Monday, May 4, 2009

How to Lie with Charts (original intro)

My most popular nonfiction book has been How to Lie with Charts. The first edition appeared in 1995. The book is now in its robust second edition and has been adopted for coursework at schools such as Georgetown Public Policy Institute and Empire State College.

The second edition omits the original introduction, which was not only a "reason to read" piece but also presents my satiric take on the history of computer graphics for business:

Truth is the Best Revenge
If you feel a twinge of guilt as you pick up this book, don't worry - you are among friends. I admit that the title is provocative, promising a tantalizing debasement of moral values, at least in the realm of business intercourse. But don't be ashamed that you are tempted to look behind the peepshow curtain. We have all been there, or wanted to. Make no mistake: The promise of the title is not false. In these pages can be found the potent means to work serious mischief. Call me an optimist, but I have a better opinion of your motives. I can think of several legitimate-even honorable-reasons for your wanting to know how to lie with charts, and I like to think those are the real reasons I wrote this book for you.

For the moment, then, let's assume that you're not a shameless, unprincipled liar who will stop at nothing in your frenzied scurry to the top of the heap. What is there for you here?

You may have been drawn to this book because you feel, as most of us have at one time or another, that you have been lied to. Whether you are a manager being presented with a suspiciously rosy sales forecast or an investor being enticed with a pretty addition to your portfolio, you could be easy prey for seductive chartmakers. Learning their nasty tricks is one way to even the odds, if not the score. (more)

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