Whoever thought of the "for Dummies" concept ought to get an extra-special award. Sure, there are some who won't touch one of those books with their trademark yellow and black covers just because of the "for Dummies" designation, but they are wrong. The "for Dummies" books are anything but. I mean, they have "Calculus for Dummies"! And quite a few of the "for Dummies" books are on my bookshelf, though I do not necessarily consider myself one.
What you do get in every "for Dummies" book is a no-nonsense, friendly and sort of jovial piece of reading material that treats you like a friend. They all follow a formula, of course, but it is a good one as long as the somewhat silly graphics (paragraphs are usually marked as "dive talking," "save diving," "tip," "technical stuff," and so on; it gets old quickly) and the occasional rather forced attempts at being simple and friendly without talking down to the reader doesn't turn you off. If you can see beyond that, "Scuba Diving & Snorkling for Dummies" is a very useful introduction to diving that covers everything.
Make no mistake, this book is serious. Everything you need to know is there. But instead of presenting it in a lecturing tone or making things look as complicated as possible (all too many authors like to do that in an effort of coming across as true experts), this book tries to explain everything in simple, everyday language. And succeeds admirably.
It starts with an introduction to all diving equipment and how to use it. Then explains what you need and what to look out for. It then explains dive training and all the basics and more advanced matters it covers. It then goes into setting up your gear for real world diving, how to enter the water, navigate, and dive. Physics and physiology are explained, as well as all the potential problems and illnesses that can happen. All of the world's oceans are described, as well as waves, currents and general water behavior. The book also goes into what to find and expect underwater (and that includes a nicely done 14-page color photo section), how to behave, and what can be dangerous. It explains how to find trips, how to travel, and the different kinds of dives, as well as the major locations and what they offer and require. The book closes with recommendations and pages of links and resources.
As many "for Dummies" books, this one includes a CD. In this case one that contains the PADI "open water diving" lectures, but not all of them. You do get a taste of what it's like, but for now an incomplete one, and one that dates back to 1999 (the latest version of the PADI Open Water course includes a DVD with much more video). In my case, that only fueled my resolve to get the real thing!
If you're okay with the special "for Dummies" formula, this book discusses everything you need to know about diving. I do wish, though, that they'd update the book with a new CD. Even dummies like current stuff.
-- C. H. Blickenstorfer