Not Just For Dummies

Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

Interested in understandable information? Hungry for a new hobby? Manhattan Public Library offers over 300 “For Dummies” and “Complete Idiot’s Guides” that you can borrow today!

“For Dummies” books provide newcomer-friendly information and instruction on a broad variety of topics — everything from art to welding. Despite the title, their publisher has taken great pains to emphasize that the “For Dummies” books are not literally for “dummies”; the subtitle explains that they are simply, “A Reference for the Rest of Us!” To date, over 1,600 “For Dummies” titles have been published in numerous languages to worldwide acclaim.

The “For Dummies” series began in 1991 with “DOS for Dummies.” The book became popular due to the rarity of beginner-friendly instructions for using the notoriously user-unfriendly DOS interface. Later, the series branched out beyond computer technology, adding titles as diverse as “Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy for Dummies,” “Chess for Dummies,” and “Buddhism for Dummies.” Our library offers many of these great guides.

chessIf you are interested in mathematics, or simply need a refresher, the library carries titles such as “Everyday Math for Dummies” and “Pre-calculus for Dummies.” For those dreading entrance exams, try “ASVAB for Dummies,” “SAT for Dummies,” or “ACT for Dummies,” among others.

Many titles offer valuable information on specific careers, such as haircutting, paralegal work, military careers, and green technology, along with advice on job searching, resumes, and interviews. Thinking about investing? See “Personal Finance for Seniors for Dummies” and “Investing for Dummies,” or other books on mutual funds, home buying, or on real estate investment.

Would you like to develop a new hobby? “For Dummies” guides can get anyone started on constructive pastimes such as crocheting, knitting, and sewing; raising goats, chickens and rabbits; canning and preserving foods; and gardening and green living. Some titles like “Dog Grooming for Dummies” could even double as potential business ventures. “For Dummies” guides cover classic games including poker, bridge, and chess; physical activities like rugby to meditation; and even current game crazes like Minecraft. Also, there are guides on coaching football, basketball, and soccer.

Guides on piano, guitar, blues, and classical music are popular, with titles such as “Music Theory for Dummies” and “Jazz for Dummies.” There are also guides on figure-drawing, illustration, and manga.

Need to brush up on a foreign language? The library has titles covering German, Portuguese, Spanish, and other languages. Of course, titles like “English Grammar for Dummies” could help those who want to write and speak English more fluently. Other “For Dummies” books can broaden horizons with information on world religions, scientific topics like genetics, and the US government.

Of course, the series still contains highly accessible guides to computer and internet tech, including Windows 8, Apple iPads, iPhones, and Macs, computer use for seniors, and eBay, along with more technical topics like Facebook advertising, search engine optimization, and 3D printing.

The “Complete Idiot’s Guides” are another line of how-to and reference books that explore and explain complex and popular topics. Again, the term “idiot” is hyperbole; the goal is to let non-experts understand new subjects.

“Complete Idiot’s Guides” cover topics including vegan and gluten-free cooking; songwriting and playing a fiddle; world religions, renewable energy, hearing loss, baby names, raising girls, motorcycles, string theory, and dozens of other topics.

All of these books are listed in Manhattan Public Library’s online catalog. Go to, click on “Catalog” in the upper-right, and search for “For Dummies” or “Complete Idiots Guide” or by topic to get a listing of available books. Or, come on in and browse the collection today!


Posted in: Adult Services, Mercury Column, News

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