Sunday, May 26, 2013

Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data

Dread?  No.  But I've never studied statistics in a formal way, and thought "can't hurt" when I saw the book reviewed in The Economist.

Despite never having studied statistics formally, I found the book starting off a bit slowly.  For instance, the difference between mean and median - three guys in a bar have a mean income of 50,000 a year, Bill Gates walks in, and that number jumps way up, whereas the median doesn't - standard deviation, and so on.  Not complicated concepts.  The writing is clear, pleasant, and efficient though, so I breezed through it pretty quickly.

The rest of the book delves into progressively more complex bits of statistics, but always ensures that the examples are comprehensible with examples that are easy to work out in your head.

The book feels a bit weak in terms of either telling people to "not try this at home" or to "go for it!", as they seem to do neither.  I don't feel the book alone is really enough to let people attempt more complicated statistics on their own, but does a very good job giving you an idea what those terms mean, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.  If you don't have much of a background in stats or math, and are curious, I'd recommend the book.