Hey, Dummy!

You’d think a book that appears to insult its readers would not be very successful. That’s what most book stores figured in 1991 when they were initially asked to stock DOS for Dummies. It took plenty of convincing on the publisher’s part to persuade retailers that the book was not belittling readers, but rather identifying with them. The point was to reassure readers that this was a book designed specifically for the unsure, the unfamiliar, and the anxious. Since then, the original has spawned more than 1800 titles with over 250 million copies in print (of which over 1200 can be found here at WPL, in multiple formats).

Picture of For Dummies books on display shelf.

Look at all the Dummies!

Many of the For Dummies books still relate to computers and technology, like PCs for Dummies, iPhone for Dummies, and SQL for Dummies. Others offer introductory guides to hobbies (Knitting for Dummies), lifestyles (Living Vegetarian for Dummies), and numerous life skills (Resumes for Dummies). The series can even help people with medical questions who look at the sheer volume of information available and ask themselves, “Where do I even start?” Everything from Pregnancy for Dummies to Diabetes for Dummies is available to simplify the overwhelming. You’d be hard pressed to find a topic that For Dummies hasn’t tackled. In fact, sometimes you might think they ran out of topics and kept on writing, when things get just a little weird …

Cover of "Dating for Dummies".

The “for” in the title makes a very important distinction.

If you saw someone pick up Ethics for Dummies, you’d probably watch them a little warily (until you realized the book is a philosophical discussion of ethics, not a how-to guide). And you certainly wouldn’t want to go out with someone who read Dating for Dummies, would you? Although let’s be honest, dating someone new is often nerve-wracking, and don’t we all secretly wish there were a guidebook on how these things are supposed to work? (And hey, if it does go well, Relationships for Dummies is also available.)

Cover of "Dog Photography for Dummies".

Do dogs not appear in photographs? Or is that just vampires?

Okay, so maybe what we’ve learned here is that we really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. There are some titles, though, that just seem oddly specific. If we already have Photography for Dummies, is Dog Photography for Dummies really necessary? How about Mom Blogging? Maybe Knitting a Scarf In a Day?

There are also titles covering topics you’d hope are not being approached by dummies. If you’re picking up Forensics for Dummies, chances are your ability to break down a crime scene will be doubted. And if Life Coaching for Dummies is on your desk, don’t be surprised if people roll their eyes when you offer advice. (Which is too bad, because by all accounts, the critically acclaimed series ought to make you quite well-informed on a given topic.)

Cover of "Firefighter Exam for Dummies".

Somehow the words “firefighter” and “dummies” in the same sentence don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

There is certainly no shortage of available topics for dummies to study, even if they don’t always seem obvious to the rest of us. A few more of my favourites that I came across while researching this blog post:

Cover of "Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition for Dummies".

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition for Dummies: Every D&D player I’ve ever met hates 4th Edition. They would probably tell you this book should be one sentence: “Just switch to 3.5 Edition.”

Freemasons for Dummies: The society can’t be all that secret if even dummies know about it now.



Cover of "Wine for Dummies".


Wine for Dummies: I imagine this appeals to people who are far from being wine snobs, but want to be able to place orders more sophisticated than, “I like the red ones.”

Existentialism for Dummies: Do we choose to be dummies? How do we understand what it is to be a dummy?



What about you, dear reader? Do you have a favourite For Dummies title? Or is there one you haven’t seen but wish were available? Try playing with the official For Dummies cover generator and share with us!


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