Book Bits: 6 February 2021

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know
Adam Grant
Review via Forbes
Several years into my career, a senior faculty member and I had a conversation that led me to one of those ‘a-ha’ moments. “Just because something is written in a textbook, it is not necessarily true. It is only the author’s version of the truth,” she told me. I was stunned. That one statement contradicted everything I learned throughout my educational and professional career. I let that statement marinate in my head for a while. Before long, I realized that my colleague was correct. I began rethinking everything I learned and reexamined the basis for that truth. In his latest book, Think Again, organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Dr. Adam Grant looks into this very issue. He suggests that success rests in the power of knowing what we don’t know and being released from our tunnel vision.

The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics
Tim Harford
Review via The Wall Street Journal
Data, when used to reveal the value of hospital hygiene or the harm of tobacco smoke, can be a vital force for good, as Tim Harford reminds us in “The Data Detective.” But the very power of statistics—the “unreasonable effectiveness of data,” as three Google scientists put it—has also prompted a backlash, particularly as we’ve become aware of the potential for both honest confusion and deliberate abuse.
Mr. Harford, a British economist and journalist, hopes to persuade us not to give up on data, urging us to embrace thoughtful skepticism and avoid easy cynicism. As he expertly guides us through the many ways in which data can trick us, we see how difficult such an effort can be.
Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending US Poverty
Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox
Review via Jacobin Magazine
When we speak to our sisters and brothers living in poverty in the United States, the confessional trope that describes so many dysfunctional relationships should be our opening line. “Poverty is a choice that the fortunate collectively make,” social worker Joanne Goldblum and journalist Colleen Shaddox write in Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty. “No American should ever be poor.”
Quantitative Economics with R: A Data Science Approach
Vikram Dayal
Summary via publisher (Springer)
This book provides a contemporary treatment of quantitative economics, with a focus on data science. The book introduces the reader to R and RStudio, and uses expert Hadley Wickham’s tidyverse package for different parts of the data analysis workflow. After a gentle introduction to R code, the reader’s R skills are gradually honed, with the help of “your turn” exercises. At the heart of data science is data, and the book equips the reader to import and wrangle data, (including network data). Very early on, the reader will begin using the popular ggplot2 package for visualizing data, even making basic maps. The use of R in understanding functions, simulating difference equations, and carrying out matrix operations is also covered. The book uses Monte Carlo simulation to understand probability and statistical inference, and the bootstrap is introduced.

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