How to Expect the Unexpected

We review the fifth of this year’s nominees for Book of the Year


Kit Yates is a mathematician at the University of Bath and an author of popular mathematics books. How to Expect the Unexpected (Amazon UK, Waterstones) is his second book, following on from the Chalkdust book of the year 2019 winning The Maths of Life and Death. It explores the science of making predictions and how our intuition is not always to be trusted.




How to Expect the Unexpected is your all-in-one guide to mastering prediction in life’s seemingly unpredictable situations. Kit takes you through various scenarios, some personal to himself, that highlight the importance of understanding probability, bias, perception, and what it means to make decisions based on the uncertainty around you. A very enjoyable read!


Even though this is primarily a maths book, it takes ideas from philosophy and psychology to understand how the human mind processes information when you’re given statistics and probabilities to digest. It can also read as a guide for overcoming biases and learning how to change your mind in light of new information. The way these ideas are moved around is very controlled. It is accessible to those unfamiliar with any of those fields.


Mathematicians are led to believe that it’s hard to grasp probability without diving into the complex maths – but Kit breaks it down into digestible examples, which makes it easy to follow and intuitive. It is unique in that the way concepts such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Law of Large Numbers come across in such a readable way.


I recommend this book to anyone curious about predictability and patterns that haven’t yet found their intuition for it, and also to those who understand probability well but would like to master it in real-world cases – whether you just want to win bets against your friends or prevent nuclear war.


You can vote for your favourite book on the Book of the Year shortlist below. The winning book will be crowned the Chalkdust Readers’ Choice. Voting closes at 1pm (BST) on Saturday 30 March.

What is your favourite book on the 2023 Book of the Year shortlist?

  • That's Mathematics by Chris Smith (91%, 277 Votes)
  • Once Upon a Prime by Sarah Hart (3%, 10 Votes)
  • How to Expect the Unexpected by Kit Yates (2%, 6 Votes)
  • Short Cuts: Maths by Katie Steckles (2%, 5 Votes)
  • Headscratchers by Rob Eastaway (1%, 2 Votes)
  • The Spirit of Mathematics by David Acheson (0%, 1 Votes)
  • The Truth Detective by Tim Harford (0%, 1 Votes)
  • The Secret Lives of Numbers by Kate Kitagawa & Timothy Revell (0%, 1 Votes)
  • A Year in Numbers by Kyle D Evans (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 303

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