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How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information
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How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  35 reviews
A leading data visualization expert explores the negative—and positive—influences that charts have on our perception of truth.

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if we don’t understand what we’re looking at? Social media has made charts, infographics, and diagrams ubiquitous—and easier to share than ever. While such visualizations can better
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I won this in a Goodreads giveaways. It’s a fun and easy to read book
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: statistics
I found the examples and principles useful. In particular, the discussion about when it is important to start the vertical axis at zero (basically when the graphic conveys information through the length of its elements, as in a bar graph; also, zero has to be a meaningful value for the units used) and when it is not necessarily valuable (as in a scatter plot, where the information is encoded by position not length) was most helpful.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fine introduction to data visualization that provides good examples from recent politics and topics that tend to become partisan quickly, such as immigration, climate change, crime, economics, and global demographics. The focus is not that of a textbook but more of a book that provides examples of good and bad charts and then shows how such charts can arise and how they can mislead. What is especially useful about the book is its focus on constructing quality charts and assuming good ...more
Deniz Cem Önduygu
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book covering many practical and theoretical layers of data/information visualization and journalism. The dozens of examples come from a wide variety of topics like US elections, global development, climate change, movie industry, hurricanes, public health, evolutionary history, among others, all presented within a nice editorial design using a spot color for charts which makes for a sweet visual experience throughout. Yes, you learn a lot about how you should read/design charts and what ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book, library
Data and charts often are seen as the ultimate proof in any conversation. But as Cairo writes in this book, visualization can be used - purposely or not - in misleading ways. Documenting a number of examples and showing better ways to communicate with data, Cairo does a good job giving readers skills to understand and question visualizations. Ultimately, he writes, charts can be valuable if the right conditions are met, they should enhance conversation and invite new questions, and the chart ...more
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounding up for succinctness. Very insightful! I think more than ever when we see charts coming our way every way we turn, it's time we educate ourselves about how to read graphs accurately, and how to spot information that should make us wary. The first 2 chapters might be too elementary for some folks - how charts are built (legends, titles, axis, etc) and how charts lie with dubious data (like not starting at 0 for y-axis) but the rest of the chapters were fascinating. I learned ...more
Good information: advise against the audiobook unless you have a print copy to reference the charts. Makes you wonder why there's an audiobook version of an explanation of a visual medium, really.
Robert Kosara
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: paper, visualization
Good book, everyone should read it. More detailed review on my blog soon ...more
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A lot recast from other books, but it's clear, readable, has good examples, and a great explanation of the ecological fallacy.
Antoine Letarte
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Being a math teacher, books about charts and statistics are always appealing to me. They help me make my lessons clearer and inspire me to help my students developping their critical thinking. New examples, new approaches are always welcomed.

What about this one? It was short and sweet. In a good way and a bad way. On the good side, it was very well written. Examples are good, explanations clear, argument well structured; it gets to the essential in a very efficient way. A fast read. On the less
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, giveaways
I received a copy of this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway.

I really liked this book. While it is easy to see it's value considering the present state of the U.S. union, I was glad to read a rather balanced treatment of the situation. The style of presentation isn't pretentious in any way, quite simple and clear in a manner that makes it easy for regular people to absorb the key points of the book. Its usefulness extends beyond politics, obviously. Hopefully, enough people get to read this
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Graphic literacy should be taught repeatedly. Some takeaways: Humans hold themselves in high regard and feel threatened by anything that may hurt their self-image. Therefore we minimize threatening dissonance by rationalizing our behavior. If later presented with evidence that contradicts our beliefs, we're less likely to accept it and change our minds (confirmation bias and motivational reasoning.) The first notice data that fits with our beliefs; the second to scrutinize ideas more carefully ...more
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wasn't thrilled with this book initially. It starts with very basic information about the components of graphs and how to read them, which left me wondering who the target audience is. It would have to be someone academically-minded enough to read an entire book about data visualization, but academically inexperienced enough to need a "graphs 101" introduction, e.g. explaining what chart labels mean... and that you should read them...

