It can be difficult to find a good Mandarin Chinese textbook. These short reviews will give you a starting point, and reader suggestions will give you some more choices.
This textbook is for students with no prior knowledge of Mandarin. All the lessons are in Pinyin as well as simplified Chinese characters. The topics are useful for anyone already living in China, with basic if somewhat outdated dialogs. The grammar explanations allow you to grasp the basics of Mandarin grammar, and words are marked by their grammatical function.
This colorful is aimed at the self-learner and comes with a CD with audio versions of the lessons. All entries have Pinyin pronunciation and simplified Chinese characters. The lessons are somewhat random, and include items that I would not necessarily choose for beginner students, such as zodiac signs. The format is appealing to children, but the content is suitable for beginners of any age.
This book is most suitable for students who already have a basic knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. It comes with a CD that has recordings of dialogs, and pronunciation of the tones. The book is quite well organized, with a logical progression of topics, and includes a translating dictionary in the appendix. So while this book is not really for "Dummies", it can be useful as a second Mandarin textbook.