• The Data Detective

  • Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics
  • By: Tim Harford
  • Narrated by: Tim Harford
  • Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (547 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From “one of the great (greatest?) contemporary popular writers on economics” (Tyler Cowen) comes a smart, lively, and encouraging rethinking of how to use statistics.

Today we think statistics are the enemy, numbers used to mislead and confuse us. That’s a mistake, Tim Harford says in The Data Detective. We shouldn’t be suspicious of statistics - we need to understand what they mean and how they can improve our lives: they are, at heart, human behavior seen through the prism of numbers and are often “the only way of grasping much of what is going on around us”. If we can toss aside our fears and learn to approach them clearly - understanding how our own preconceptions lead us astray - statistics can point to ways we can live better and work smarter.

As “perhaps the best popular economics writer in the world” (New Statesman), Tim Harford is an expert at taking complicated ideas and untangling them for millions of readers. In The Data Detective, he uses new research in science and psychology to set out ten strategies for using statistics to erase our biases and replace them with new ideas that use virtues like patience, curiosity, and good sense to better understand ourselves and the world. As a result, The Data Detective is a big-idea book about statistics and human behavior that is fresh, unexpected, and insightful.

©2021 Tim Harford (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Lively, crystal-clear, and insightful explanations of how data are increasingly affecting our lives - a phenomenon that every educated person should understand.” (Steven Pinker, author of Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters)

“[Harford] expertly guides us through the many ways in which data can trick us.... Though numbers are at the core of The Data Detective, it’s emotion that wields...power, affecting not only how we respond to data but also how we absorb it in the first place.” (The Wall Street Journal

“Harford is right to say that statistics can be used to illuminate the world with clarity and precision. They can help remedy our human fallibilities.” (The New Yorker)  

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What listeners say about The Data Detective

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I expected more

I enjoy Harford’s podcasts but this book repeats material freely available on his Cautionary Tales pod. It also has an annoying trait of condescending to the reader, assumed to be an innumerate child. Shame.

9 people found this helpful

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To be taken seriously

I am a retired forensic investigator, accountant, and fraud examiner. The author asks us to consider many of the questions/rules I used when analyzing my various cases over the years. Simply excellent.

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Data tells a Story:Are you crafting the Narrative?

As someone who struggles with others citing headlines without proper understanding of context, this book is exceptionally timely. We are in an age of '1 sentence stories' that scroll through our feed hoping for a chance to meet our eyes. In these scenarios, the context has been cropped in lieu of sensationalism. The result..... A great many people craft the narrative to feed their inherent bias. Critical thinking is imperative in this day and age. Be the person who challenges their personal bias and take the time to understand the data. This is the difference between knowledge and comprehension.

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Too many adds

All of these Pushkin podcasts are full of adds now, and some of them are the worst kind of ad. Malcolm and friends have decided to cash in and I for one have signed out!

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Must read in the day of Big Data

Fascinating listen. Great toolkit for making sense of the mountains of data and reports available today.

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Brilliant.

It’s a textbook for learning in a world full of tricksters, a guidebook for truth seekers and curious cats.

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glorious adventure in numbers and humanity

This is a book I will recommend to my mother, and to nerdy coworkers, and to teenagers. I believe it would be entertaining and understanding to all parties at all levels. Being interesting and palatable to so many parties is an amazing accomplishment.

I learned many things and I grounded pre-existing knowledge in context and understanding. I have set a reminder to listen to this book again in a year, and I'll likely keep that appointment. doing so will be a good exercise, a kata, an art, in how to think about and with numbers.

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Fantastic Example of Great STEM Communication

Tim Harford may be an economist (and that probably just gave many a bad taste in their mouths), but in this book he is much more a statistician (and if the fist didn't affect you, you probably groaned at that). If you groaned or tasted something funny at the mention of either mathematical title, then this is the book for you. Tim is an expert STEM communicator, and this book is no exception - he pulls back the curtain and helps you to better understand the facts and figures you hear daily... and even more intriguing, why you react the way you do.

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I wish we could make every America read this

If every American were forced to read this, we may live in a better society.

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Stoke your curiosity!

Tim is a very good narrator. I loved the way this book made me stop and think about my own perceptions of the world.

1 person found this helpful