Sanne Blauw

The Biggest Bestseller of All Time (with This Title)

How Numbers Lead and Mislead Us

An investigation into the way numbers seduce, influence and mislead us

Numbers are everywhere – they might denote calories, work targets, statistics or the temperature outside – and while they are not as objective as they seem, figures still colour and shape our daily landscape. Econometrist and journalist Sanne Blauw penned this book for people who don’t know anything about num­bers, yet face them every day in some form or other. Unfortunately, we are inclined to take all these figures present­ed to us as true, while all too often they are misleading or simply incorrect.

All kinds of things can go wrong with numbers. Prejudices may be hidden within measurement methods, samples might not be representative and connec­tions can be made that are not actually there. And it is exactly these problems that come into play in times of big data and arti­ficial intelligence. Now that the amount of data is so large and the algorithms so precise, we need to start becoming more aware of the finer details and more in­formed of the pitfalls.

Sometimes the figures are correct, but the context is missing. Threats can suddenly appear a lot more dramatic. For example, recent research has shown that if you eat processed meat, you have a twenty percent greater chance of develop­ing bowel cancer. Western media sources immediately jumped on this. Newspaper headlines declared ‘bacon just as carcino­genic as smoking’. But anyone reading the actual research papers will discover that the chances of getting cancer if you don’t eat unprocessed meat are five percent. And if you do eat it, that probability goes up to six percent: a lot less shocking, but in the meantime panic has struck.

Sanne Blauw takes the reader on a journey through history from Florence Nightingale – who was not just a lifesaving nurse but a nineteenth-century queen of infographics – to one of the great revolu­tions of our time: the rise of algorithms, which, of course, are not as neutral as we would like to believe. With The Biggest Bestseller of All Time (with This Title) Sanne Blauw hopes to put numbers back in their place. Not on a pedestal, not in the trash, but where they belong: alongside words.

Fortunately, Blauw makes her book interesting and applicable to everyone, even if you don’t have much affinity with figures – because everyone could use a crash course in numbers.

New Scientist

Food for thought.


Although they are not as objective as they seem, figures do determine what our life looks like.

de Volkskrant


Sanne Blauw

Sanne Blauw (b. 1986) has an MSc in Econometrics and completed her PhD in 2014 with the dissertation ‘Well-to-do or Doing Well’, on income inequality, trust and happiness. But, she asked herself, can you measure happiness? This question launched her career in journalism. She became Numeracy…

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Het bestverkochte boek ooit (met deze titel). Hoe cijfers ons leiden, verleiden en misleiden (2018). Non-fiction, 208 pages.
Copies sold: 16,000

English sample translation available


De Correspondent

Weesperzijde 94
1091 EK Amsterdam


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Literary agent

Janklow & Nesbit

Mairi Friesen-Escandell
[email protected]

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