An entertainment for numerate readers and a user-friendly introduction to statistics for beginners.



“Understanding causation is tough even with good statistics, but hopeless without them.” British economist and historian Harford crunches the numbers and finds us gullible—but corrigible.

Regarding the 1954 bestseller How To Lie With Statistics, Harford finds it overly cynical: “What does it say about statistics—and about us—that the most successful book on the subject is, from cover to cover, a warning about misinformation?” It’s a pregnant question, because of course people lie with numbers; indeed, the very author of that earlier book was pressed into service by the tobacco industry to prove that there was no link between smoking and cancer. Thankfully, notes Harford, British medical researchers worked out the smoking numbers for themselves, with the result that “doctors became the first identifiable social group in the UK to give up smoking in large numbers.” (This was years before the Surgeon General’s report in the U.S.) As the author rightly notes, there’s no reason to mistrust numbers, but we must interrogate them better, adopting the hopeful, forward vision of those researchers in the place of industry flunkies. True, there are all kinds of ways in which even the best prepared of us can overlook the truth that the numbers reveal. There’s a wishful-thinking bias called “motivated reasoning,” as well as the “powerful illusion” of “naive realism” by which we project our thinking onto the world and wonder why it doesn’t behave according to our rules. Harford also delves into “premature enumeration,” where we look at the numbers without quite understanding the questions we’re asking of them. Defending the process of polling and decrying the totalitarian habit of certain politicians to invent their own numbers, Harford lays out 10 commandments of examining statistics—e.g., ask tough questions about the data, be aware that something may be missing—along with a worthy “golden rule” : “Be curious.”

An entertainment for numerate readers and a user-friendly introduction to statistics for beginners.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08459-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.


A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.


Everyone’s favorite avuncular socialist sends up a rousing call to remake the American way of doing business.

“In the twenty-first century we can end the vicious dog-eat-dog economy in which the vast majority struggle to survive,” writes Sanders, “while a handful of billionaires have more wealth than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes.” With that statement, the author updates an argument as old as Marx and Proudhon. In a nice play on words, he condemns “the uber-capitalist system under which we live,” showing how it benefits only the slimmest slice of the few while imposing undue burdens on everyone else. Along the way, Sanders notes that resentment over this inequality was powerful fuel for the disastrous Trump administration, since the Democratic Party thoughtlessly largely abandoned underprivileged voters in favor of “wealthy campaign contributors and the ‘beautiful people.’ ” The author looks squarely at Jeff Bezos, whose company “paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018.” Indeed, writes Sanders, “Bezos is the embodiment of the extreme corporate greed that shapes our times.” Aside from a few passages putting a face to avarice, Sanders lays forth a well-reasoned platform of programs to retool the American economy for greater equity, including investment in education and taking seriously a progressive (in all senses) corporate and personal taxation system to make the rich pay their fair share. In the end, he urges, “We must stop being afraid to call out capitalism and demand fundamental change to a corrupt and rigged system.” One wonders if this firebrand of a manifesto is the opening gambit in still another Sanders run for the presidency. If it is, well, the plutocrats might want to take cover for the duration.

Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593238714

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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