Review of the "Naked Statistics : Stripping the Dread from the Data"

Cover of Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan

Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data written by Charles Wheelan is an 101 type of book about, you guessed it right, statistics. Charles uses simple and descriptive language to explain the most important Stats concepts such as below:

  • Descriptive Statistics;
  • Correlation;
  • Basic Probability;
  • Precision vs. Accuracy;
  • Central Limit Theorem;
  • Inference;
  • Polling;
  • Regression.

All explanations are accompanied by real life examples which makes them fairly easy to grasp. You still have to pay attention though. To make the book more interesting when no good real-life example exists to explain the concept, Charles makes up fun stories himself such as CSI: Regression Analysis which he used to explain Regression.

I also particularly enjoyed Charles' explanations not only of the basic concepts behind Statistics and how they are used, but also how they can be used incorrectly, or even worse, deliberately deceptively. Let me quote:

Although the field of statistics is rooted in mathematics, and mathematics is exact, the use of statistics to describe complex phenomena is not exact.

Take this as an example. Recently personal income tax in Illinois was raised from 3 percent to 5 percent. Democrats pointed out that tax rate increased 2 percentage points. On the other hand, Republicans shouted that tax has been raised a whooping 67 percent! Both descriptions are technically accurate. However, one represents absolute change while the other one a relative change. Parties used whichever representation was more convenient to them.

While the stories and jokes made in the book sometimes made me cringe, and other times roll my eyes, they managed to keep the book both an informative, and fairly entertaining read.

After reading Naked Statistics you will not suddenly become an expert of statistics. However, you will acquire an intuitive understanding of statistical concepts outlined in the beginning of this review. You will also get to understand the limitations of statistics and how, even when exact, it can be used to mislead people, either purposely or by accident, when an error is made. You might also develop an appreciation of statistics and want to continue learning about it.

I would mostly recommend this book to anyone who has no training in statistics but is interested in learning what's it all about. In my opinion, the reader should have some familiarity with algebra to get the most out of the book but most concepts can be grasped intuitively anyway.

Having said that, the book may also be useful to those already familiar with these concepts but who feel their knowledge is somewhat shaky. The book will help put these concepts in perspective and give you more confidence in your understanding of statistics.

All in all, entertaining and educational read about statistics and I am looking forward to reading more of this style from Naked series by Charles Wheelan.