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How to Lie with Statistics (Penguin Business) Paperback – 12 Dec 1991

49 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (12 Dec. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140136290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140136296
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A pleasantly subversive little book, Guaranteed to undermine your faith in the almighty statistic.

About the Author

Darrell Huff (1913-2001) was a professional writer. He lived in Carmel, California.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
"THE AVERAGE Yaleman, Class of '24," Time magazine noted once, commenting on something in the New York Sun, "makes $25,111 a year." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Marshall Lord TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 July 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This excellent book is something very unusual.

First, it's about numbers but manages to be both extremely easy to read and very entertaining.

Secondly, although it is so accessible that a ten-year old of average intelligence should be able to understand everything in this book, the points it makes are so universal in application that even someone with much greater mathematical knowledge - and I write this as a graduate with two degrees in a discipline which requires statistical understanding - can find it full of useful reminders and even the odd valuable idea you might not have thought of or heard of.

The book is about how numbers can be manipulated, by accident or design, to trick people into making false conclusions, and how to spot when you are being fed misleading numbers. In this day and age the ability to spot bad statistics is extremely important to everyone and can literally be a life-saver.

I was very surprised indeed to see that a previous reviewer had described this book as "not for everyone." I could not disagree more strongly.

If every voter read this book, fewer bad politicians would be elected on the basis of dishonest campaign statistics, if every consumer read it, fewer bad products would be sold on the basis of dishonest advertising statistics, and if every journalist read it there might be less harm done by scare stories based on bad statistics.

Despite the fact that this book was written many years ago, every single word in it is still very relevant today.

However, anyone with a serious interest in the subject who wants an update on some of the more recent examples of how statistics are misused should still start by reading "How to Lie with Statistics" and then follow up with the equally good "Damn Lies and Statistics" by Joel Best, which is more current and nearly as accessible. The two books complement each other very well.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Simon Grayson on 10 Feb. 2005
Format: Paperback
I first read this book when I was about 12, and re-read it now that I'm in my 20s, and am amazed by how good it is. It's got the complexity of a textbook, but the writer has no pretensions and has managed to get the information across in a way so simple a child can easily read the book and understand some of his lessons and examples.
There are plenty of lessons about how we should interpret the numbers we come across every day in adverts and (potentialy biased) news reports and there is nobody living in the developed world who can't benefit from the enlightenment that this brings.
The only disappointing aspect of this book is that it's so short, an accomplished reader with some knowledge of statistics could get through the book in a single (if lengthy) sitting.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By LBatik on 17 July 2002
Format: Paperback
While anyone who has dealt with statistics in a professional capacity is probably familiar with the contents already, it is still a handy little reference. And for anyone in an introductory course of study or who is simply concerned enough to wonder about the truth of what they read, this is absolutely invaluable.
It is not a long book, and some of the examples are dated (physicians recommending brands of tobacco, for instance), but the meat of the book is both accurate and extremely readable. It covers the ways that statistics can be made to show pretty much anything, both through deliberate manipulation and through simple sloppiness. The main chapters cover issues such as inadequate and biased samples, how to provide subtly and not-so-subtly misleading (though technically accurate) visual charts and representations, how to manipulate perception by eliminating inconvenient precision and adding spurious precision, how to manipulate perception by supplying numbers without context or by simply leaving inconvenient facts out, and how to confuse people thoroughly about correlation vs. cause-and-effect. The final chapter provides a nice summary: the questions you absolutely must ask about any figure you are presented with, in order to judge its worth.
As the author himself says, it may read something like a graduate text on dishonesty, but one can assume that people who deliberately wish to mislead have figured out how already; this is to educate the honest person who wishes to be alert. It is frequently used as a text in undergraduate statistics courses, for good reason.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Chris Lawton on 6 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
I first bought this book in 1977 when I was doing an Open University course. It is still as useful now as it was then. Anyone concerned at the spin and lies that gush from our friends in the government should possess this book. An approachable and essential guide to bulls**t detection.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Jarrett on 11 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
Don't be put off by the catchy title. This engaging short book will help you to see your way through graphs and understand how to manipulate numbers appropriately - and it will do it easily, without losing you in mathematical complications. I loved this book when I first read it at school, still loved it through my maths degree, and now that I've forgotten all my maths I go back to it occasionally to refresh myself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alec Cawley on 1 May 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent resume of the ways that statistics can be used to mislead without, technically, lying. I read my copy every couple of years or so just to refresh my cynicsm. Everyone with an interest in advertisng, politics, PR should read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sphex on 18 Dec. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is still much to lament in our ruling classes, but thank goodness we are no longer led by the likes of Lord Randolph, whose epiphany with regard to the decimal point is quoted above. However low your opinion of contemporary politicians, Gordon Brown is unlikely to mistake ".34 per cent" for "34 per cent" (although our financial ruling class would probably reward themselves handsomely for being out by only a factor of a hundred). Before we congratulate ourselves too readily for our mathematical sophistication, we should reflect upon the salutary fact that Darrell Huff's classic text is as necessary today as it was when it was first published over half a century ago. It is remarkable that, despite certain figures showing their age (we might be heading back to an average wage of £1,400 but we're not quite there yet), there is nothing dated about his style. A maths book on statistics from the fifties? If this seems as appetizing as a cold spam butty during a power cut, you're in for a surprise. That decade was not entirely in black and white.

If you spotted the fast one I pulled in the first paragraph, you're either one of "the crooks" who already know these tricks or else are an honest soul who has learned them "in self-defence". Hence the title of this fantastic little book: knowing how a burglar thinks helps secure your house. Most of the time, I would pass over the phrase "average wage" without a second glance. We all know what an average is, don't we? Distant maths lessons are just that for most of us, and even if I'd dredged up the question - what kind of average? - would I have been bothered to ask it? Complacency translates into vulnerability.
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