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New book gift ideas for analytical friends and family


Need holiday gift ideas for the quantitative-minded people in your life -- or need a good read for yourself?

Having polled some of my erudite friends and colleagues as well as having finished some noteworthy books these last several months, I developed a book list that may help with your holiday shopping (even if it’s for yourself).

In preparing this list, I thought it might be useful to include relevant links to other content you may find worthwhile — related to the book and/or the author. In addition, you may want to consult two previous posts that have more recommendations, one from last year and one from 2011. Also, the recommended reading page of the Analytically Speaking webcast series (now in its fourth year) is updated regularly. Several subject matter experts featured in this webcast series — many of whom are authors themselves — also share books they recommend.

For the generally curious:

  • Randall Munroe’s new Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words. More about his latest book at his site, xkcd.com. MinutePhysic’s Henry Reich wrote a great review of this book and has a very clever video, How to go to Space (with XKCD!), with an endorsement of Randall’s most recent book, as well as his first book, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.
    • Simply Rational: Decision Making in the Real World, Gerd Gigerenzer. He has a related  TEDx Talk that is most interesting.
      • Night School: Wake up to the power of sleep, Richard Wiseman. He also wrote The Luck Factor and has a fun Quirkology Youtube channel.
        • Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Garner. Tetlock has a fascinating recent interview Why an Open Mind Is Key to Making Better Decisions.
          • Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, Richard Thaler. He is considered the father of behavioral economics and has a recent Talk at Google that gives a good sense of the book. (As an econ major, I so appreciate the distinction between “econs” and “humans”!)
            • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain.  Her TED Talk is great.
              • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, Scott Adams. He is surprisingly serious at times (but also funny as one would expect) in this video about the book.
              • The Little Book of Stupidity: How We Lie to Ourselves and Don't Believe Others, Sia Mohajer.
              • Here's what's on my ebook reader.

                Here's what's on my ebook reader.

                For those interested in Statistics and Visualization:

                • Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide, Alex Reinhart. He has an accompanying web page for the book as well as a related video that predates the release of the book Statistics Done Wrong:  Pitfalls of Experimentation.
                  • Signal: Understanding What Matters in a World of Noise, Stephen Few. You can find more excellent material on his website Perceptual Edge
                    • 100 Statistical Tests, Gopal K. Kanji.
                      • Statistics with JMP: Graphs, Descriptive Statistics and Probability, Goos and Meintrup. JMP Academic Ambassador Volker Kraft wrote a great post about it: New book to spark enthusiasm for descriptive statistics and probability in the classroom.
                        • Building Better Models with JMP Pro, Jim Grayson, Sam Gardner and Mia Stephens. See the related Building Better Models webcast series and more reviews.
                          • Storytelling with Data, Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic. She has a popular storytellingwithdata blog site as well.

                            For those interested in science, nature and medicine:

                            • 10% Human: How Your Body's Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness, Alanna Collen. Even if you have read the book, in this video interview, she goes into more detail of how she started researching the microbiome (after walking through a tick nest in Malaysia!)
                              • To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, Steven Weinberg. This Nobel Laureate gave a witty and interesting World Science Festival interview about his latest book.
                                • The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World, Andrea Wulf. She has a short YouTube video discussing her book.
                                  •  The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health, David RMontgomery and Anne Biklé.
                                    • I Think You'll Find it's a Bit More Complicated Than That, Ben Goldacre. He has an audiocast about his latest book and more about his first two books and his work at badscience.net.

                                      And there are many more coming out early next year that promise to be good reads — a few we can anticipate: Truth or Truthiness: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction by Learning to Think Like a Data Scientist, by Howard Wainer, and The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth, by Robin Hanson.

                                      If you have more recommendations, please add them in the comments section. Happy reading!

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                                      Roland Caulcutt wrote:

                                      Hi Anne

                                      Thanks for this excellent list.

                                      Unfortunately, you do not include "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman.

                                      OK! So, its not new. But its the best book I've ever read, and I recommend it to everyone who hasn't read it.


                                      Roland Caulcutt


                                      Anne Milley wrote:

                                      Hi Roland,

                                      Thanks for your comment.

                                      I thought about including Thinking Fast and Slow again (some books are worth reading more than once, so maybe we should list them more than once!), but it was listed on the 2011 post.

                                      Great recommendation to those who haven't read it! Thanks again.




                                      Anne B. wrote:

                                      Hello Anne M.,

                                      Thank you for compiling a reading list. As far as "The Hidden Half of Nature" goes, there are a couple of excerpts from the book should anyone want a sneak peek.

                                      One is in Nautilus magazine: http://nautil.us/issue/31/stress/what-your-microbiome-wants-for-dinner

                                      And another is here: http://www.hobbyfarms.com/crops-and-gardening/your-soil-workforce.aspx


                                      Anne Milley wrote:

                                      Thank you so much, Anne B.! Appreciate you sharing these great excerpts from your book!


                                      Anne M.


                                      Anne Milley wrote:

                                      Another one to look forward to from Alberto Cairo--he just tweeted that in 2016 he's starting to work on his PhD dissertation, which will become a book: â Nerd Journalism: News Graphics and the Rise of the Journalist-Engineer.â


                                      Samantha Bryant wrote:

                                      "Quiet" is absolutely amazing. I actually just finished listening to the audiobook and it was so thought provoking. It made me look at myself and the people around me in a new light.


                                      Anne Milley wrote:

                                      Thanks for your comment, Samantha. Good to know there is an audiobook option!




                                      Analise Polsky wrote:

                                      Great post, Anne! There are a couple books on here I've read and truly enjoyed, like Richard Thaler's book, and many more I can't wait to read.


                                      Anne Milley wrote:

                                      Thanks, Analise and happy reading!