Beginning with some basic considerations in electromagnetic theory and solid state physics, I hope, in these four lectures, to develop some appreciation for the wonderfully rich electronic and optical properties of solids and to present an overview of current research in the area of the interaction of ultrashort laser pulses with solids. The first two lectures are tutorials on the electronic and optical properties of solids and on energy transfer and relaxation in semiconductors. While some of the introductory material is treated in undergraduate courses, I will try to paint a broad picture and connect a number of facts that often remain disconnected. This introduction is followed by a survey of optical measurements of carrier and phonon dynamics in solids. I will conclude with an overview of recent experiments on electronic and structural changes induced by intense short laser pulses, including work done in my own research group.