Here’s a quick update to yesterday’s post on what I’ve been reading lately. I had to give to exams this morning, so that gave me plenty of time to read. If you’re looking for something to take to the beach this weekend, I recommend either of these:

1. Rolf Dobelli, The Art of Thinking Clearly. I finished it. It’s very hard to put down, and it could’ve been subtitled “a pocket guide to making better decisions.” The hardback is a little too big to fit in a pocket, so I also bought the Kindle edition. It has 99 very short chapters, each on a different cognitive mistake, and it will be great to have on my iPhone for those odd bits of five minutes here and ten minutes there that crop up between meetings and the like.

2. Charles Wheelan, Naked Statistics. The fact that it doesn’t Google well with SafeSearch on notwithstanding, this is another entry in what looks like a growing array of books on statistical inference for educated lay readers (or is that just availability bias on my part?). I just flipped through the last few chapters (the exam was ending) and filed them away for someday in the future when I teach statistics or econometrics. Wheelan’s writing is at least interesting, and he does something I’m surprised more scholars refuse to do (or can’t do): take issues of life-or-death seriousness and make them interesting.

A Quick Preview of Coming Attractions: Some of my Future EconLog Posts

1. An answer to Bryan’s question about how the government should spend a billion dollars. I’m going to take “give it back to the taxpayers” and “print a few hundred million US passports for prospective immigrants” off the table.

2. I teased a discussion of aggregate demand at Chuck E. Cheese’s a couple of weeks ago. Now that exams are finished, I can write my answer!

3. An evangelical case for ending the drug war:

4. Why you’re likely to be a much better pastor or youth minister if you change the composition of your reading list to include more books like The Signal and the Noise or Naked Statistics. I have a lot of experience in churches and parachurch environments where there are a lot of people who want to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. These are environments in which people make a lot of confident-but-(let’s be honest)-poorly-supported arguments about causal relationships. One of the classics: “if you live together before marriage, you’re X% more likely to divorce.” I think there are big epistemic bills on the sidewalk here, and while organizations like the Barna Group are making inroads, there is still a lot of work to be done. On a somewhat related note, some of my colleagues at Samford will be studying “Randomness and Divine Providence” over the next couple of years thanks to a grant from the Templeton Foundation.