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The fact-checker’s guide to great holiday reads

Here’s how to make better sense of the world, on the beach. We share our top picks of books and podcasts.

Reading is relaxation – as is listening to a good podcast. And if you’re passionate about facts, you’re probably looking for material that satisfies the curious mind. 

We’ve got you covered. Our researchers share some of their favourite print and audio for your holiday chill list. 


By Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling RönnlunFactfulness

Is the world getting worse? Factfulness takes readers on a data journey – the data mainly from the United Nations – in a fact-based path tracking humanity’s progress since the 1800s.

Hans Rosling was a professor of international health and a public educator. He got the idea for the book after noticing that many of his students tended to be more negative about the state of the world than the data said they should be. 

Rosling died from cancer in 2017, shortly after finishing the book.

Factfulness aims to help us develop a fact-based worldview. It doesn’t ignore all the terrible things that are happening, but it does document improvements, supported by data. In this way, it helps us navigate reality beyond the extremes often reported in the media. 

“Stories of opposites are engaging and provocative … but they rarely help understanding,” the authors say.

“There will always be the richest and the poorest, there will always be the worst regimes and the best but the fact is that between these extremes, is where the majority of the world actually is. In the middle, living ordinary lives – likely right where you and I are.”

You can see the infographics and data visualisations the authors use to demonstrate this at Gapminder, a website that identifies misconceptions about important global trends and uses reliable data to help people understand them better. – Geruza Bumba

Investigative Aesthetics

By Matthew Fuller and Eyal WeizmanInvestigativeAesthetics

Investigative Aesthetics explores the philosophy of Forensic Architecture, a research unit at Goldsmiths University of London that publishes consistently inspiring multidisciplinary investigations. Its coverage ranges from international spyware scandals to a century-old genocide in Africa.

The authors consider how the idea of “investigation” has evolved alongside technology. They challenge readers to think about evidence in new ways. The book makes the case for combining disciplines such as performance, computer science, biology and journalism to unearth and share stories that might otherwise be overlooked or drowned out.

The book is a fascinating examination of how knowledge is produced and a must-read for anyone interested in journalism and media.

Investigative Aesthetics will change the way you think. – Keegan Leech

Anti Fake News

By Jean-Bernard Schmidt and Thomas HuchonAntiFakeNews

One of my favourite books about fact-checking is Anti Fake News : le livre indispensable pour démêler le vrai du faux. That’s French for Anti Fake News: the essential book to disentangle the truth from falsehood.

The book covers the advent of misinformation, disinformation and even malinformation in traditional and new media.

I particularly enjoyed the authors’ emphasis on why it’s important that anyone fighting misinformation (including fact-checking organisations) should be aware of their own confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information so it fits our existing beliefs. And it’s one of the key drivers of misinformation around the world.

The book examines how the more a person develops their critical mind, the more they are inoculated against fake news. This breaks the chain of misinformation. – Dieynaba Thiombane

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

By Stephen KingOnWriting

A book that’s helped me with my writing is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

King explains that whether you are writing a fantasy novel or an academic paper, you need to grasp the art of storytelling to make your text interesting and impactful. 

Africa Check is in the business of facts. But we need to share accurate information in a way that is both interesting and impactful. We need to tell a good story. I believe this is achieved through practice and reading. In King’s words: “The Prime Rule: write a lot and read a lot.” – Taryn Khourie

The Verification Handbook

By various contributors Verification

Authored by several journalists, the Verification Handbook provides step by step guidelines on how to tell fact from fiction.

It has helped me understand why false news is spread, shown me techniques and given me useful tools to trace its origins. More importantly, it helps explain why so many people believe false news.

The handbook is available in over seven languages. And it’s particularly handy for fact-checkers wanting to develop their digital verification skills. 

Aidan White, the founder of the Ethical Journalism Network, had this to say about the handbook: “Getting the facts right is a cardinal principle of journalism but media struggle to be ethical when a big story is breaking. This handbook helps news makers keep faith with truth-telling – even when online speculation is rampant.” – Ass Momar Lo

Good listening 

After the books, here are some podcasts worth a listen.

We Were Three is a three-part podcast available on Spotify and produced by Serial Productions and the New York Times.  

It tells the story of a family living in the USA who suffered great loss during the Covid-19 pandemic, largely due to misinformation about treatment and vaccination. It is a prime example of the real life dangers of misinformation. 

Science in Africa: tackling mistrust and misinformation is a must-listen episode from the Nature Careers podcast series. It tackles science mistrust, with a focus on Africa. 

Misinformation on the continent is often rooted in local belief systems, religion, and other possibly misplaced confidence in authorities. Guests unpack examples of how these factors have created barriers to science research. They also explain how scientists are using creative means, such as art and artistic performance, to educate communities. – Grace Gichuhi

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