Pantheon's For Beginners line has engendered something of a cult following. Presenting biographies and analyses of key figures in the history of thought, the series used a comics-like format: a breezy graphical hybrid presenting cartoon imagery along with text.
Originally published in the U.K., the line was picked up by Pantheon and published in the U.S. in 1979. This year, Pantheon has reissued four of the books in new editions: Freud for Beginners by Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate; Marx for Beginners by Rius; Einstein for Beginners by Joseph Schwarz and Michael McGuinness; and Darwin for Beginners by Jonathan Miller and Borin van Loon.
Although the line originally featured nearly 20 titles, these four have had the strongest sales history, said Suzanne Williams, Pantheon's director of publicity. "They've always had the most interest and have turned out to be perennials."
Although the books have always done well, the relaunch comes at a time when graphic novels are more popular at libraries, and this has helped them get an extra boost of attention. "We've had a really nice response [from libraries], and the updated look makes it a little more attractive to them," Williams said. Although the books are aimed at the young adult market, they seem to transcend age in their appeal, she said. "They're a very fun and conversational way to learn about these figures."
Despite the success of these four books, there are no plans to reintroduce all of the original line.