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Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data [Kindle Edition]

Charles Wheelan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (198 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Brilliant, funny . . . the best math teacher you never had.”—San Francisco Chronicle


Once considered tedious, the field of statistics is rapidly evolving into a discipline Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, has actually called “sexy.” From batting averages and political polls to game shows and medical research, the real-world application of statistics continues to grow by leaps and bounds. How can we catch schools that cheat on standardized tests? How does Netflix know which movies you’ll like? What is causing the rising incidence of autism? As best-selling author Charles Wheelan shows us in Naked Statistics, the right data and a few well-chosen statistical tools can help us answer these questions and more.

For those who slept through Stats 101, this book is a lifesaver. Wheelan strips away the arcane and technical details and focuses on the underlying intuition that drives statistical analysis. He clarifies key concepts such as inference, correlation, and regression analysis, reveals how biased or careless parties can manipulate or misrepresent data, and shows us how brilliant and creative researchers are exploiting the valuable data from natural experiments to tackle thorny questions.


And in Wheelan’s trademark style, there’s not a dull page in sight. You’ll encounter clever Schlitz Beer marketers leveraging basic probability, an International Sausage Festival illuminating the tenets of the central limit theorem, and a head-scratching choice from the famous game show Let’s Make a Deal—and you’ll come away with insights each time. With the wit, accessibility, and sheer fun that turned Naked Economics into a bestseller, Wheelan defies the odds yet again by bringing another essential, formerly unglamorous discipline to life.



Editorial Reviews

Review

“While a great measure of the book’s appeal comes from Mr. Wheelan’s fluent style—a natural comedian, he is truly the Dave Barry of the coin toss set—the rest comes from his multiple real world examples illustrating exactly why even the most reluctant mathophobe is well advised to achieve a personal understanding of the statistical underpinnings of life.” (New York Times)

“The best math teacher you never had. [Naked Statistics] is filled with practical lessons, like how to judge the validity of polls, why you should never buy a lottery ticket, and how to keep an eye out for red flags in public statements.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Naked Statistics is an apt title. Charles Wheelan strips away the superfluous outer garments and exposes the underlying beauty of the subject in a way that everyone can appreciate.” (Hal Varian, chief economist at Google)

“I cannot stress enough the importance of Americans’ need to understand statistics—the basis for a great deal of what we hear and read these days—and I cannot stress enough the value of Wheelan’s book in giving readers an approachable avenue to understanding statistics. Almost anyone interested in sports, politics, business, and the myriad of other areas in which statistics rule the roost today will benefit from this highly readable, on-target, and important book.” (Frank Newport, Gallup editor-in-chief)

“A fun, engaging book that shows why statistics is a vital tool for anyone who wants to understand the modern world.” (Jacob J. Goldstein, "Planet Money" on NPR)

“Are you one of those who dread statistics? Fear no more. Charles Wheelan’s Naked Statistics explains the intuition behind the various statistical concepts we use in an easy and accessible way.” (Raghuram Rajan, author of Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy)

“Two phrases you don’t often see together: ‘statistics primer’ and ‘rollicking good time.’ Until Charlie Wheelan got to it, that is. This book explains the way statistical ideas can help you understand much of everyday life.” (Austan Goolsbee, professor of economics at the University of Chicago and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers)

About the Author

Charles Wheelan is the author of the internationally best-selling Naked Economics and Naked Statistics and a former correspondent for The Economist, and founder of The Centrist Party. He teaches public policy and economics at Dartmouth College and lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his family.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1470 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (December 31, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039334777X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393347777
  • ASIN: B007Q6XLF2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,538 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 119 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Yes, there are lots of "dear reader" type comments throughout the book. Yes, the examples and references are drawn from up-to-the-minute pop culture. And, yes, if you don't know very much about statistics and probability you can learn fairly "painlessly" in this book.

One drawback: you really, really need to read the entire book from start to finish to really understand all of the concepts. This is not a reference book in which you can "jump around" or just go to the parts you have questions about.

It's like being given a prescription for antibiotics; you really need to read every chapter in the book, to "take it all." Concepts build on previous chapters, up to the final chapter. Don't stop or you will miss out!

On the other hand, this is not a book for someone who wants to quickly, at-a-glance understand probability or who wants to get a solid definition of any statistical concept, such as confidence level or regression analysis. It is not specifically a reference book.

I confess, my prejudice is for more concise information without all the "fluff." On the other hand, I work with opinion survey statistics almost every day of my worklife, so I don't need to be lured in with tales of baseball (in which I have no interest) or discussions of what's behind the doors in Let's Make a Deal. (In fact, I have never, ever seen that show.)

