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First of all, if you're at all familiar with Tim Harford's writing you can be assured this book is up to his usual superlative standard: informative, accessible and entertaining. It is perhaps telling that Harford's dedication is to teachers, as How to Make the World Add Up gives us the sort of text we all wish we could have learned from as students at school or college. It makes absorbing new information and incisive commentary feel like leisure-time rather than study.
But with the recent growth in mistrust of the scientific method and the numerical data it reliably generates, the book also gives us an important lesson. Through case studies and well-reasoned argument, Harford demonstrates not just that the world can be understood with the aid of numbers, but that we must be careful of our own reaction to what those numbers tell us and the context in which they are presented.
Some elements of Harford's excellent Cautionary Tales podcast appear in the pages of this book and it is all the better for that. If we misconstrue, or worse deliberately misuse, data then unintended consequences can result in the sort of damage we would most certainly prefer to avoid. How to Make the World Add Up is a warning, a lesson - and a reassuring hug - all at once.
Tim Harford's writing is always strong: a seemingly effortless mix of brilliant anecdotes used to illustrate wider truths about human behaviour. He turns his hand confidently from economics to innovation to the way we consume numbers.
This book, however, has something extra. It has passion. It is an important book. It is a book for our times, a vital book. Tim H's commitment to truth and facts shines through these pages. He's not just revealing how we can be lied to - he's equipping us for modern life, providing a tool kit to cut through the lies and falsehoods which otherwise threaten to overwhelm you in social media, news and politics. Whatever your world view, this book will help you see things more clearly. It really is that good. And you'll have fun reading it too, thanks to Tim's polished storytelling and excellent selection of snippets from all over human History and behaviour.
Thought provoking insight into the world of mis-/dis-/un-information, told with a sense of fun and intrigue - leaving you with a different perspective and a drive to get ever more curious about the world.
A must for anyone who has firm views on the world - I hope you can find some balance afterwards.
The author recaps on those in history who have done well / not so well, elaborating as he goes, and creating a real sense of storytelling throughout. It makes the read even more enjoyable.
All of Tim Harford's books are well worth reading, but this is absolutely essential for our times as it shows you how not to be duped by misinformation. Although it's about statistics, it also conveys the passion for truth and the beauty of the world of patterns and numbers.