Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics - Daniel Levitin

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher: Viking

Copyright: Daniel J. Levitin, 2016

ISBN: 978-0241240007

Format: Paperback, 292pp

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Summed up in a few words
Honest. Unbiased. Lucidity. Reasonable. Engaging.

First Impressions
Welcome to another non-fiction review here at Always Trust In Books. Thank you to Sara at Viking for my review copy. I personally don't really follow news and statistics for the very reason outlined and explained in this book; people like to stretch the truth just a bit too much. In A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics Daniel Levitin has set out to explain to us how the language and statistics in news/media are manipulated, warped and complicated to achieve a certain outcome. Using simple mathematics, critical thinking and digestible logic, DL manages to unravel some of the intimidating and misguiding statistics that we are bombarded with everyday.

Book Synopsis
The bestselling author of The Organised Mind explains and debunks statistics in the information age.

We live in a world of information overload. Facts and figures on absolutely everything are at our fingertips, but are too often biased, distorted or outright lies. From unemployment figures to voting polls, IQ tests to divorce rates, we're bombarded by seemingly plausible statistics on how people live and what they think. In a world where anyone can become an expert at the click of a button, being able to see through the tricks played with statistics is more necessary than ever before. Daniel Levitin teaches us how to effectively ask ourselves: Can we really know that? And how do they know that?

In this eye-opening, entertaining and accessible guide filled with fascinating examples and practical takeaways, acclaimed neuroscientist Daniel Levitin shows us how learning to understand statistics will enable you to make quicker, better-informed decisions to simplify your life.

My Thoughts
I love it when I come across well rounded and informative non-fiction as I get the opportunity to talk about it non-stop. A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics is exactly what it says on the tin. Daniel Levitin has spent his career learning about the mind; social/economic sciences and writing books about how to understand the modern world we live in today. Along the way he has crafted an entertaining, digestible and objective writing style that gives the reader an unbiased view of his content while spending time and effort on informing the reader about some hidden truths.

Daniel Levitin is clear, concise and open about his aims with A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics. The first line sums up the idea behind the book nicely. (Quote, page ix)

"This is a book about how to spot problems with the facts you encounter, problems that may lead you to draw the wrong conclusions. Sometimes the people giving you the facts are hoping you'll draw the wrong conclusion; sometimes they don't know the difference themselves."

DL is focused, driven and animated, his main focus with the content is evaluation, plausibility and critical thinking. Taking the reader the extra mile past common sense and explaining how to really listen to you inner red flag that is telling you that something is not right. A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics takes us through the perplexing gauntlet of numbers, words and how they can skew our image of the world around us.

Using succinct arguments and backing them up with plenty of evidence, DL works his way through the many different techniques and pitfalls that people can use to warp information in their favour. From averages, extrapolation; the numerous fallacies and biases, diagrams, variables and so much more. Levitin gives us a helping hand to work our way through the information and find out what is true and what is not. I am so glad I read this book, it is important now more than ever (in this high speed information age) that we slow down and really think about the information we are being fed day in and day out.

I recommend A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics to all readers. Here we get a straightforward, clear cut path through the mess of language and numbers that make up modern media. This book will only a few hours out of your life, but it will give you so much more in return. There are so many great quotes in this book, I am concerned about including too many as I don't want to infringe on any copyrights. DL is full of pithy insights that I jotted down throughout my time reading this book, from 'Science and Life are not static' (p155) to 'we are the story telling species' (p157).

Overall, I have given A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics 5/5 because I learned so much, I enjoyed myself while I did so and I would happily recommend it to anyone. This book is a breath of fresh air in lungs filled with social media, news and secondary information with no real context. 

If you want to pick up A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics, here are the links: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads 

About the Author: Dr Daniel J. Levitin has a PhD in Psychology, and trained at Stanford University Medical School and the University of California Berkeley. He is the author of the number-one bestseller This is Your Brain On Music (Dutton, 2006), published in nineteen languages, and the bestsellers The World in Six Songs (Dutton, 2008) and The Organised Mind (Viking, 2014). Currently he is Dean of Social Sciences at the Minerva Schools at KGI in San Francisco, and a faculty member at the Center for Executive Education in the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. 

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