Introducing … The Introducing Series!

A few years ago when I was in grad school, I was talking with friends at the Christian Student Center about some now long forgotten philosopher, and a studious friend remarked that I should read an “Introducing” book about the person.  He explained that they were a series of well written short introductions (something like the “For Dummies” series) that were illustrated.  Yes, a comic book of a sort.  So, my curiosity was piqued and I decided to check one out.  I have recently been diving into these books again, and felt it was worth a detailed post. 

I have found my friend’s advice to be right on target.  For the most part (there are a few lemons out there), these books are an indispensable guide to get an appreciation of many subjects.  In particular the religious guides, philosopher biographies and the mathematics and science books are very good.  For example, due to readings in Christian apologetics, Friedrich Nietzsche’s name came up several times (particularly in Francis Schaeffer and Ravi Zacharias’s books), so I got the “Introducing Nietzsche” book.  In it, I got an appreciation of the key moments and influences in his life that caused his thinking to stray so far from the Christian worldview.  He is the origin of the phrase “God is dead.”  He was also a key influence for the Nazi doctrine.  He ridiculed Christianity as something for the weak and pitiful.  Very ironic, considering the way his life turned out.  And sad at the same time.  Anyhow, I was able to read and understand this in fairly short order without digging through his books.  I now know as much as I want to know of Nietzsche, but at the same time I feel that I now have a much better appreciation for the genesis of his ideas from his life, times, and key influences.  The same goes for Sartre via “Introducing Sartre” (I mean, I’m just not interested in reading Sartre’s “Nausea”; who is anyway???)

On a different emphasis, there are several other really outstanding introductions.  Some of which are worth reading more than once!!  For example, I found McEvoy’s “Introducing Quantum Theory” to be exceptional.  He is a research scientist turned writer, and he can really weave a good story to get across his ideas to a lay audience.  I had even studied Physical Chemistry in undergraduate school, and yet I still learned and re-learned a lot from this book.  It was first class.  The same goes for his “Introducing Stephen Hawking“.  I now have a decent idea of Hawking’s life, times, and key contributions to cosmology.  As a result of having to explain the background to Hawking’s ideas, McEvoy had to introduce Einstein’s relativity concepts first.  So, I got a brief idea of that too.

To finish, I have read a handful of other particularly outstanding introductions:  “Introducing Fractal Geometry“, “Introducing Time“, and “Introducing Darwin (& Evolution)“.  I also bought the “Introducing Christianity” book.  I was kind of skeptical that it would be a fair treatment, but was pleasantly surprised; interestingly, it did justice to the perspective of believers and non-believers in that it was very balanced in its treatment of the subject.  There are, as I said, a few lemons; among them are “Introducing Evolution” (yuk — very pejorative IMO toward “non-believers”).  Overall, though, I highly recommend this series to anyone who wants a better appreciation of an intimidating, heady, or simply unexplored subject.  Great reading!!

Published in: on May 7, 2008 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  

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