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15 best data visualisation books you should read

Our recommendations for your data visualization bookshelf!

In this article, we are going to present you with the 15 best data visualisation books you should read if you want to educate yourself on the subject of data interpretation and gain in-depth knowledge of data visualisation dashboards.

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The Holy Grails of data visualisation books

Let’s start with the countdown of the best data visualisation books on the market today.

“The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” by Edward R.Tufte

Edward R.Tufte is one of the forerunners in the field of data visualisation, and this is his most famous book on the subject. In it, he provides over 250 drawings of the best and the worst examples of visual display. The central theme is the theory and design of data graphics.

“Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations” by Scott Berinat

The best thing about Scott Berinato’s book is that it is adequate for every level, from beginner to an experienced professional. He goes into detail about the psychology behind charts and how much you can influence one’s decision on a particular subject with the right visualisation. If you’re looking for a good starting point into the world of dashboards and visualisation tools, this book would be the right choice for you.

“Storytelling With Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals” by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

The message of Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic is the following, “Don’t simply show your data – tell a story with it.” That is the essence of the book. The accent is put on how important it is for your audience to understand the data, no matter the elegance of your charts or the high quality of the information.

“Beautiful Visualization, Looking at Data Through the Eyes of Experts” by Julie Steele, Noah Iliinsky

“Beautiful Visualization, Looking at Data Through the Eyes of Experts” is one of the most exciting books on the list because it features 24 essays written by artists, designers, commentators, scientists, analysts, statisticians and more. Inside you will find interesting topics on how the colour of the chart affects the brain or how important storytelling is to your data.

“Information Dashboard Design: Displaying Data for At-a-glance Monitoring” by Stephen Few

This is the first book on the list by Stephen Few. Inside you will find the basic principles of data visualisation and design theory, and examples of good and bad dashboards. This book is a practical guide through visualisation.

“The Accidental Analyst: Show Your Data Who’s Boss” by Eileen and Stephen McDaniel

One of the best data visualisation books on the market is “The Accidental Analyst: Show Your Data Who’s Boss.” The narrative of this book is practical, and it provides you with a step-by-step guide on how to analyse the huge amount of data you have gathered. If you feel the need to catch up on this subject and learn more about data science, we warmly recommend this book.

“Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline” by Daniel Rosenberg

This is an inspiring book and a “must-read” for history lovers. It explores the timeline of cartography and inside you will find beautiful illustrations of history’s most beautiful maps.

“The Functional Art” by Alberto Cairo

Alberto Cairo is a data journalist, who writes about the methods you can use to produce stunning and likeable work using modern visualisation tools.

“Visualize This: The Flowing Data Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics” by Nathan Yau

This book is a practical guide through the process of creating visually stimulating dashboards and taking advantage of the data to tell a story. Inside, you can even find code examples in R, Python and JavaScript.

“Visual Thinking for Design” by Colin Ware

If you like to dabble in psychology, then you are going to love this book very much. The primary focus is put on design and cognitive psychology. Ware talks about how your audience perceives the data and the graphs you have been showing them.

“Information Graphics” by Sandra Rendgen, Julius Wiedemann

There are over 400 examples of information graphics from around the globe in this book, making it more of an inspiration read, rather than a guide through data visualisation. If you’re experiencing a creative blockage, this book might come in handy.

“Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps” by Jacques Bertin

The “Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps” was published in 1967 in French and it holds a remarkable place in the theory of information design. Inside you can find over 1,000 maps and diagrams.

“The Book of Circles: Visualizing Spheres of Knowledge” by Manuel Lima

The author of the Book of Trees and Visual Complexity wrote an additional book in a very crafty manner filled with intriguing points about the history of visualisation. While you’re reading his book, you will be able to understand the age of circular information design, not to mention that you can enjoy in over 300 detailed and colourful diagrams from around the world.

”Data Visualisation: A Handbook for Data Driven Design” by Andy Kirk

The name of the book is true to its content. This is literally a handbook, a guide through a world of data, which is a crucial part of our everyday lives even when we’re not aware of it. He explains how much insight you can gain from data processing and how, according to him, to visualise it for usage. It’s an excellent and intelligent read for anyone starting out in this field.

”Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten, Second Edition” by Stephen Few

The main point that Stephen Few wants to convey with his book is that tables and graphs are the best way to communicate quantitative information to large groups of people, and we should learn how to do that right to optimise the impact of the data. In his own words “Even the best information is useless, however, if its story is poorly told.”

A visual display of data

In conclusion, the visual display of data is one of the most important steps you can take after your data analysis is complete. Your information is useful only if it’s taken into consideration. In this article, we provided you with a list of the best data visualisation books today. If you want to learn more about the subject of data science, you can also take a look at “How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff, where he explains how statistics can be misleading.

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