I’m competitive by nature so when the challenge came to compare two books on American History (a subject I love), I accepted. One book would be from the Complete Idiot’s Guide series and the competitor would be from the For Dummies series. Both are series I have read in the past.
There was a time when I knew far more about American History than I’m claiming now. Age seems to zap those memory cells rapidly! Since fifth grade, I have been fascinated by the Civil War. My competitive streak ran rampant during a Sixth Grade Civil War challenge. It was down to Mike S. and me…in the end, he took the champion! Then when I was 13, we moved to rural North Carolina. Less than five miles from our home was the mass grave of those killed in the Shelton Laurel Massacre. It was an area steeped rich in Civil War.
When the books arrived, I sat down and gave them a brief once-through. Holy History! there was a ton of information in both books and a lot of history I think we overlooked when I was in school. I decided this would be my primary topic for the comparison.
In the US History for Dummies, I was able to find the topic under “Civil War”. The topic started on page 159 and run through page 172. It begins with the familiar “In This Chapter bullet” box followed by two brief paragraphs that set the tone for the Civil war and then highlight some of the key aspects of the Civil War. followed by an introduction to Abraham Lincoln that leads into the chapter. It’s casual writing, sometimes even humorous. There is additional information on people and events highlighted in boxes for a quick glimpse as well as “remember” icons next to important facts and stories to review and remember.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide of American History also had the topic “Civil War” at the back of the book. Here the discussion begins on page 154 and runs through page 168. In reality, it’s a little vague on where it begins because Complete Idiot’s Guide overlaps chapters giving the reader more of a cause and effect feel from one event in history to the next. The text is highlighted throughout with Vital Statistics Boxes that give population. I really found these interesting as the war progressed to see the changes in population and troops. In addition to the “Vital Statistics” boxes, there are other icons that capture memorable statements from historically significant figures and documents, biographical sketches of figures from the era, definitions of buzzwords. The Complete Idiot’s Guide was far more detailed in the topic, though written in a far more formal tone.
My husband is more engaged with Current American History and thought it was fascinating that the Dummies version captured the 2008 Presidential Election in a mere two pages while the Complete Idiot’s guide expanded to give it fourteen pages of coverage. That’s a big difference, especially for an election that had the country buzzing, elected the first African American President, and had a female running mate.
I believe both books offer valuable and relevant information. As an American with a foundation in my country, I prefer the Complete Idiot’s Guide to American History. It delved a little deeper giving me a recap of what I learned in school, on my own as well as highlighting areas I haven’t explored. The Dummies version is a quick read. It offers a less formal approach.
Both books are set up in a chronological manner. The Dummies is set up in spans of 10-15 years in history, while the Complete Idiot’s Guide overlaps–showing cause and effect of events.
Both books cover a large array of topics in American History. The Dummies does so briefly, while the Complete Idiot’s Guide is more in-depth.
Both books offer at-a-glance icons on statistics people and facts.
The Dummies version includes lists at the back of the book with additional information on famous American Events and Inventions as well as The Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence in the appendices.
The Complete idiots end every chapter with “The Least You Need to Know” a great recap of information that is viewed as the most important from the chapter.
My preference is due to the detail and “the least you need to know” is the Complete Idiot’s Guide to American History.
Between now and October 31, The Complete Idiot’s Guide series is extending a discount of 50% off one regularly priced book with the use of this coupon code: CIGBlog11*I received both books in order to facilitate an honest review. The opinions, where expressed, are my own and were in no way influenced by the sponsor. Others experiences may vary.