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on 22 September 2007
If you think you are average, read this book! If you've ever worried about a 20% increase in the risk of getting cancer if you drink one unit of alcohol a day, read this book!

I am the least numerate person imaginable, but I couldn't put it down. Fascinating, informative, and, yes, funny in places, shocking in others, never dull, a real page-turner. I have gained a more balanced view of the numbers thrown at me day after day, and have learnt to say "What does this mean for me? what is the human scale of this?"

It is said there's no gain without pain, but that certainly doesn't apply to this book.
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on 1 October 2007
I used to have nightmares about maths exams. But this book illuminates how important numbers are in news and public policy, and how not to be caught out by them.

From reports about risks from mobile phone masts to child growth charts, Dilnot and Blastland use engaging examples to probe some of the common mistakes people often make with numbers.

Journalists frequently get stories wrong by failing to examine what a number on a press release really means. After reading this book you'll start to see the holes in many headlines. And you'll understand much more about the world.

I just recommended it to a friend who teaches A level maths for her students. It will help instil an understanding of the importance of numbers which I never had at school.
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on 30 November 2007
Stimulating reading for the generally curious. Drawing on loads of interesting real-life examples, this book gives you a simple set of questions that allow you to get behind the headlines and understand the significance of the numbers in the news. It's easy to read, well-informed and should be a Christmas bestseller.
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on 21 March 2008
This book gives a gentle introduction into the statistical background to many newsworthy topics such as speed cameras, league tables and drug testing. There are no equations and the book can be read in a couple of hours. To those who are already familiar with concepts such as regression to the mean, skewed distributions and relative risks then the content may be too lightweight. I enjoyed the book but those looking for something more substantial should try "The Lady Tasting Tea . . ." by David Salsburg. You can find out more about the topics in the book by listening to the archive of BBC Radio 4's More or Less programme (the author is the creator of that radio series). The book is certainly aimed at the UK reader.
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on 12 April 2008
All journalists, reporters, politicans and anyone who deals with numbers in the public domain should be forced to read this book before starting their career. It would lead to a much more informed debate than the one we currently get. I write as a qualified statistician (and you certainly don't need to be that to understand this book). It superbly helps the reader disentangle the huge volume of statistics and numbers that they are bombarded with on a daily basis.

The only disappointment with the book was the fact that it didn't deal with the MMR controversy, which is an outstanding example of the misuse of statistics in an area of very real concern to many parents. But it remains an excellent buy.
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on 17 December 2007
We are all fed so many statistics every day and with so many lazy or deliberately misleading conclusions attached to them! This book will help you to see why you should be sceptical about reports that waiting lists are coming down or that speed cameras cut speed. It is also a cracking read! Describing it as a "book about statistics" is enough to turn off most readers but this really is enlightening and hugely relevant to us every day. I wish news producers were required to pass their stories through these authors before frightening us or unjustifiably soothing us with their statistics based headlines
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on 26 November 2014
A brilliant book that helps lay people with no great maths ability to interpret numerical or statistical data as given by newspaper headlines. It suggests questions that you can ask that will help clear a path through the dense world of false information in order to form a sensible opinion. I do believe that you will help the democratic process and make better decisions if you go through this very easy to read book which will entertain, as well as inform you.
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on 3 January 2008
An excellent book. Not dull and boring maths but is full of interesting examples of how numbers (statistics, averages, risks, etc.) can be made to look important or frightening by politicians and journalists that, in fact, aren't. The authors give some simple guidelines as to how to think about the flood of numbers that hit us every day in the media to see if they make sense and thus whether or not we should be as concerned or as comforted as we are told that we should be.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 April 2008
This book should be compulsary reading for... well, everyone. Don't be put off by that ominous word 'numbers' on the front cover. This might be a book about numbers, but the most maths phobic of readers has nothing to fear. It's written in a clear and accessible style, full of interesting and relevant examples from every day life, most of which are easily recognisable from recent news stories. There's no actual maths involved - it's a story about how numbers are presented (spun, if you like), and misinterpreted.

In a society where we are barraged with figures and statistics, it is important for us all to know when to believe and when - and how - to question the numbers we are presented by press and politicians. This accessible little book will change the way you read and think about the news, and is an engaging and enjoyable read in itself. No interest in or understanding of maths or statistics is necessary. I would particularly highly recommend it to anyone working journalism, politics or the public sector, or who has to meet targets or is numerically assessed in their work.
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on 28 December 2007
Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot have great fun cantering through such conundrums as "is it really a big number?"; and "what does the average really mean?" In doing so they may upset those adhering to one or another sacred cow, but their purpose is less to show up schoolboy howlers (though there are plenty of them, particularly on the part of health campaigners), than to enter a reasoned plea for the informed use of figures by government, journalists and the public. An easy read with no scary formulas or the like (for some this will be a negative), providing the wherewithal for sixth-form or first-year uni students to give statistical material a sniff-test.
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