big data | January 29, 2013

NYT: Charles Wheelan's Naked Statistics Is "Intensely Readable"

Naked Statistics, the newest book by Charles Wheelan, was written to make statistical analysis relevant to everyday life. And, according to a glowing review in The New York Times, it has succeeded in doing just that. Not only is Wheelan's writing applicable to counting cards and betting on sports outcomes, but it's also a crucial read for making statistically sound bets about your health. Even though it's not specifically about medicine, The Times calls it the most important health book of the year. Why? Because staying healthy has everything to do with risk and probability—something that Wheelan writes about with sparkling clarity and "intense readability".

The review attributes the book's page-turning nature to "Mr. Wheelan’s fluent style—a natural comedian, he is truly the Dave Barry of the coin toss set." It also cites his numerous real world examples as a key proponent in convincing even the biggest "mathphobe" about the value of statistical knowledge. The book is a "happy amalgam" of a textbook and an essay that not only reminds you about median and mean, but teaches you why you should care about the difference between the two. Understanding reports that tell you what diets work best, and understanding the average survival rates for cancer patients comes from knowing how data was collected, and learning how to analyze it. Wheelan provides the reader with the tools needed to dissect these reports and understand how to make the most well-informed decisions about their health—and other life choices—that they can.

This is also the strategy he employs in his keynotes. Drawing material from current trends in economics, finance, and public policy, Wheelan helps audiences make sense of the numbers that define their lives. Similar to the style presented in his books Naked Economics and Naked Statistics, he is able to strip numbers down to make the material directly applicable to his audience. He also writes a column for Yahoo! called "Naked Economics" and is a regular contributor to NPR.

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innovation | January 28, 2013