Michael Blastland - Shastrix Books

Michael Blastland

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The Norm Chronicles

The Norm Chronicles

Michael Blastland & David Spiegelhalter

6th July 2013

The Norm Chronicles is a fascinating look into the study of risk, comparing the purely statistical view with how real people think. Blastland and Spiegelhalter create a compelling set of characters to place into risky and often humorous situations, and follow this up with a discussion of how risk is calculated and perceived.

It's an entertaining if numbers-heavy read, though the authors do well to put the statistics into context and break through some of the obfuscation that often stops the simple comparison of risks. As a reader with a mathematical background, I found it straightforward to follow, but I'm not entirely convinced it would be as clear to someone with less of an affinity for numbers.

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Buy book: UK
The Tiger That Isn't

The Tiger That Isn't

Michael Blastland & Andrew Dilnot

23rd October 2011

An excellent exploration of how badly statistics can be misinterpreted and misreported, both by those with their own agenda and those who are tasked with communicating the truth to the public - much like the authors, two BBC journalists. The book splits the problems faced in reporting numbers into one issue per chapter and demonstrates with plenty of examples how badly results can be reported.

It's a really good book that I would certainly recommend to anyone who has to use statistics, whether reporting them to the public or just internally within an organisation, and especially managers and politicians who need to base their decisions on these reports. Even in my own recent experience at work there have been people I've wanted to hit over the head with this book.

One thing that must be noted is that the book needs to be read in small chunks - a chapter at a time. It's not something to read in one or two sittings, and it's a book that probably needs to be returned to a few times for the messages to sink in. I'll be keeping it handy at work for when I'm faced with numbers, and plan to offer it around my colleagues too.

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  2. The Tiger That Isn't
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  4. The Norm Chronicles