A Week In Books: Take a long view with short books

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The Independent Culture

Let's hope that a full month of electoral flannel has bred a raging thirst for genuine debate.

Let's hope that a full month of electoral flannel has bred a raging thirst for genuine debate. If so, this is just the moment to slake it. British publishers have created lists of short books that discuss the questions that your average candidate will only ever touch if armed with a slogan and a sound bite. Together, they hint at a resurgence of the grand educational tradition of Pelicans and Penguin Specials ­ a tradition that the Penguin itself has lost.

Closest to the hot headline issues are the "No Nonsense" guides (£7 each), launched by Verso with New Internationalist magazine. The initial trio target those topics that a large army of voters care about, but that politicos evade: Climate Change by Dinyar Godrej; Fair Trade by David Ransom; and Globalization by Wayne Ellwood. In each case, arguments, figures and documents combine to prove that good journalism is far too important to be left to (most) journalists.

The "Thinking in Action" series from Routledge (£7.99 each) consists of brief-ish explorations of current subjects by leading philosophers. This is a more ambitious and (so far) more uneven project, but three of the first batch deserve high praise: On Immigration and Refugees, by the great logician (and campaigner for racial equality) Michael Dummett; On Belief, by that master of postmodern paradox, Slavoj Zizek; and On the Internet by Hubert L Dreyfus.

Better established, but always invigorating, is the Oxford University Press series of "Very Short Introductions" (£5.99 each), which range far and wide. One new title will spirit you far away from the hustings: Indian Philosophy, by Sue Hamilton, the perfect gift for anyone who wishes to sort out their karma and nirvana. The latter will not be on offer after 7 June; but I do hope the former will be very much in evidence.