Dan Ariely's latest book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, explores the human impulse to lie and cheat.
Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud (Liveright, $19). A list of the best books related to human nature, lying, and cheating would be nowhere without Freud and the explanatory power of rationalization.
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome (Dover, $6). My abiding love for this particular book has to do with many things — its comical style has aged well these last 100-plus years. Moreover, Jerome nicely captures our tendency toward dishonesty; we're all a little dishonest, but only as dishonest as we can justify to ourselves.
White Coat, Black Hat by Carl Elliott (Beacon, $16). Conflicts of interest, which can be found everywhere, underlie a lot of unintentionally dishonest behavior. This book takes a long look at the ways such conflicts bedevil medicine and inflict hidden costs on patients and society.
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (Anchor, $16). A monument of embellishment, this highly fictionalized account of Frey's life offers a fresh take on the stories we tell about ourselves. Frey shows us that people don't just lie to make themselves look better. Where most people would elide events, he makes them more violent and grotesque. Of course, he had a whole lot to gain from doing so.
How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff (Norton, $12). I think it's important to acknowledge that the scientific process, though we often look to it as revealing the truth about the things around us, is also full of problems. Duff sets about showing, in highly comedic fashion, how to skew a sample population, alter graphs to belie findings, disguise the actual nature of a claim, and so on.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Dover, $1.50). Huck begins his narrative with the nature of lying and authorship: “There was things which [Mark Twain] stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another.” We can learn a lot watching Huck navigate the tricky nature of truth and deception as he navigates the Mississippi, which is, incidentally, an adventure he inaugurates by faking his own death.
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