In brief

The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger, by Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter, Profile, RRP£12.99, 336 pages

“Risk is two-faced,” argue journalist Michael Blastland and statistician David Spiegelhalter. There are the hard facts and figures about risk; and there are people’s conflicting attitudes towards it. They illustrate these using real-life events and three fictional archetypes – level-headed Norm, reckless Kevin and multi-phobic Prudence.

The book deals with the dangers inherent in everything from sex and drugs to skiing and giving birth. The statistics are presented with admirable lucidity, using an ingenious method devised by the authors, and may serve to reassure more neurotic readers. It turns out, for example, that you stand as much chance of dying on a long-haul flight as of being hit by an asteroid. But Blastland and Spiegelhalter also consider individual stories that go against the averages and probabilities.

Witty and illuminating, The Norm Chronicles is essential reading for anyone wanting to know whether they should try skydiving, or accept that third glass of wine.

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