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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data

This book was recommended to me a while ago, and I just got around to getting it from the library this Fall. I loved it so much I bought it so I could highlight and take notes in it. Either I'm a super big nerd or it's a super great book. Maybe both? This is Charles Wheelan's Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data.

Statisticians are not exactly known for their ability to break down their work for the common man, or even to be clear and concise. Trust me -- I know this well. This is why it took an economist to explain some rather complicated points to a general audience. I have yet to find a statistics text book that explains things in a way that I, a non-statistician but someone who does statistics, can understand. I tutor AP Stats, and once we get past the normal curve things get weird. It's just not in most scholars' wheelhouses to be able to explain things to people who don't get them.

So along comes Wheelan, who explains things like the normal curve and regression and probability in ways that I not only got, but I loved. The last semester I took classes for my doctorate, I had an amazing stats class taught by a sociology professor who used econometrics (a specific type of statistics), and my mind was blown. It reminded me of why I loved stats in the first place, and this book reminded me of that class.

I decided to go into this book reading it as though I knew nothing at all about statistics. I found myself constantly highlighting basic definitions and focusing on things I already knew but that were explained so simply and so clearly. Wheelan does a phenomenal job of making these concepts clear and fun (and yes, even sometimes funny) so that the reader, that would be me, can stay engaged and interested. Normally this stuff would put you (read: me) to sleep, but Wheelan does it in such an engaging way that I have been recommending this book to everyone I know who even comes close to needing stats.

This book is one I will turn to if I ever have to teach a stats class. I can absolutely see myself assigning the book, and I find myself actually looking forward to that. After 7 semesters of stats work in my graduate career, I walk away with a book that was never assigned but must always remain a part of my repertoire. 

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