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Lying

Written by: Sam Harris
Narrated by: Sam Harris
Length: 1 hr and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (217 ratings)

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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, November 2013 - Like most, I don't believe in lying, but I've never been opposed to the occasional white lie when I felt it was warranted. So I was pretty intrigued when I heard about this essay from Sam Harris, in which he argues that all forms of lying are inherently detrimental to our lives and relationships with others. From false encouragement to omission, Harris dismisses the notion that any kind of lie is truly harmless - often using insightful, true stories as examples. It's a short listen that is definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in psychology, human behavior, or self-improvement. I predict I'll be choosing my words wisely when I open a gift I don't love this holiday season! —Sam, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

As it was in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and Othello, so it is in life. Most forms of private vice and public evil are kindled and sustained by lies. Acts of adultery and other personal betrayals, financial fraud, government corruption - even murder and genocide - generally require an additional moral defect: a willingness to lie.

In Lying, bestselling author and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie. He focuses on "white" lies - those lies we tell for the purpose of sparing people discomfort - for these are the lies that most often tempt us. And they tend to be the only lies that good people tell while imagining that they are being good in the process.

©2013 Sam Harris (P)2013 Sam Harris

What the critics say

"This essay is quite brilliant. (I was hoping it would be, so I wouldn't have to lie.) I honestly loved it from beginning to end. Lying is the most thought-provoking read of the year." (Ricky Gervais)
"Humans have evolved to lie well, and no doubt you've seen the social lubrication at work. In many cases, we might not think of it as a true lie: perhaps a 'white' lie once in a blue moon, the omission of a sensitive detail here and there, false encouragement of others when we see no benefit in dashing someone's hopes, and the list goes on. In Lying, Sam Harris demonstrates how to benefit from being brutally - but pragmatically - honest. It's a compelling little book with a big impact." (Tim Ferriss author of the number-one New York Times best sellers The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Workweek.)
"In this brief but illuminating work, Sam Harris applies his characteristically calm and sensible logic to a subject that affects us all: the human capacity to lie. And by the book's end, Harris has compelled you to lead a better life because the benefits of telling the truth far outweigh the cost of lies - to yourself, to others, and to society." (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sam does an amazing job of explaining lies.

Awesome, start to finish. I'm not a liar now I understand why. Although I've been on the other end of many complicated lies.

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting take on a subject close to my heart

Harris doesn’t seem to explore the topic of lying in this book as deeply as he does free will in his book Free Will, but it was still well worth the listen, and gave me a lot to think about.

The only issue I have with the Audible version is the question and answer section at the end. I found it difficult to ascertain where the questions each ended and where Harris’ answers began (which I assume is more obvious in the paper version).

1 person found this helpful

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Great book, but WAY too short.

I really like Sam as a person and an author. He has excellent points, has really interesting things to say... but this book is way too thin. It leaves you on your appetite.

1 person found this helpful

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Just a little short

Probably easier to find a free copy online. It is absolutely worth listening to but you could listen to Sam Harris on a 3 hour podcast go deeper on the topic for free.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent and Challenging

A debunking of the myth that white lies "protect" those you care about and an argument that lying or "sparing the truth" causes more harm than good

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A concise look

Sam Harris in his inimitable way presents the nub of the issue clearly and succinctly. Packed with examples, this short book does a nice job in clarifying the issue that plagues us from the highest rungs of political and social life. Recommendable.

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A Fascintating (if short) Treatise

I got this book as a Daily Deal. I am glad I took a chance, but don't think it's worth a credit - all in all.
Anyone who's heard a Sam Harris podcast knows the guy is a thinker. He brings his keen observation and persuasive arguments to a discussion of the ethics/utility of lies. His topic is liberally sprinkled with illustrative anecdotes. Harris comes off as cerebral without being a know-it-all. In fact, the second half of the recording is Sam tackling reader questions, and he actually, to his undying credit, changes his stance on a couple of postulates.

Audio quality is fair at best. Harris is a good reader, but a bit monotone in the delivery of fairly dry writing.

This recording is worth 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Just OK

Started off great but this subject is to complicated to be presented in such a short format. A better read is Jordan Peterson's rule 8 and 12 rules for life

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Very thought provoking

This was a very good listen, and even though I already try to tell the truth, I'm going to try even harder now.

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great but short

enjoyed but yearned for it to go a bit deeper; interesting information but presented quite surface level

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  • Douglas
  • 2013-11-29

"Telling The Truth...

