Are you a Complete Idiot or a Dummy when it comes to Chemistry?

Last Updated on October 8, 2018 by Diane Hoffmaster

This is a slightly unique version of a book review. If you are looking to learn more about chemistry (either for your own personal knowledge or to help your child with their homework!) keep reading!

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I was asked to compare and contrast two different books on Chemistry:  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chemistry (second edition) and the book Chemistry for Dummies. I was offered a choice of many topics from the publisher but I chose chemistry because I am a science geek! Actually, I have forgotten a lot of things I SHOULD know about chemistry and as my son moves into middle school and then high school, he is going to be coming to me for help with chemistry homework that I want to understand! I decided to refresh my knowledge of a few chemistry basics this summer, as well as do a little home schooling with my kids and teach them the basics as well.

First, let me tell you what these two books have in common. Both the Idiot’s Guide and the Dummies book contain a ‘Contents at a Glance’ (which is fairly general) and a more detailed ‘Table of Contents’. The both contain an introduction that discusses what chemistry is and a discussion of how the book is organized. They both cover a lot of the same material, although there are several areas of differences as well. Basic topics like states of matter, types of bonds, and the discussion of the atom are covered in both book. Here are my general thoughts on each book:

Chemistry For DummiesIn my opinion, Chemistry for Dummies assumes that a basic knowledge of chemistry already exists. There is a brief discussion of what chemistry IS, but then it jumps right into states of matter, types of bonds, and assorted chemical reactions. There does not seem to be as much detail regarding the scientific method, the metric system, and using significant figures in your calculations as can be found in the Idiot’s Guide to Chemistry.

The part I really like in this book is the section on how chemistry affects us in our everyday lives. There are sections on air pollution, chemistry in the kitchen, and a study of what is in your medicine cabinet, as well as numerous other topics.

I also like the little icons scattered throughout the book that bring your attention to things you might need like tips, warnings, technical stuff, and things to remember.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chemistry, 2nd Edition

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chemistry seems to begin with the understanding that you really are completely new to the field of chemistry. It discusses the metric system and how to do basic calculations. There is a detailed chapter on the scientific method and error analysis. This book really goes into detail on kinetics, chemical equations, and thermodynamics. Having been through numerous chemistry classes over the years, these are the things that are covered in detail in your high school and college chemistry classes. This book does not, however, explain how all of these things effect our everyday lives. However, this was always a very minor aspect of chemistry class when I took it…usually left for the end of the year after all the other topics had been finished.

This book has a very detailed glossary with definitions of tons of chemistry terms. This is very helpful and is not found in the Chemistry for Dummies book.

Another thing I really liked about the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chemistry was the pull out periodic table in the very front. It is made of very heavy weight card stock and is perforated for easy removal. Seeing as chemistry students live and breath the periodic table, this is a handy little item!

I think if you are brand new to chemistry or have a child who is just starting out, the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chemisty breaks down each topic in slightly greater detail. If you need explanations of how to calculate things and need to understand kinetics and rate laws, this is the book for you.

I think each book has it’s plusses and minuses in terms of content and presentations. If you want a better understanding of chemistry in our everyday lives you are better off with the Chemistry for Dummies.

My thanks to the sponsor for allowing me to review these books.

Between now and August 1st, you can use the code CIGBlog11 to get 50% off of one order of regularly priced books from
Disclaimer: As per FTC guidelines, I received copies of each of these books in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.



  1. I’ve always hated science and dread when the kids ask me for help. This looks like it might make things easier. Thanks!

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