Innumeracy, by John Allen Paulos, is about (surprisingly) innumeracy, or mathematical illiteracy. Distinct from the more pathological dyscalcia, it instead implies something closer to functional analphabetism: an inability to grasp simple mathematical concepts, not because one isn’t smart enough or the concepts are too arcane, but simply because whatever mathematical skills the person once might have had have eroded from lack of use.
Most of the book deals with simple probability and how misunderstanding it is both quite harmful (both to individuals and to society as a whole) and extremely widespread.
The problem, as Paulos sees it, is that it’s harder and harder to get away with being (functionally) illiterate, but society almost encourages innumeracy, with a lot of people seeing no shame in declaring they’re “not a math person” (even taking some perverse pride in it, sometimes), in part because so many people see mathematics as dry and boring, and not a good avenue for creativity. Much of the blame falls on shitty education, of course (and it’s getting worse).
It’s a great little book. Despite the very serious subject, Paulos manages to keep a light-hearted tone, and manages to be pretty engaging and funny. He clearly loves mathematics, and manages to convey this love to the reader quite readily.
There are a lot of small math problems interspersed throughout the book, and even though I didn’t have any problems with it (and nobody should, really), I can clearly imagine the average person just not getting it at all. And that, of course, is why everyone should probably read this.