In America, as in most cultures, you risk offending people if you call
them dumb or an idiot to their faces. You also risk a punch in the
And yet by the millions, people are buying books with
titles like Wine for Dummies and The Complete Idiot's Guide to
Motorcycles. When we don't know a thing about meditation or buying
stocks or speaking Bulgarian, we're happy to be insulted. Go right
ahead: call us dummies on the cover of your book. Just show us how to
lay tile or knit a sweater.
And for 17 years, that's exactly
what a seemingly endless stream of books, written in a breezy manner
with lots of illustrations and simple instructions, has done.
a tattoo? There's The Complete Idiot's Guide to getting one. A yappy
little dog? Chihuahuas for Dummies will tell you all there is to know
about them. There's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Webkinz, whatever
that is. And Chronic Pain for Dummies, leaving us to wonder where
smart people go to deal with pain.
More than 125 million copies
in the Dummies series alone have sold since the first Dummies book —
about a computer program called DOS — was published in 1991. Ever
since, Dummies and Idiots books have promised to teach us how to
garden, learn religions, paint walls, even raise our kids.
books have been translated into 39 languages and published in 40
countries, so all the idiots are no longer in America. There are now
dummies videos, too.
You name it — chess, vampires, foreclosed
houses — there's a Dummies or Idiots book about it. There's even one
called Biochemistry for Dummies. But no Idiot's Guide to Brain Surgery
. . . yet!