Christmas is soon upon us and here are some gift ideas for your statistically inclined friends (or perhaps for you to put on your own wish list). If you have other suggestions please leave a comment! :)
1. Games of probability
A recently released game where probability takes the main role is Pairs, an easy going press-your-luck game that can be played in 10 minutes. It uses a custom “triangular” deck of cards (1x1, 2x2, 3x3, …, 10x10) and is a lot of fun to play, highly recommended!
Another good gift would be a pound of assorted dice together with the seminal Dice Games Properly Explained by Reiner Knizia. While perhaps not a game, a cool gift to someone that already has a pound of dice would be a set of Non transitive Grime dice.
2. Statistically themed mugs & t-shirts
A search for statistics and mugs or statistics and t-shirts results in a lot of good gifts, for example this t-test mug:
You could also support your favorite MCMC software by buying a STAN themed mug from their shop or why not come up with a custom layout yourself? (I’ve used Vistaprint before and those mugs turned out decent and cheap.)
3. Old school calculation tools
R, Python and Julia are great tools that are perhaps becoming a bit too mainstream for the self-conscious data science hipster. Why not then give the joy of some retro calculation? Slide rulers are amazingly cool and while I don’t know if new are made they can be gotten cheap on ebay. The same goes for vintage pocket calculators (make sure to get one where the digits are in bright green or red). There is also the 50s book with the self describing title A Million Random Digits. (Don’t miss the hilarious reviews on Amazon!)
4. XKCD stuff
The XKCD web comic by Randall Munroe often touches upon statistical issues and while his recent book What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is not statistical per see, it contains heaps of amusing back-of-the-envelope calculations. You can also get signed prints of some of the comics, for example of #231 “Cat Proximity”:
5. Comic books teaching statistics
I love comic books teaching statistics (which I’ve written about earlier) and my two favorites are The Cartoon Guide to Statistics by Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith and The Manga Guide to Statistics by Shin Takahashi. Both are great in their own ways and are enjoyable both if you are a statistics padawan or already a master of the dark arts.
6. Distribution plushies from NausicaaDistribution
NausicaaDistribution sells cool stuff such as a Standard Normal Distribution Plushie, an Evil Cauchy Distribution Plushie and a lot more distributions of different shapes and alignments.
You can also buy a My First Number Sets Wood Puzzle for the budding number theoretician or Famous Statistician Embroidered Coasters to save the sofa table from the eggnog.
7. Statistically themed popular science books
Here are some good popular science books that deals with different aspects of statistics and that anybody can enjoy:
Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder. I have not actually ready this (hint hint siblings…) but it’s bound to be good as it is written by the guy behind the OKcupid blog.
The Theory That Would Not Die by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne. The history of Bayes theorem and Bayesian statistics, contains almost no math but is fun and engaging anyway.
The Lady Tasting Tea by David Salsburg gives a more “classical” perspective on the history of statistics.
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. If you know someone who, against all odds, haven’t already read this book then it is a great way to get that someone interested in statistics and data analysis.
8. Serious statistical science books
Here are some slightly more serious books that I have enjoyed:
Doing Bayesian Data Analysis: A Tutorial with R, JAGS, and Stan by John Kruschke. The book that got me started with Bayesian data analysis, a pedagogical masterpiece that recently received a second edition.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte. This classic makes a great gift, not least because of its almost coffee table book like properties.