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my journal
May 2016

The Bellinghman
Date: 2008-10-13 09:11
Subject: #295 Darrell Huff: How to Lie with Statistics
Security: Public
Tags:books, reviews
Darrell Huff: How to Lie with Statistics

Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (12 Dec 1991)
ISBN-10: 0140136290
ISBN-13: 978-0140136296
Category(ies): Statistics

Originally released back in 1954, this is a wonderful slim book. Its title, 'How to lie ...' is, of course, tongue in cheek. It's really how to spot lies. The problem has been there for a very long time now: it was Disraeli who said 'There are three types of lie: lies, damned lies, and statistics'. The third category exists, as does this book, because although statistics are supposed to reveal the truth, all too often, whether by malice or carelessness, they do exactly the opposite. The short, clear chapters cover these different sorts of lies, and more than once I called out 'Yes!' when I saw one of my particular bugbears being mentioned.

(My personal greatest complaint: when the bottom part of a graph is cut off, making the wiggle at the top look so much more by proportion.)

This is an easy book to understand, and if everyone had read it, advertisers and politicians would have to be so much more honest.
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Nik Whitehead
User: sharikkamur
Date: 2008-10-13 08:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's one of those books that I really ought to get around to reading - particularly since I teach a course in Data Visualisation which I subtitle How To Lie With Pictures.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2008-10-13 08:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's light enough reading, both in thickness and in style, that it won't actually take very long. If you actually have access to a copy, put aside half an hour and read the first chapter.

I predict you'll read the rest in no time.

If you're presenting your own course, then both the style, and the particular chapter on 'one dimensional pictures' should make it required reading.
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User: vatine
Date: 2008-10-13 11:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It is a most excellent book. Well, at least the Swedish translation from the 50s is, but I don't feel that extrapolating this to the original would be a dangerous extrapolation.

It is said that one of the few books that actually gained something in translation from English to Swedish is/was "Gödel, Escher, Bach - ett evigt gyllene band" (one dialogue, if memory serves me right, to make clear why the Tortoise was albelled as T as a short form (as the chaarcter is named "sköldpaddan" in the Swedish translation).
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