edwardss, a decision inspired by a quarantine internet rabbit hole I had burrowed into about regional British accents. Obviously, the study of linguistics in relation to society is not everyone’s jam, but the series has hundreds of other topics to choose from, including philosophy, sciences, politics and pretty much anything one could dream of— and they get really specific.
After reading the 117-page pamphlet-like book, I haven’t regretted my decision for one minute. For focusing on such a specialized topic, I found the book to be relatively digestible, despite its density. Reading it felt like participating in a condensed college course. The book brought an obscure topic that I had barely understood into my grasp. One idea that I found to be extremely interesting was how gender impacts speech.
The book’s benefits extended further than teaching me about the subject, though. The author’s concentrated yet well-worded sentences and sophisticated vocabulary exposed me to a new, non-fiction writing style that impacted my own.While high school students might not be the targeted demographic of this series, after purchasing four more Very Short Introductions, it occurred to me how valuable these resources could be to my peers. High school is a time for exploration and self-discovery, and this series serves that purpose perfectly. For anyone entering college in a year or two and unsure if a certain topic is really for you, try its Very Short Introduction and see if the subject continues to intrigue you.