The book under analysis is called How to Lie with the Statistics. It is written by Darrel Huff. This book is not his work first work. There were also Career Story of a Young Commercial Photographer and The Dog that Came True. However, only the book under analysis became a real bestseller. Being devoted to the topic which seems to be absolutely dull and not interesting, this book, however, turned out to be very interesting for a general reader.
It is the most popular book of the second half of the 20th century devoted to the issue connected with science and mathematics. The reason for its favor is very simple. The author managed to use some very good sources to make his book more successful. The first thing which strikes a readers eye is the books title. The author says directly that statistics lie, though scientists have been trying to assure people that they can believe the data obtained with its help.
Provocative title at once made this book very recognizable and discussed. The second source of its success is the authors style of writing. The book is written in a very simple manner for people being nonspecialists in statistics to get its main idea better. The authors style is not very complicated. He tries to present his ideas in a humorous key to making a reader more interested. Moreover, there is a great number of different examples in this book, that is why it is very easy and fascinating to read it.
The third factor of the books success is illustrations. It is rather strange to see cartoons in the book devoted to some serious question, though these pictures make this work not so dull and help to understand the content better, as almost every authors statement has clear evidence and bright illustration.
A large amount of caricatures just proves this statement, adding an element of fun to the book. The last thing which guaranteed the books overwhelming success is its content. Every chapter has its own peculiarities and can be appreciated by different people. There is no equal information as every new section of the book gives something new for a reader to be acquainted with the majority of facts, connected with statistics.
From the beginning of the book, the author says that it is devoted to the description of ways of using statistics to deceive people (Huff, 1993). The book has a clear subdivision, and it consists of ten chapters. Each chapter is a complete story, which can be read separately and its content can be understood.
The first chapter centers around the investigation of the problem of selection. The author describes its deceptive character and shows how interviewers influence the results of this selection, unconsciously changing answers of respondents. The author states the fact that there is only one way to get reliable information about some data. He gives an example of describing a barrel full of beans. If a person needs to know their quantity, he/she should just count them (Huff, 1993).
The chapter Well-Chosen Average is devoted to the authors cogitations about the arithmetic mean, median, and mode. Using different examples, the author tries to show a reader how a choice of an average number influences its value for the same selections. The author wants to show a reader the possibility of manipulating by choosing the fitting meaning of an average number.
It should be admitted, that this chapter serves as some kind of a turning point. The book grasps a reader, and it is impossible to stop reading without getting to know about some other ways of manipulation. Moreover, the clearness of examples should be underlined. The author gives a lot of evidence to support his words; however, the book is not overflowed with them and it is still easy to read this work. In a greater degree, it is determined by the fact that these evidence are very appropriate and help to understand the authors ideas better.
The chapter The Little Figures That Are Not There is the next in the list which helps the author to share his ideas. He underlines important aspects of statistic research which are often not mentioned while announcing results of this research. Moreover, the author gives some examples of manipulations with the size of the selection.
One of the examples shows how a toothpaste was tested. The group consisted of only six people. This number was not enough for reliable research. However, results were profitable for a manufacturing company. The author teaches the reader how important it is to draw attention to numbers and do not trust statistics.
In the rest of the chapters, the author continues to cogitate about using statistics for lucrative purposes. There is a great number of different thoughts which seem to be very interesting for readers. The author tells us about the method of manipulation, which is connected with graphic data.
Different ways of usage of the infographic are described. The author shows how it is possible to deceive a viewer with the help of a slight change in scale or just making some visual aids disproportionately bigger. There is a great number of different diagrams and graphs which help to understand the authors idea better.
The book ends with a very interesting chapter in which the author tries to tell a reader how to live with obtained knowledge and summarizes all the data given. He outlines that it is very easy to lie with the statistics and people should be aware of this fact.
Having read the whole book, it is possible to make some certain conclusions. First of all, it should be said that the book is not liked by statisticians (Steele, 2005) however, it still can be recommended for everyone. It is very easy to read as it is written in a clear and humorous key. The book can be easily understood by nonspecialists. A great number of different examples and evidence given is an incontestable advantage of this book.
It helps a reader to understand the main idea better. Keeping in mind peculiarities of the book, it is possible to understand why this book became so popular. Moreover, it is possible to outline four main aspects which make these book so interesting.
They are the title, the authors style of writing, the illustrations, and of course, the books content. Successfully combined these four elements, the author managed to create a real masterpiece which is still actual even nowadays. Ideas obtained from this book can help a person in his future life. With this in mind, it is possible to say that the book How to Lie with Statistics is worth reading.
Huff, D. (1993). How to Lie with Statistics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Steele, J. (2005). Darrell Huff and Fifty Years of How to Lie with Statistics. Statist. Sci. 20(3), 205-209. doi:10.1214/088342305000000205.