Book Reviews

Book Review: Lines, Bars and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs by Helaine Becker

**I received a free ebook version of this book from NetGalley for writing an honest review of my own. This post also contains an affiliate link where if you click on and purchase, I’ll receive a few pennies from your purchase from This helps the running of this blog, so thank you!**

Oh that my boys were young again! This book makes me long for the days when we curled around a book just like this and absorbed the adorable illustrations while learning some fascinating historical information.  Even though my teens are too old for read-aloud times (as they have their own books they’re reading), like me, they would still learn some neat information about the origins of line graphs, bar graphs, and pie graphs.  Anyone who knows me knows..I’m not a “math” person nor a “science” person yet I was drawn to Lines, Bars, and Circles because it made the normally boring idea (to me, anyway) of the invention of infographics appealing.

Long before the various types of “learning” styles were discovered, William Playfair created the first line graphs, bar graphs and circle (later known as pie) graphs in the late 1780s and early 1800s as a way to visualize information for clarity. He found a way to make numbers and data more easily understood by all yet the scientific community rejected his inventions. We haven’t heard of William Playfair, sadly, because of his business dealings, finances, and reputation, overall, hurt his chances of being taken seriously. The author respectfully explains how his choices made for his ideas being rejected well. It would be another 100 years before William’s inventions of the line graph, bar graph, and pie graph would be rediscovered, appreciated and used.

It’s funny to think that something so commonplace in our educational system, our business world and, truthfully, most aspects of our life was seen as a “distraction” and not a serious way to disseminate information.  Thanks to the Internet, we have access to all kinds of great infographics (which I love!)…and all thanks to William Playfair!

Educators and parents alike will want to add this book to their collection. The story is well told, even providing boxes with “backstory” information or definitions, to expand the child’s understanding and the illustrations are warm and friendly making this one an engaging read.

Lines, Bars and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs releases April 4.  You can pre-order your copy here –




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