5 Best Data Visualization Books

Whether you are making a simple PowerPoint presentation or a complex dashboard, having a solid understanding of visualization principles can help you present your data effectively.  Though there are several books on the topic, I found the following books most helpful. Reading these books will take your visualizations to the next level.

Best Books on Data Visualization

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte

This was one of the first books published on how to properly present data as a visual. Originally written in 1983, the second edition was released in 2001. Don’t be fooled by how old the book is. The lessons in the book are still relevant today.

Key Takeaways
Remove everything you don’t need
Show the greatest number of ideas with the least ink
Don’t lie or distort the data. Tufte reviews some poor graphics published in major publications to show the “Lie Factor”
You don’t always need a chart, sometimes tables work best
Not surprisingly, he hates pie charts.

Storytelling with Data By Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

The author Knaflic worked in people analytics at Google from 2007 to 2013. This book is required reading for many college classes. The book is aimed at business users. Incorporating visualization tips from the book will help you stand out at work.

Key Takeaways
Context is important (who, what, and how)
Choose the right graph for your data
Present your data as if it’s a story

Data Visualization (A Practical Introduction) By Kieran Healy

This book focuses on  R and ggplot2 to make great visuals. The author Kieran Healey is a professor of sociology at Duke University. With data analytics becoming the norm in every industry, it’s important to know how to make great visualization directly from R and ggplot2. Even if you are a novice in R, the book teaches you the basics in an easy-to-understand manner. The book includes an excellent chapter on plotting geospatial data and maps.

Effective Data Visualization: The Right Chart for the Right Data By Stephanie Evergreen

If you spend a lot of time in Excel, this book will help you improve your charts and graphs. It’s a practical and easy-to-understand book that will allow you to push the limits of Excel charting. The book includes step-by-step instructions to make Excel charts, so readers can follow them irrespective of their Excel skill level. The book comes with the data and allows you to practice on your own and reproduce the visualizations from the book.

The book organizes the charts according to the data you want to present – a single number, comparisons, beating a benchmark, survey results, parts of a whole, correlations, qualitative data, data over time, etc. The author also has an excellent blog where she shares tips on making great charts and graphs. 

The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don’ts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures By Dona M. Wong

As the title of the book suggests, this book focuses on presenting financial data. The book teaches readers to make elegant graphs and tables to present complicated data. The book will work great as a quick reference for those who make visualizations daily. The author distills her years of experience working with data and visualizations at the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York into a compact 160-page book.

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