December Book Club Recap

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For December the News Nerd Book Club read Charles Wheelan’s Naked Statistics, his effort to help readers become more knowledgeable about statistics. Wheelan opens the book with his own story of indifference to “learning” stats in the classroom.

The book is designed to build a reader's knowledge and familiarity with statistical concepts from one chapter to the next, tackling more complex topics in later chapters. Between the “lessons," Wheelan includes anecdotes applying the concepts presented to help readers become more adept in spotting misleading inferences, perspectives and think more critically about published findings.

Naked Statistics uses both real world and hypothetical examples to illustrate statistical concepts. When the book was released, Salon offered an excerpt from the book that discusses how probability and overconfidence affected the global financial system.

Wheelan also talks about the The Monty Hall Problem, a classic illustration of probability based on a scenario in the show Let's Make a Deal. The New York Times created a simulation of this scenario you can try for yourself.

In his conclusion Wheelan poses five questions and suggests how many of the book’s methods could be applied to find solutions.

  • What is the future of football?
  • What (if anything is causing the dramatic rise in the incidence of autism?)
  • How can we identify and reward good teachers and schools?
  • What are the best tools for fighting global poverty?
  • Who gets to know what about you?

The news nerds book club discussion centered on how this book might be relevant to our work and linking it to other ideas, like those raised in November’s book selection.

Journalists might find the chapters on deceptive statistics and polling good places to start should you find this book on a recommended resource list or are looking for a quick stats primer before attending a more in-depth workshop, like the boot camp on statistics offered by Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Next Month!

Our book club hangout next month will be Wednesday, January 14 at 1 pm ET.

Help us select the book for January’s hangout by filling out this quick survey.

The three titles under consideration are:

War by Sebastian Junger

"Absorbing and original…Junger has found a novel and interesting lens through which to view the conflict in Afghanistan, and he captures many things a lesser writer might miss."
– The New York Times

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

The Design of Everyday Things is even more relevant today than it was when first published.”
– Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO

All in the Day’s Work by Ida Tarbell

"[Tarbell] achieved a career as interesting and as fruitful as any writer of her time. Now she tells about it, with characteristic and sincere modesty."
– The New York Times

You can also add suggestions to our book club reading list or tweet them to us @newsnerdbooks.