We all lie. We can’t help it.
It is a wide, wide, wide, wide world of fibbery out there. “It’s central to human nature,” writes Vermond in this intuitively clear survey of the good, bad, and ugly manifestations of lying. A lie is a falsity with the intent to deceive. The thing is, and this is the beauty of Vermond’s approach, there really is no gray area: we know bad lies when we speak them, and there are many kinds. There are cheating, plagiarism, forgery, and wild exaggeration, but there are also instances of lying to be kind or polite, or to be outrageous all in fun, and “most people agree that lying is justified if something terrible would happen otherwise.” (Yes, sir, Anne Frank is up in the attic.) So, clearly, not all lies are immoral or unethical, quite the opposite. Don’t rely on body language or polygraphs to out a lie, both of which are often mistaken. A society relies on trust, writes Vermond, a generalized trust, because most people are honest most of the time. Hammer’s comic-strip–style artwork aptly conveys a kind of agelessness to the proceedings, making it clear that lying is a timeless phenomenon.
Yes, sometimes lies grease the wheels—“society would collapse if we told the truth all the time,” say some experts. You wouldn’t want that to happen, so let Vermond be your guide. (Nonfiction. 10-14)