Read this book! Presidential candidates, and anyone who expects to vote for a presidential candidate, should also read this book. Its subtitle explains the Colbertian word of the title…or does it? Oddly enough, the subtitle changed between the first (hardback) and second (paperback) editions! Originally the subtitle was The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception; now it’s How You’re Being Fooled by the Numbers. The first subtitle is better, though it might be misleading, as it could incorrectly persuade the reader that the book is about how to practice the dark arts rather than defense against the dark arts. So maybe that’s why author Charles Seife changed it to the newer and blander version.

In any case, anyone who participates in public life — basically all of us — is besieged by politicians and advertisers using and misusing numbers as they interpret data for their own purposes. Proofiness focuses primarily on statistical issues in politics, and secondarily on similar issues in advertising, in a readable and entertaining style. It doesn’t seem to please all professional statisticians, as it is light on the mathematics and heavy on the politics. But it’s an excellent book for the rest of us.

Categories: Books, Math