Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ten Reasons I Like Dummies Books

Most of my collection

OK, I'll admit it right now, I like the "For Dummies" book series and here's my collection to prove it. They’re my guilty pleasure.  Whenever I am delving into a new topic, this is where I look after extensive on line searches. The books both entertain and inform. In no particular order, here are ten reasons why I like them.

The Part of Tens

I always read "The Part of Tens" at the end of the book first. I nibble around the edges of a project before diving in, so this is how I get started. There are always kibbles and bits of info that are good to know immediately.


This isn't a textbook for heaven's sake! Cartoons are the second thing I read in the book. Rich Tennant has been the resident cartoonist for the "For Dummies" series since 1991. The cartoons are called the "5th Wave" after the Ages in "Future Shock" by Alvin Toffler. I'm glad the cartoons are funny, since that book was so serious.

Consistent Icons

The same icons are used in all the "For Dummies" books. I see them as signposts along the way. A good way to skim a chapter is to just read the icons. The target icon has tips and shortcuts. The remember icon repeats important information just to be sure that the reader sees it. The warning icon with the bomb and short burning fuse scare me but is a good warning sign about problems, safety, etc. I love the technical stuff icon as I am something of a geek.

Lots of Diagrams

I'm a visual learner so I really appreciate all the diagrams in the books. Although the concepts may be obvious with a little bit of experience, the first time doing a task can be truly confusing. Remember the first time you tried knitting and learning to cast on stitches? How about trying to figure out how to make chicken stock without ending up with chicken jello? YouTube Videos are very helpful. However, I just like having the book opened to the task I'm working on. Then I don't have to stop, go back, and watch the same procedure five times before I can do it.

No Prior Knowledge

The "For Dummies" series assumes that you know nothing about a particular subject. For example, I inherited a lot of coins from an elderly relative. I had no idea if they had any value beyond face or metal value. "Coin Collecting for Dummies" taught me more about US Currency than I could ever have imagined. I haven't done anything else with coin collecting but the book gave me just what I needed to know. "For Dummies" can also serve as a gateway into whole new area of interest. I started with "Canning for Dummies" and now have over 100 jars of tomatoes, jelly, cabbage, salsa and oranges in my pantry. The next step is growing my own tomatoes so "Vegetable Gardening For Dummies" is on my Amazon shopping list.

Wide Variety of Topics

At last count there are 2,516 titles at dummies.com, ranging from algebra to Zoho and everything in between. According to the Web site, the books have been translated in 30 languages including Spanish, Arabic, Estonian, Greek, Russian, and Vietnamese. The "For Dummies" series is the world's bestselling reference brand according to the publisher, Wiley. Personally, I prefer these books over Cliff's Notes! Do you need to know the rules for Australian football? There's a book for that. There are books for Hadoop (big data), Shakespeare, going Paleo, Vegetarian, or low carb. Jane Austen, Classical Music, Art history? There are books for that too. The list just goes on and on, but I won't.


Who knew? I was looking for a book on how to repair drywall. I thought that I would have to dig through some huge generic home repair book that had maybe one page about drywall repair. Then, I would need to go to my local hardware store and buy stuff that I would use a couple of times. Wrong! There's a drywall repair kit "For Dummies" with everything needed for about $20.00. I could spend that on Spackle paste and a few tools alone! I'm going to get the kit this month and update this lens after I use it. Other home repair kits are available for weatherizing, HDTV cabling, bath refinishing, and TV wall mounting. Contractors may laugh at these kits but I think they're great for the do it yourself beginner. 

Craft kits include origami, embroidery, and punch needle. There are even guitar kits that include the guitar! Just choose electric, bass, acoustic or ukulele. OK, so the guitars included aren't a Gibson acoustic or Fender Stratocaster, but even Bruce Springsteen started on an $18 guitar.

Good Introduction to New Subjects

The "For Dummies" series is a good way to investigate a subject without spending a ton of money on a pursuit that you may not enjoy. I'm a dabbler. I like stringing beads and pearls, but don't want to get into metal clay or lamp-working glass. I attempted gourmet cooking and canning. The time, equipment, and enjoyment are well worth the investment. The HTML book is handy to understand what’s going on behind the code in Blogger. Get a few books or kits to check out a new interest and see where it takes you!

Written by People Who Know Their Stuff

Marsha Collier's many "For Dummies" books about eBay have helped a lot a people get started on eBay and other e-commerce sites. I found her product photography tips to be really helpful without having to buy books about photography. The Wikipedia bibliography lists twenty four books on e-commerce topics in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese and German. 

Another well known author is David Pogue, technology columnist for the New York Times and host of Nova's "Making Stuff." He has written eight books for the For Dummies series, on both technology and classical music. I expected books on technology but opera? 

One of my favorite "For Dummies" books is "Gourmet Cooking for Dummies" by the late Charlie Trotter. This book changed my mind about the For Dummies series. I'm a native Chicagoan, have eaten at his restaurant, and watched his PBS shows. Mr. Trotter certainly has the "cred" to have written this book. These are just a few of the well known authors in the For Dummies series. Check to see if your personal guru has written one!

My Collection

After looking at the photo of the "For Dummies" books that I have, maybe I should get one of the books on photography. The books cover a wide variety of the subjects that I was and am interested in. I've lost interest in management and call centers since retiring, but cooking and canning have moved to the top of the list. I've added blogging and jewelry making books from the series since the photo was taken.