An admirable corrective to fake news and sloppy thinking.




An exploration of “why we need statistics” and how to use them effectively.

The fact that Darrell Huff’s delightful How to Lie With Statistics (1954) remains in print should convince readers that politicians, demagogues, and advertisers have never had trouble misleading us with numbers and graphs. Still, the study of statistics is widely considered boring, so popular books on the subject work hard to be entertaining; this expert primer mostly measures up. Distinguished British statistician Spiegelhalter (Statistics/Univ. of Cambridge; Sex by Numbers, 2015, etc.), a former president of the Royal Statistical Society, writes that “numbers do not speak for themselves; the context, language, and graphic design all contribute to the way communication is received. We have to acknowledge that we are telling a story.” Some statistics are meaningless—e.g., based on average, a human has one testicle. Some are unhelpful: Vegetarians earn more than meat-eaters, but avoiding meat is unlikely to boost your income. An identical statistic can tell a horror story—e.g., a drug increases the risk of lung cancer by 14%, or not, if it increases the risk from 1 to 1.14 in 1,000. Unlike Huff’s slim volume, Spiegelhalter goes beyond debunking numerical nonsense to deliver a largely mathematics-free but often formidable education on the vocabulary and techniques of statistical science. Almost everyone will understand how “median” differs from “average,” and most will grasp the meaning of a bell curve or that “deduction” (using the rules of logic to come to a conclusion, Sherlock Holmes) is the converse of “induction” (using particular events to draw a general conclusion). Despite careful explanations and a plethora of tables and graphs, readers may strain to understand concepts such as the Poisson distribution, confidence intervals, bootstrapping, or standard deviation, but their efforts will be rewarded.

An admirable corrective to fake news and sloppy thinking.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5416-1851-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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