is being aware of what the truth is in any given moment..." This is perhaps the most pivotal line in Sam Harris' challenging essay on lying and truth telling. We must first be perfectly honest with ourselves before we can be honest with others. (Consider Emily Dickinson's "...we hide ourselves behind ourselves..." or a line from the sitcom "Community:" the biggest lies are told six inches from the bathroom mirror...") Then it all boils down to "do unto others." Harris very poignantly asked us how we would want people to deal with us on a daily basis. All, right, in way, we want politicians to "tell us what we want to hear," but if we go by rule one, being aware of the truth in any given moment, wouldn't we want the truth always given to us straight? Of course, where we are going to cringe is not with extramarital affairs, financial cheats and calculated harm, but rather with the everyday, work-a-day social lying. "Do I look good in this dress?..." "Does my son's behavior bother you?..." "Are you free to come to my party on Friday night?..." Harris makes a compelling argument--if one not all of us are probably going to run out and implement immediately--that the truth can be told in ALL situations, that these little social situations can be handled TACTFULLY, but that tactfully doesn't have to skirt the truth. In a writing class I teach based in Theories Of Morality, I tell this true story: One evening, I was teaching a five-hour block of college English classes, and it was 6:50, and I had not had any dinner and only a fairly sparse lunch. My only chance was to get to the student union and the commissary for a quick slice of dried out pizza before it closed at 7:00 and my next class started. I had ten minutes to cram some bad food in my mouth before pressing on to my next class, and a female student was leisurely strolling beside me, speaking to me about a personal manner of no earth-shattering import. I was trying to be polite and listen and respond appropriately, barely able to make out the words being spoken for the screams of hunger my body was giving forth. The student would not pick up the pace or pick up the silent visual cues that usually say "all right, got to get going! [we are done here]." And so, automatically, with no due calculation, I said, smiling gently and touching her on the arm, "you know, I have to hurry by the office to get some papers real quick before my next classes, can I catch you later?" With that, I darted toward Salish Hall, and then, when out of sight of the student, I made a mad dash for the union and got my pizza. At the time, I rationalized that this was simply sparing the student hearing, "getting a slice of crusty, sun-lamp desiccated veggie is more important right now than listening to you babble on!" But Harris says I was not being polite, but rather lazy. And it's true. I could have carefully and tactfully explained my situation to the student in the time it took to reroute to Salish and then back to the union. The small becomes the big after all, and we should not get too used to misrepresenting things, or, before long, we ]might take to George Costanza's immortal [immoral] advice to Jerry: "it's not a lie, if you believe it."

30 people found this helpful

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  • Kazuhiko
  • 2013-11-23

Confronting oneself

I liked the way this book made me feel a bit uncomfortable. You don't hear or read these bluntly honest opinions about the type of lies that we often consider socially acceptable (if you think about it, as the author explains, they are harmful). I did not agree with some of his arguments, but the most important thing was that this book made me re-evaluate my approach to life. I also liked the last 30 minutes where he responded to readers' questions. When there are too many books out there in which the authors stretch and repeat the same points over and over again, this to-the-point style was also refreshing.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Andrea Ivins
  • 2015-01-09

Insightful - Will Read Again

This is one that I knew I would agree with but fail to implement completely. I plan on reading many times in the future to gain the strength to change. Complete honesty in this society is tough. Loved this book.

6 people found this helpful

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  • R. Calkins
  • 2015-01-06

The truth as we don't want to see it.

I love everything Sam Harris has written. This book is no exception. I really wish I could argue with some of his ideas, but he makes such a strong case that I often have to resign myself to accept the unacceptable.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Dustin
  • 2015-01-06

Amazing

Amazing book/ essay yet again from the incomparable Sam Harris. Many of these ideas are familiar to us but Harris does what he does best and sheds light where many times there is none.

6 people found this helpful

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  • randers1925
  • 2014-05-26

Thought provoking for secular and religious alike

Where does Lying rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very interesting read. I am a Christian and I am interested in learning about viewpoints that differ from mine. I thought this might be an "attack on religion" book. But I found it to be very well written and I was challenged with some very thought provoking ideas. And Sam Harris packs a lot into a relatively short work.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Brock
  • 2013-11-19

To tell the truth (or not)

This was a really enjoyable, short reminder of the importance of telling the truth- always. Harris does a great job of explaining why he doesn't believe there's ever a good time to lie, even though it may seem like it's the best thing to do at the moment; like when a girlfriend asks if a dress makes her look fat. I know life is complicated, but I really like the straightforward way Harris makes his case that honesty really is the best policy.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Coredapple
  • 2015-01-02

The black and white truth on lying!

How ethical are white lies? Sam Harris gives us reasons where even white lies can be detrimental to us or people around us. A very insightful read. The addition of his responses to readers' questions where saying the truth might not be an easy solution, and his responses to them are very welcome. Totally recommended for aspiring politicians!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Teri Ambrose
  • 2014-01-05

Inspirational, quick read

I'm writing this review months after listening. I enjoyed the book at the time, but what has me inspired to come back and write a review is the fact that the general premise of this book has stuck with me so well. I used to routinely tell seemingly innocent lies to grease the wheels of easy social interaction. Small things, not big boldface lies. Morality totally aside, the author contends that everyone would benefit from committing to being truthful. Personally, I now find that I really enjoy the authenticity of owning and saying the truth in even the smallest of circumstances. I don't mean hurting people's feelings or anything like that. There is certainly diplomacy and kindness to consider, too. This book argues for the premise that it's just plain smart, emboldening and genuine to be an honest, straightforward truth-teller.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Benito
  • 2014-08-10

Practical and thought-stimulating

Where does Lying rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Top 5, for sure.

What did you like best about this story?

Sam Harris does an excellent job of describing why lying does much more harm than good. The example scenarios he uses are not far-fetched, nor manufactured expressly to back up his own points. After listening, I have certainly re-examined my own thinking upon this matter, which is all I can ask for from a book. His ability to waste no words in getting his point across is most impressive - the book is a little over 1-hour long!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Lying, not all it's cracked up to be.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-06-19

very good, but short

to be honest i would have liked to go more into detail. but its definitely a good book