Reviews for Naked Statistics : Stripping the Dread from the Data

Book News Reviews
How does my credit card company use data on what I buy to predict if I am likely to miss a payment? Writing with a sense of humor for general readers and students who slept through their basic statistics course, Wheelan (Naked Economics) introduces statistical concepts with examples from everyday life, popular culture, and medical research on high interest topics such as the rise in autism. Coverage includes deceptive description, correlation, problems with probability, the importance of data, and common regression mistakes. Several chapters include appendices of step-by-step instructions for calculations. Wheelan teaches economics at Dartmouth College. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Choice Reviews 2013 June
Given the increasing role of statistics in various areas, many professionals find that they need to make effective decisions based on data. Clearly recognizing this need, Wheelan (Univ. of Chicago; journalist) has provided an intuitive presentation of statistical concepts without getting bogged down by extensive data lists or computation. The author begins by generally introducing each idea with an idealized situation to illustrate that statistical setting and its impact on effective interpretation, and then moves on to current real-world settings to legitimize his discussion. He also clearly discusses subtleties that can be encountered, showing how data users must be careful to avoid oversimplifying the implications of a given result. The presentation is nonthreatening, yet readers will find it a suitably thoughtful consideration of statistical ideas. Many will appreciate that Wheelan accomplishes this masterfully with a minimal number of formulas, generally relegated to footnotes. The conclusion is a capstone consideration of five disparate areas such as the recent increase in children with autism and the difficultly in assessing teacher effectiveness, which nicely pulls together his overall presentation. Valuable for nonexperts who need a firmer grasp of what statistics is all about. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates, general readers, and professionals/practitioners. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Professionals/Practitioners. N. W. Schillow formerly, Lehigh Carbon Community College Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 November #1
How to analyze "the numbers behind the news [and appreciate] the extraordinary (and growing) power of data" in today's market-driven economy. Wheelan (Public Policy/Dartmouth Coll.; 10 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said, 2012 etc.) extends the scope of his 2002 best-seller, Naked Economics, to encompass the statistical know-how necessary in making informed economic and other decisions. The author provides tools to help the nonmathematical reader develop an intuitive grasp of apparently arcane topics such as the "central limit theorem," which is used to estimate likely outcomes. Using forensic medicine as an analogy, he compares a statistician to a detective gathering information at the scene of a crime. Both are frequently involved in "building a circumstantial case based on imperfect data" and are dependent on sampling techniques. Wheelan uses a seemingly high-risk marketing campaign by Schlitz beer to illustrate the point. In 1981, the company spent $1.7 million to run a blind taste test between Schlitz and Michelob, involving 100 contestants. In fact, as Wheelan shows, it was a sure winner. While the likely outcome of a random sample would be a 50/50 split, any percentage could be framed to Schlitz's advantage. The key was in the sample. Contestants were selected on the basis of their previously expressed preference for Michelob, so that even if only 30 percent chose Schlitz, the claim that Michelob drinkers chose Schlitz was still valid. The author explains how the normal distribution works and emphasizes the importance of measuring both the mean and medium in a given study. Wheelan also explains the famous brain-teasing Monty Hall problem, which has stumped experts for years. A delightful, informative guide to an often-intimidating subject. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 August #1

How does Netflix decide which movies you would like? How are schools that cheat on standardized tests caught out? What are batting averages, after all, but statistics, statistics, statistics. The author of the best-selling Naked Economics engagingly explains a subject that has most of us yawning or quivering in our boots.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 October #2

Wheelan (Naked Economics) offers a helping hand and a humorous perspective to everyone who's ever felt confused, lied to, or just plain lost when it comes to statistics, those handy data sets used to determine everything from batting averages and trends on Wall Street to the quality of a school and which door you should pick if you're playing Let's Make a Deal. The author shows how statistics like the mean and the median are used to summarize and find patterns in large collections of data, and in later chapters he consider how statistics are used to assess large-scale economic risk and to find important connections between different sets of data, like those that allow Netflix to offer reasonable movie recommendations. Throughout, Wheelan stresses how statistics "rarely a single ‘right' " answer; indeed, when deployed carelessly or deliberately misused, they can sometimes obscure the truth. Furthermore, the author reminds readers that while data can be used to help make better decisions, "even the most precise measurements or calculations should be checked against common sense." Wheelan's relatively mathless real world examples (he sequesters equations in appendixes) and wry style--heavily seasoned with pop culture references--make for a fun and illuminating read. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Jan. 7)

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