The people at Zidane Press have sent me a copy of their book, Stuff You Need To Know For University for review. I expected a book much like Lucy Tobin’s A Guide To Uni Life and other books preparing students for their study.
Stuff You Need To Know For University isn’t quite like that. It takes its own place.
Many books in this vein either prepare students for university life, or look at study skills. While the authors cover this at the start of the text, the main bulk takes a different approach. First things first, though, the book begins with a summary for everything required to enjoy university and excel in your essays. It’s almost worryingly brief.
But ‘brief’ isn’t the right word and doesn’t do it justice. Think more ‘to the point’. You’re expected to put the work in. What this book doesn’t offer is a magic pill. And I like that. The purpose of this book is to expand your horizons and get you thinking clearly about your degree AND beyond your degree.
The first three pages contain the ’10 Commandments’ for how to do well at uni, starting with “Treat it like a job” and ending with “Enjoy yourself”. There is no mystery. The process isn’t complex. It assumes you will take responsibility for your learning. Some of the opinions within the commandments are a bit sarcastic, but that doesn’t mean the advice is a joke.
Next up, you’re given a short overview of health issues, Freshers’ Week, writing and grades. Just enough to take into account and not too much to make you bored or overwhelmed. You may want to explore in more detail at a later point, but when you’re given so much to take in as a Fresher, this type of overview is useful.
Past the summary, the rest of Stuff You Need To Know… is part Bluffer’s Guide and part introduction to the wealth of information and scholarly output you’re due to encounter on your academic journeys. Not all of it is relevant to your course, but don’t let that stop you exploring. This book is an easy-going introduction to many ideas and it is up to you to take things further. You can pick and choose what interests you, as well as pick up the book from time to time when you need some inspiration.
The authors even suggest that “you can just take the ‘how to write essays’ bit and disperse of the rest”. Yet, in many ways, that would be missing the point and you wouldn’t be making the most of the book.
The authors cover the humanities, literature, drama, history, politics, economics, science, globalization, art, and music. And tucked away between the art and music chapters (I don’t know why it’s specifically placed there) is a selection of ‘Top Ten’ lists. From safety to theories, from food to films, the authors suggest what they think is best.
What’s refreshing about Stuff You Need To Know… is how it brings you the basics to allow you to step off from and take further in any way you fancy.
Some readers may consider its open-ended nature to be its flaw, but it’s a personal decision. If you’re interested in grabbing the fundamental points and grounding yourself, this book does that job just fine.
The bottom line is this: buy the book if you want a useful place to dip your toes in and get the basics covered. Then explore!
If you’re more interested in a thousand different suggestions on preparing research, exam techniques, and the finer details of essay construction, look elsewhere.
I’ve never seen a uni book quite like this before. I enjoyed its quirky layout and concise nature. Stuff You Need To Know For University is a worthwhile and undemanding read.
And because the book won’t take you long to consume, you’ll have plenty time to follow those ten commandments set for you!