I first discovered the Very Short Introduction series a few years ago and for awhile I faithfully read one a week. It’s a brilliant series that is similar to Dummies’, Idiot’s, and KISS guides (though obviously with a less insulting title) but overall these guides are usually more informative, more affordable, and provide a lovely and concise overview. The series covers everything from ancient philosophy to Spinoza to hieroglyphs and new ones are consistently coming out yearly. I recently added The Koran: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Cook to my collection and I was not disappointed.
I picked up this guide about the Koran as well as the Koran as somewhat of an impulse guesture. This book certainly keeps popping up in the news and in conversations between talking heads, and admittedly being more familiar with it will allow me to have at least a slightly understanding of Islamic influenced literature and art.
What is important to remember about this short introduction is that it is specifically about the Koran rather than an introduction to Islam (that is a separate guide book they own). Cook’s 150 page guide provides an informative look at the history of the codex or book, the influences on it throughout the centuries, and what it has and does represent throughout the world. Cook goes intro translation issues from a technical perspective of what does get lost in translation as well as a religious persoective of the implication of changing Muhammad’s words.
The reader is given a short but encompassing history (as well as some fascinating implications) of the Koran being written on palm leaves and camel shoulder blades up through the printing press. While the objective of this guide is not to provide criticism or interpretation of the Koran, Cook does touch on this to explain the book’s evolution.
This was another fascinating guide and I cannot recommend this series enough.