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Naked Statistics

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Naked Statistics

Stripping the Dread from the Data

W.W. Norton,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Economist Charles Wheelan strips statistics to the bones so you can bypass the obfuscation and get to the facts.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Economist Charles Wheelan, author of the bestseller Naked Economics, presents statistics as more than just formulas and bell curves. His manual isn’t a textbook, but it does introduce the concepts of information literacy within the context of data analysis. By using a narrative style reminiscent of a TED talk and injecting humor into his examples, Wheelan enlightens those who are unaware of the beauty of data. His clear, approachable handbook is for the general business reader, not financiers or stock traders. It’s a seriously useful book for the number-phobic, though some readers may skim rather than devour certain large sections or even whole chapters. Wheelan makes things easier by giving several chapters their own appendixes full of detailed formulas. getAbstract recommends this light-hearted, easy read to anyone seeking greater understanding of the glories of statistics, as well as the pitfalls. It’s interesting, witty and authoritative enough to be impressive without bogging down in esoteric theory.


“What’s the Point?”

All kinds of number-based events, such as election predictions, rely on statistical analysis. You can make more-accurate personal decisions about which companies to invest in and which teams to bet on if you understand the stats.

Statistics is a handy, versatile tool – the result of people combining and analyzing different types of data and collapsing complex information into easy-to-understand numbers. Statistics serve as a guideline for measuring almost everything. People use statistics every day. The same student who calls statistics class boring happily discusses batting averages, grade-point averages and test curves – all statistical information.

In today’s information age, myriad sources produce data on topics from movie preferences to possible carcinogens. Netflix recommends movies based on the probability of a customer liking similar films. If many viewers love a movie and most of them watch a particular movie next, it’s likely that everyone who likes movie A will also like movie B; Netflix then recommends movie B to customers who like movie A.

Statistics summarize large amounts of information...

About the Author

Author, professor, political candidate and economist Charles Wheelan wrote Naked Economics.

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    W. K. 9 years ago
    Probably a useful book. Statistics are relevant to everyone and the main messages seem well explained (including examples). Some of the take-away messages are a bit of an overstatement:
    "Assume that all statistical facts and figures are subject to bias" should be rather an advice to always check potential biases in the selection, collection, processing and presentation of data. The statement "Statsitics never prove anything" can be easily falsified by the fact that official statistics sufficiently prove that the country Luxembourg has inhabitants on the 1st of January 2015 (you can also be too sceptical).