The best books on statistical insights into social issues

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught for 45 years at Ithaca College broken by two years as Fulbright Professor in West Africa at the University of Liberia. During my years in academia, I developed several new courses including a popular “Math in Africa” class and the first U.S. course for college credit in chess theory. I’ve always had a passion for and continue to have strong interests in (1) national educational and social issues concerning equal access to math education for all and (2) teaching others about the power of mathematics and statistics to help one more deeply understand social issues.


I wrote...

Barron's AP Statistics

By Martin Sternstein,

Book cover of Barron's AP Statistics

What is my book about?

While this book is intended as a statistical review for students studying for the AP Statistics exam, it also aims to give an appreciation of the power of statistics to better understand some of society’s most pressing issues. With the statistical tools described, one should reflect on the content of the examples and the empowerment that statistics gives to be aware of, to discuss, and maybe someday to help overcome some of the ills present in the broad social world in which we live. More specifically, the statistical examples in this book can help the reader understand the relationships among power, resource inequities, and uneven opportunities among different social groups and to understand explicit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, class, and gender.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Cartoon Guide to Statistics

Martin Sternstein Why did I love this book?

This book is kind of a fun crash course in statistics which covers all the basic concepts at an introductory level.

The cartoons are a little bit dated, but still entertaining. There are lots of pictures and graphs which are a pleasure if you are a visual learner. The reader will come away with many useful tools to help understand real world problems.

I’m a retired math professor, but still got a real kick out of this book and especially appreciated the many good examples referenced such as gender discrimination in salaries and racial discrimination in jury selection. I recommended it to many of my struggling students.

By Larry Gonick, Woollcott Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cartoon Guide to Statistics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Updated version featuring all new material. If you have ever looked for P-values by shopping at P mart, tried to watch the Bernoulli Trails on "People's Court," or think that the standard deviation is a criminal offense in six states, then you need The Cartoon Guide to Statistics to put you on the road to statistical literacy. The Cartoon Guide to Statistics covers all the central ideas of modern statistics: the summary and display of data, probability in gambling and medicine, random variables, Bernoulli Trails, the Central Limit Theorem, hypothesis testing, confidence interval estimation, and much more-all explained in simple,…


Book cover of Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data

Martin Sternstein Why did I love this book?

Statistics is shown to be anything but dry in this book, as using wit, intuition, and clarity, the author shows how statistical concepts relate to everyday life.

He is able to separate important ideas from overly technical details, hence the title, Naked Statistics. I took many of his approaches to heart in my teaching. Wheelan gives many examples of how using readily available data yields deep inferences about the world we live in.

By Charles Wheelan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Naked Statistics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once considered tedious, the field of statistics is rapidly evolving into a discipline Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, has actually called "sexy." From batting averages and political polls to game shows and medical research, the real-world application of statistics continues to grow by leaps and bounds. How can we catch schools that cheat on standardized tests? How does Netflix know which movies you'll like? What is causing the rising incidence of autism? As best-selling author Charles Wheelan shows us in Naked Statistics, the right data and a few well-chosen statistical tools can help us answer these questions and more.…


Book cover of How to Lie with Statistics

Martin Sternstein Why did I love this book?

In this classic book, the author gives numerous examples of how statistics is misused by the corporate world, government agencies, journalists, politicians, and even educational institutions.

While the book is somewhat lighthearted and somewhat lacking in rigor, it gives the reader a critical understanding of logical fallacies. I’ve recommended this book to math phobic friends who all tell me they came away with good awareness of when data is unreliable and how data can be exploited and misapplied to force certain conclusions.

By Darrell Huff, Irving Geis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How to Lie with Statistics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From distorted graphs and biased samples to misleading averages, there are countless statistical dodges that lend cover to anyone with an ax to grind or a product to sell. With abundant examples and illustrations, Darrell Huff's lively and engaging primer clarifies the basic principles of statistics and explains how they're used to present information in honest and not-so-honest ways. Now even more indispensable in our data-driven world than it was when first published, How to Lie with Statistics is the book that generations of readers have relied on to keep from being fooled.


Book cover of Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

Martin Sternstein Why did I love this book?

The author shows how our inability to deal rationally with data results in misinformed governmental policies, muddled personal decisions, and a heightened vulnerability to accepting baseless conclusions.

With examples from drug testing and sex discrimination to law and relative risk, and everything in between, the reader is shown how understanding numbers can improve society as a whole as well as better individual lives. I’ve handed out copies of this book to my students, friends, and academic associates.

By John Allen Paulos,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Innumeracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do even well-educated people often understand so little about maths - or take a perverse pride in not being a 'numbers person'?

In his now-classic book Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos answers questions such as: Why is following the stock market exactly like flipping a coin? How big is a trillion? How fast does human hair grow in mph? Can you calculate the chances that a party includes two people who have the same birthday? Paulos shows us that by arming yourself with some simple maths, you don't have to let numbers get the better of you.


Book cover of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Martin Sternstein Why did I love this book?

Steven Levitt, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, has written a thoughtful book at the layperson level to help one understand how mathematical and economic tools provide insights into sensitive social issues from racism to abortion.

He delves into predicting the long-term consequences of short-term decisions. This book is not intended for the college classroom, and it is controversial, but I found it to be a fascinating read.

By Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Freakonomics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The legendary bestseller that made millions look at the world in a radically different way returns in a new edition, now including an exclusive discussion between the authors and bestselling professor of psychology Angela Duckworth.

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? Which should be feared more: snakes or french fries? Why do sumo wrestlers cheat? In this groundbreaking book, leading economist Steven Levitt—Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and winner of the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark medal for the economist under 40 who has made the greatest contribution to the discipline—reveals that…


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Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

By Sima Dimitrijev, PhD, Maryann Karinch,

Book cover of Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

Sima Dimitrijev, PhD Author Of Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

My core value is realistic education—learning from each other’s errors and successes, but with full awareness of the difference between the determined past and the uncertain future. We can benefit from uncertainty, which I’ve been doing for a living as an engineer, academic researcher, and inventor. I make use of knowledge and science as much as possible, but I also know that strategic decisions for the uncertain future require skepticism and thinking to deal with the differences in a new circumstance. With my core value, I am passionate about sharing insights and knowledge that our formal education does not provide.

Sima's book list on realistic knowledge and decision making

What is my book about?

Everything in nature evolves by trial, error, and success—from fundamental physics, through evolution in biology, to how people learn, think, and decide.

This book presents a way of thinking and realistic knowledge that our formal education shuns. Stepping beyond this ignorance, the book shows how to deal with and even benefit from uncertainty by skeptical thinking, strategic decisions, and teamwork based on enlightened self-interests.

This bottom-up thinking is thought-provoking for leaders who wish to build teams rather than herds. The insights in the book will help you to be better prepared for the unexpected, less likely to conform when you…

Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

By Sima Dimitrijev, PhD, Maryann Karinch,

What is this book about?

Everything in nature evolves by trial, error, and success. They didn't teach you this in school, even though you should know why the rigid laws of physics don't rule nature and don't inhibit your free-will decisions to try, fail, and succeed. As a guide to success, this book shows how skepticism, prudent use of science, and thinking lead to strategic decisions for the uncertain future.
 
Presenting real-life examples, the thinking in the book combines sharp analyses with broad analogies to show:
 
How to identify realistic knowledge and avoid harm due to overgeneralized concepts. How to create new knowledge and solve…


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Interested in statistics, sociology, and math?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about statistics, sociology, and math.

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