Charlie Jones once said that “you are the same today as you will be in five years, except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read. Choose both carefully”. At Research First we have always believed that critical thinking skills are essential to both thrive in business and fully participate in civic life.

If anything, those skills have become even more important given the batshit crazy world we find ourselves in today. Now, seemingly more than ever, the ability to think critically about how arguments are constructed, supported, and presented is an essential antidote to a world awash with bullshit (in Harry Frankfurt’s sense of the word__).__

Three of our favourite books for helping develop that antidote are Darrell Huff’s *How to Lie with Statistics; *John Allen Paulos’s *A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper; *and Cynthia Crossen’s *Tainted Truth. *

The first of these – *How to Lie with Statistics* – is now called ‘a classic’ but don’t let that put you off. As the entry on Wikipedia puts it, Huff’s book is “a brief, breezy, illustrated volume outlining common errors, both intentional and unintentional, associated with the interpretation of statistics”. One reason why Huff’s book is so easy to read and follow is that he was a journalist rather than a statistician. And, obviously, this book isn’t really about **how **to lie with statistics but about how to know **when **you’re being lied to with statistics. If you work with numbers and statistics (and who doesn’t?) you’ll love Huff’s book.

We’d be tempted to say ‘keep a copy handy whenever you read the newspaper if John Allen Paulos hadn’t beaten us to it with his book. *A Mathematician Reads the Newspapers *is just as ‘breezy’ as Huff’s and just as insightful. It shows how maths and numbers are central to many of the articles we read every day (Paulos takes stories that don’t seem to involve maths and – as Amazon puts it – ‘demonstrates how a lack of mathematical knowledge can hinder our understanding of them’). In the process, he demonstrates how maths and statistics are often abused in the support of bullshit and bluff.

*Tainted Truth *rounds out this collection by showing how sponsored studies have become a powerful tool of persuasion. These studies look like real science to the casual observer but they manipulate truth to reflect the intentions of their sponsors. *Tainted Truth *also shows that how an argument is presented and communicated can have a significant effect on how persuasive we find it (regardless of its real merits). One of the quotes we love in it says “everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense”. All three books here help us retain (or reclaim?) that common sense.

And, God knows, now more than ever, that’s something we all need. Check out these three books and let’s make critical thinking great again!