However, if you are in business or education or health care and don't have a complete grasp of statistics, I recommend you read this book. If you want to better understand whether you should buy a lottery ticket or buy insurance and you don't understand probability theory, I recommend this book to you.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Useful - January 9, 2013
Format:Hardcover
Statistics are everywhere; the author's intent is to make them interesting while simplifying the topic. He begins by explaining the mean, how the median is less influenced by outliers, standard deviation (spread), how the weighting of index components affects results, correlation vs. causation, inflation-adjustment, specificity vs. accuracy, the importanace of using the appropriate unit of analysis (eg. people, instead of nations when analyzing the benefits of globalization), statistical vs. operational significance, and how performance data is sometimes manipulated (eg. reclassifying dropouts as something else, holding back students, not operating on the most seriously ill to reduce death rates).

One of the most interesting segments was that explaining the reasoning and high certainty of looking good on blind taste tests using those who previously preferred a competitor's offering (eg. Coke vs. Pepsi, some beers) when there's little discernible difference between the two products. Another was his simple explanation of how random occurrences such as coin flips can make one look superior at the end of a series of selecting those getting heads - when there obviously was no difference; similarly often in eg. mutual fund performance, etc. Still another - pointing out the erroneous possibilities of claiming a DNA match when done on 9 loci (a common method) - supposedly only 1 in 113 billion, vs. the reality of thousands within a single database.

Expected values are another important topic addressed - eg. point-after-touchdown expected results vs. two-point conversions; never buy a lottery ticket or expect to come out ahead (on average) buying product insurance.

Testing for disease doesn't always make sense.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book on Statistics for the Non-Expert January 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover
This is a really good book that does exactly what it says - stripping the dread from the data. The author's purpose is to explain basic statistical concepts to the intelligent layman without too much math. In my opinion he succeeds beautifully.

He writes with quite a sense of humor and uses examples that most people should be familiar with. I really enjoyed this book but I'm interested in means, medians, standard deviations, regression analysis, etc. My wife would be bored stiff reading this book. So even though it is written for the non-expert, you have to have SOME interest in what statistics are all about or you are not going to like this book.

The first chapter is titled "What's the Point?". This chapter explains why we should all care and understand what follows in the book. Fortunately you can see about 1/2 that chapter in Amazon's excellent "Search Inside" feature which is available for this book. I highly recommend you read it. Unfortunately some of the best parts of that chapter are not available.

In any case I highly recommend this book for anyone even remotely interested in understanding statistics. It is invaluable in the modern data-driven world. Well done!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
It was worth the price of the book for this alone. All these years I have read and listened to various explanations of the Monty Hall problem, in which a contestant is given the choice of what is behind one of three doors. Behind two doors there are goats, behind one door there's a new car. The contestant chooses Door #1 and Monty Hall, the host of the game show, opens Door #2, revealing a goat. Then he asks the contestant if she wants to change her choice. The intuitive answer is that it makes no difference, but the correct answer is that she should switch. I could never understand why, but author Charles Wheelan has finally convinced me once and for all.

The rest of the book is also good, although I could do without the many sports examples, which were not enlightening since they required knowing (and caring) more about sports than I do. (What is a passer rating, anyway?)

Wheelan explains concepts clearly and tells why statistics and probability matter. So even, if like Wheelan, you never warmed to calculus, you can still exercise your math muscles and decide for yourself whether the latest poll or alarming statistic is credible or just another goat behind the door.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars in an easy to follow narrative
solid explanation of statistic fundamentals, in an easy to follow narrative.
Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Primer
if you took stats in college. this book isn't for you. but if you forgot most of that or never took stats this book is for you, especially if you car about the data collected on... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Derek Andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars good sprint through statistics, easy to read
Christopher Whelan successfully prompts you to follow up on the subject. Even for someone who is familiar, this is a good refresher and provides easy ways to remember key... Read more
Published 3 days ago by KP
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great job by Wheelan at making the difficult accessible.
As with Naked Economics, Charles Wheelan has has done a great job of making a difficult topic accessible. Read more
Published 12 days ago by bronx book nerd
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommend for reiteration
Worth the money. Recommend for reiteration, and more reiteration, of the basics for stats. Helpful illustrations.
Published 12 days ago by Michael McCaleb
5.0 out of 5 stars Such book, much amaze.
Funny and informative page-turner. Buy it, read it, and open your eyes to the mind breaking world of statistics. An absolute essential.
Published 13 days ago by O.A.
4.0 out of 5 stars How to Not Kill People with Statistics
Charles Wheelan's Naked Statistics is an insightful book laced with college-style humor as indicated by the soft porn book cover. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Allison Hartsoe
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Reads like it wasn't edited
Published 27 days ago by Lucas Myerson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Delivery and performance was as expected.
Published 1 month ago by jdmac
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
great book...Another way to look at statistics..
Published 1 month ago by Mz^Ree
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More About the Author

Former correspondent for The Economist, current columnist for Yahoo!, and professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, Charles Wheelan lives in Chicago with his family.

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