Blauw is impeccably clear, and only once had me scratching my head with her explanation of the “p-value”, the statistical measure of the importance of a correlation. (I had to look up other sources, and I’m still not sure I get it so maybe it wasn’t her fault.)
And don’t be put off by the rather flat title. The original Dutch edition was called The Biggest Bestseller Ever (With This Title), a joke that gives a better idea of what to expect from this playful, provocative book.
In such a brief survey, some of her topics inevitably beg for deeper treatment: the discussion of p-hacking (a way of massaging numbers to make something look significant) in scientific research, for example, is explained at more satisfying length in George Zaidan’s excellent recent book, Ingredients. But the digestibility of Blauw’s offering is also a public virtue in itself, if it encourages more people to read it and immunise themselves against the virality of numerical disinformation.
This is a valuable short book. For those who aren’t very statistically minded it is a simple introductory guide on how to avoid pitfalls when using data. Those who know a bit more will find many of the arguments familiar, but they are well marshalled, with good stories. And you can never read the points Blauw makes too often.