23 Book Recommendations

This is my ever growing ever changing list of books you can read if you’re looking to brush up on your stats or critical thinking skills, pass a class. Should be a little something for everyone.  Last Update: June 7th, 2016

If you’re looking for….some basics without having to do actual math:

How to Lie with Statistics This one is for everyone. The kind of book you buy a kid for high school graduation just to help them with life in general.

Thinking Statistically shows you how to think through statistical concepts as they apply to life, without all the equations.


If you’re looking for….something to get you through school:



A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)This is not a book that focuses on math and science, but rather the process of learning math and science. I actually wish I’d had this one before I went through my engineering degree.

The Cartoon Guide to Statistics
If you have to pass stats 101, and the teacher’s explanation just isn’t cutting it for you, try this one.

What is a p-value anyway? 34 Stories to Help You Actually Understand Statistics A great series of stories to help students understand statistical concepts. Written by a biostatistician, this goes surprisingly in depth given the general lack of equations.

A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form
This one won’t help you in school. In fact this one will likely make you grouchier at school in general. Written by a man who quit academia to become a high school teacher, he lists everything you ever thought might be wrong with our way of teaching math, and what to do about it.


If you’re looking for….stats in medicine:



Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks
Ben Goldacre is simply the best. A doctor with a passion for truth and accuracy, he provides a slew of examples to back up scientific literacy and why it’s vital in healthcare.                                                                                                                                                                      

Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better HealthcareA more serious book about how and why we should actually test the new treatments that come on the market.If you’re looking for….a history lesson with your math:                                                                        

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
The origin story for epidemiology investigations, covering the London cholera outbreak in the 1850s. A great story we don’t often hear about.

In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World Some of the most interesting equations of all time, along with their meaning, history and enduring influence.


If you’re looking for….something funny or something about being funny:



The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets
Apparently an absurd number of Simpson’s writers are math people, and this book covers all sorts of interesting jokes they’ve slipped in over the years. My favorite part is that they then go on line to see who notices/gets the reference.

Mathematics and Humor: A Study of the Logic of HumorJohn Allen Paulos breaks down humor mathematically. A very niche read, but a good one if you’re in to that sort of thing.

This Is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens, and Other WTF Research
General research, but serious humor for a science nerd. The most amusing/ridiculous/thought provoking studies ever done.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Another great nerd humor book. Serious answers to absurd hypotheticals says it all.


If you’re looking for….general critical thinking books:



Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
One of my favorites about why we fool ourselves. Packed with more compelling examples per square page than any other pop psych book I’ve ever read.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
A classic on the beauty of science and it’s ability to light the world.


If you’re looking for….a challenging puzzle book:



Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability with Solutions (Dover Books on Mathematics)
My office mate and I spent a couple of months running through these. Challenging, but with pretty good explanations.

Problem Solving Through Recreational Mathematics (Dover Books on Mathematics)
This one is a fun challenge.

The Mathematics Calendar 2016
Okay, so it’s a calendar, but it has a math problem every day and an essay on a math topic every month.

If you’re looking for….a data visualization book:



The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
This is the classic, but pretty much anything by Tufte is great. If you can get to one of his classes, you get a book pack included. That alone makes it worth the price.

The Best American Infographics 2015
I don’t really like infographics, but I do like seeing what makes the best ones good. I have the 2014 copy of this and I enjoy it.

Visual Miscellaneum: The Bestselling Classic, Revised and Updated: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia
This one is part visual, part trivia/fact book. Two for the price of one. I like it.

Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions This one has some visualizations, but is more focused on the stories behind how data was retrieved, processed, and used to solve problems. If you’re a data geek, you’ll love it.
Books I Plan to Read in 2016:

I did a whole post about this here, but here’s the list:

January: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World  Done!
February:The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth Done!
March: Guesstimation: Solving the World’s Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin Done!
April: Understanding Sabermetrics: An Introduction to the Science of Baseball Statistics Done!
May: What is a p-value anyway? 34 Stories to Help You Actually Understand Statistics Done!
June: Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions Done!
July: The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don’t
August: Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks
September: In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World Done!
October: Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide
November: The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity
December: The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century