I'm still not convinced that most people who would read this
Eric Sullenberger
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
the biggest problem that I have with this book is its title. I would blame the title on the publisher for sensationalizing things if it weren't for the fact that the author used the word lie in association with charts over and over again in the book. He draws his inspiration from other similar works one is the classic book how to lie with maps, but how to lie and the implication that they do lie are two very different things. It seems that he ignores the premise of the book that charts have to ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I got this book for my role at work as the Data Literacy Program lead, and I absolutely loved it! Alberto Cairo does an excellent job of engaging you on a topic that can be fairly dry in the hands of less talented storytellers. I learned a lot from Stephen Few's data visualization books, but I learned a lot AND had a blast along the way with How Charts Lie. I found myself grabbing my phone to take notes on things that I wanted to add to my curriculum for the Data Literacy program throughout my ...more
As always, with Alberto Cairo, you get an entertaining, insightful, clearly-written book on the basics of data visualization, and the pitfalls that readers can encounter with charts. The stated goal is to develop the reader's graphical literary or graphicacy (a close cousin to numerical literacy and information literacy). In that goal, I would argue that book is very successful. It can be put in the hands of anyone as it is very accessible, with a lot of both serious and fun examples. In the era ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, nook
Cairo’s book is educational and thought-provoking. In a world filled with charts, there is value in learning how to improve our “graphicacy”. Question where the data in the chart comes from. Question the time scale. Question whether the chart shows a correlation or causation (most are the former). Essentially question what’s behind the chart and what the chart’s producer may be trying to convey.

Tyler Vigen maintains a website called Spurious Correlations. Here’s one that’s fun: the number of
Mohamed Gheis
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book points to the rampant deficiency in data reasoning skills, associated with the explosion of graphic presentation of data to everyone and on every level. The book calls for fostering graphicacy, a term first introduced in the 1950s, to denote a form of literacy-focused on graphics.
Cairo gives many many examples of how graphic representation can lead to misinterpretations, including how dubious arithmetic and charts have led to lethal sequences. He points to the many extraordinary
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you liked Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, then you will like How Charts Lie even more.

The chapters are divided into easily digestible patterns. Although it is important information, it is written with everyday examples. This book should be required reading for college students or even high school students. I love how it enables us to digest scientific information so we can make decisions for ourselves especially
Stephanie Jones
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly engaging book about visual information, and informative as well. I feel like I better understand how to gain real information from a chart, know the limits of the information I have gained, and spot common ways that charts try to trick you (either intentionally or unintentionally). The examples are highly timely and relevant to important issues at hand: politics, weather events, etc. I genuinely enjoyed examining the charts and the fantastic commentary.
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found the contents of this book to be highly relevant to the current age of misinformation and fake news that we live in. With the use of easy-to-read example charts, it demonstrates why we need to look closely and think critically when presented with visual data shared on social media. The examples are all current and relevant, so How Charts Lies is both informative and enjoyable to read

I received an ARC of this book through a goodreads giveaway.

Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Basic summary- I like "Field Guide of Lies" better. A very short and fast read, Cairo discusses charts and how people should review them. His writing style is accessible but a desire to avoid math made it too generalized in stretches. (His whole argument about Dylan Roof was about Bayesian Theorem and yet he avoided getting into the math while upbraiding the columnist and his statistics.) The result was not a book-level amount of content and the nibble was ultimately not that satisfying.
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is meant for beginners in the data and statistics world. So I was not the target audience, but with that in mind I found it enlightening, fun and engaging. Alberto Cairo is a great writer and teacher, you can hear him talking through the page which is kind of weird in nonfiction books.

I would recommend this book for people that want to get a better understanding of the statistics and data visualizations that sorrounds us.
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, business
I recommend everyone read this book or something similar to be able to better understand and interpret the charts and visual information we see every day. Cairo does a great job breaking it down in accessible language with lots of examples. I would say this is a pretty easy read but very valuable. Recommend.
John Pyrce
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written overview of visual display of information with an emphasis on how to accurately use and interpret charts. Doesn't really break much new ground, but a good overview for the uninitiated. Recommended.
Camille Pum
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I won this book in the giveaway! How Charts Lie taught me more than I thought I could learn about different kinds of visual information and what is really going on.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A thorough yet succinct overview of how to properly encode charts and look out for various ways in which people try to deceive using them
Dec 16, 2019 rated it liked it
A good explanation of statistics for people not familiar with stats.
Alex Clark
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Fairly basic information but probably good for people less experienced with data visualization
Shimona Hirchberg
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
really liked how clear it was and easy to read and understand. charts and data viz in plain language
highly recommend
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Alberto Cairo is the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the School of Communication of the University of Miami. The author of several textbooks, he consults with companies and institutions like Google and the Congressional Budget Office on visualizations. He lives in Miami, Florida.
“Chart design, like writing, is as much a science as it is an art.” 0 likes
“In the same way that we shouldn’t automatically believe a chart before reading it carefully, neither should we rush to call a chart a lie before we think about what it was designed for.” 0 likes
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