Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Understanding Life: An interview with the series editor, Kostas Kampourakis

Introducing our new book series Understanding Life! The Cambridge Understanding Life series is for anyone wanting an engaging and concise introduction to a current biological topic. Offering multi-disciplinary perspectives, these accessible guides address stereotypes and common misunderstandings in a thoughtful way, with the aim of facilitating a more in-depth understanding. Written by leading thinkers in each field, these books are for anyone wanting an expert overview that will enable clearer thinking on each topic.



My name is Kostas Kampourakis and I’m the series editor of the new book series Understanding Life published by Cambridge University Press.

The books in the series will be short concise books that can serve as introduction to a variety of topics however I must note that our aim is not to publish short introductions about topics that people might be interested in, rather our aim is to publish short concise and informative books about topics for which popular misunderstandings abound.
therefore the aim is for the books to serve not only as an introduction to those topics but also as a means to address
misunderstandings and help readers understand the concepts, the processes and all other biological phenomena described in the books.
The books in the series are intended for a broad audience mostly educated laypeople with an interest in life sciences. they assume no background beyond what people learn at school. All the books are written in an accessible manner without jargon and by explaining all key terms inside the text. And at the end there is always a summary of the common misunderstandings that the books are aimed to address.
There are several books THAT ARE already being written for the series the first one to appear will be my own book Understanding Evolution from which actually the whole idea for the series came. The second book
is a very timely book by Raul Rabadan of the coronavirus this book addresses many popular MISUNDERSTANDINGS which people have heard in the news and also explains the biology and epidemiology of the virus.
We also have other books on interesting topics like DNA Ancestry by Sheldon Krimsky who explains the possibilities the potential and the pitfalls of the DNA ancestry tests we have another book by Alessandro Minelli on Development and there the author explains that development is not the linear process we usually perceived from embryo to adult.
My first book ever was called Understanding Evolution and it was published by Cambridge University Press. That was an academic book which was very well received. We received very favorable reviews and most reviewers noted that even though it was an academic book it was reading IN an accessible and informative manner. Interestingly the second book I had written was also published by Cambridge University Press and it was called Making Sense of Genes, just because we didn’t want to call it understanding genes at the time, however the concept was the same again as in the first book I wanted to address misunderstandings and explain the gene concept in this case as I explained the concepts of evolution in the first book. That was another book that was academic but still what we were received and again many reviewers said that it was informative and very accessible to a broader audience. So when the time came and Katrina Halliday, executive publisher at the Press, and I discussed about the new editions of the books we thought that it might be the time to produce a concise, short version of each of these books that would be accessible to everyone and this is where the idea for the series came from. When I made a proposal about how this could be done we realized that this way of producing short books accessible to everyone that explicitly addresses misunderstandings and also introduced the topics, this is something that could be done for a variety of topics and not only up for evolution and genes, about which my previous books were, and this is how eventually we decided to start this series and invite prominent authors experienced authors to write about the respective topics.

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