Nate Silver’s ‘The Signal and the Noise’ chosen as next year’s One Book

Kelli Nguyen, Assistant Campus Editor

Nate Silver’s best-selling book on statistics and predictions will be featured as next year’s One Book One Northwestern.

“The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail —  but Some Don’t” explores the world of predictions while examining unpredictable catastrophes, such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the global financial crisis. The book investigates the use of statistics in forecasting and analyzing world events and the reasons behind correct and incorrect predictions.

On Oct. 6, one month before the 2016 election, Silver will come to Northwestern to speak and sign books, according to a University news release.

Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of, is best known for his use of statistics in analyzing polling, science, sports, politics and culture. In 2009, Time magazine named him one of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People.”

During the 2008 presidential elections, Silver accurately predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states. In the next election, he exceeded his previous claim to fame and correctly predicted all 50.

“The country (and) the world will be at fever frenzy at the time he’s at campus,” said McCormick Prof. Stephen Carr, faculty chair of the One Book program. “It’s going to be a big day.”

Next year’s book is a deviation from One Book’s past reading selections, which have typically been social justice oriented, said Melody Song, a Weinberg senior and One Book fellow. In selecting next year’s book, the committee wanted to find a way to appeal to students who are particularly interested in subjects outside the humanities, said Song, a previous Daily staffer.

“We were looking for something that overall was going to involve more people, maybe a different set of people, and I think that was one of the things that was really attractive about Nate Silver’s book,” Song said.

Silver’s ability to synthesize statistical data to make relevant conclusions is what makes him a compelling author, Carr said.  Students who are not interested in the numbers can still appreciate the mathematical foundation that Silver uses to describe world events, he said.

“All that kind of information is around and Nate Silver is just showing how you can extract meaningful, useful knowledge from what otherwise seems like just a lot of numbers,” Carr said.

“The Signal and the Noise” was selected from a pool of over 70 nominated titles. It will be sent to the incoming Class of 2020 and serve as the base for related programming throughout the academic year.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized Silver’s book as a novel. It is a work of nonfiction. The Daily regrets the error.

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