‘Even one glass of wine a day raises the risk of cancer’
‘Hate crimes have doubled in five years’
‘Fizzy drinks make teenagers violent’

Every day, most of us will read or watch something in the news that is based on statistics in some way. Sometimes it’ll be obvious – ‘X people develop cancer every year’ – and sometimes less obvious – ‘How smartphones destroyed a generation’. Statistics are an immensely powerful tool for understanding the world; the best tool we have. But in the wrong hands, they can be dangerous.

This book will help you spot common mistakes and tricks that can mislead you into thinking that small numbers are big, or unimportant changes are important. It will show you how the numbers you read are made – you’ll learn about how surveys with small or biased samples can generate wrong answers, and why ice cream doesn’t cause drownings.

We are surrounded by numbers and data, and it has never been more important to separate the good from the bad, the true from the false. HOW TO READ NUMBERS is a vital guide that will help you understand when and how to trust the numbers in the news – and, just as importantly, when not to.


A charming, practical and insightful guide. You might not even notice how much you're learning - you'll be too busy having fun
A vital plea to take statistics more seriously - the prose being as clear and elegant as the numbers
An erudite, enlightening guide to the numbers we read in the news - and why they are so often wrong. The authors make sense of dense material and offer engrossing insights into sampling bias, statistical significance and the dangers of believing the casual language used in newspapers
Reading this book is strongly correlated with not looking stupid. Highly recommended
HELEN LEWIS, author of Difficult Women
Wonderfully written - incredibly readable. It should be made compulsory reading for everyone before they leave school
[A] fascinating, easy-to-read explanation of how to interpret numbers in the news . . . their enlightening book provides us with the tools to spot when we're being led astray
Nick Rennison, DAILY MAIL
A great combination of important and accessible
An excellent guide to everyday statistics . . . the authors do a splendid job of stringing words together so smartly that even difficult concepts are explained and so understood with ease. [A] timely and lively book
Manjit Kumar, THE TIMES
Brilliant . . . part of the joy of How to Read Numbers is how light and fun it is. At the end of the process, you'll be better equipped to understand what it means when a glass of red wine can both increase and decrease your chances of getting cancer, how many portions of fruit and veg you need to eat each day, and any number of stories about numbers you might read or hear
Stephen Bush, THE BIG ISSUE