Recommended Titles on Data Visualization

  1. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward R. Tufte
  2. The Elements of Graphing Data, by William S. Cleveland
  3. The Truthful Art: Data, Charts, and Maps for Communication, by Alberto Cairo
  4. The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios, by Steve Wexler, Jeffrey Shaffer, and Andy Cotgreave

I have four books to recommend for data visualization that combine depth of statistical reasoning with aesthetically appealing images, good writing, and ample examples.

The first two – The Visual Display of Quantitative Information The Elements of Graphing Data – are all time classics. They are books that laid the foundations for the practitioners of the field; early works that are never outdated, even in the digital era. Edward Tufte has other great books which we left out of this list.

The Truthful Art is a very nice introductory reading to the general audience. It provides in-depth analysis & examination of pieces of visualizations, and interesting things like the same data presented in many ways. – Yun Dai, Educational Technologist for Data Services

The classic book on statistical graphics, charts, tables:

  • Theory and practice in the design of data graphics
  • 250 illustrations of the best (and a few of the worst) statistical graphics, with detailed analysis of how to display data for precise, effective, quick analysis
  • Design of the high-resolution displays, small multiples
  • Editing and improving graphics
  • The data-ink ratio
  • Time-series, relational graphics, data maps, multivariate designs
  • Detection of graphical deception: design variation vs. data variation.
  • Sources of deception.
  • Aesthetics and data graphical displays. – adapted from Goodreads.

The Elements of Graphing Data, by William S. Cleveland

This book is about visualizing data in science and technology. It contains graphical methods and principles that are powerful tools for showing the structure of data. The material is relevant for data analysis, when the analyst wants to study data, and for data communication, when the analyst wants to communicate data to others.

Except for one small section, there is nothing in this book about computer graphics. The basic ideas, the methods, and the principles of the book transcend the computing environment used to implement them.

The prerequisites for understanding the book are minimal. A few topics require a knowledge of the elementary concepts of probability and statistical science, but these topics can be skipped. – adapted from book’s Preface.

Alberto Cairo, a respected data visualization professor, explains in clear terms how to work with data, discover the stories hidden within, and share those stories with the world in the form of charts, maps, and infographics. The Truthful Art explains:

  • The role infographics and data visualization play in our world
  • Basic principles of data and scientific reasoning that anyone can master
  • How to become a better critical thinker
  • Step-by-step processes that will help you evaluate any data visualization (including your own)
  • How to create and use effective charts, graphs, and data maps to explain data to any audience – adapted from Goodreads.

The Big Book of Dashboards presents a comprehensive reference for those tasked with building or overseeing the development of business dashboards.

Comprising dozens of examples that address different industries and departments (healthcare, transportation, finance, human resources, marketing, customer service, sports, etc.) and different platforms (print, desktop, tablet, smartphone, and conference room display) The Big Book of Dashboards matches great dashboards with real-world business scenarios.

In addition to the scenarios there’s an entire section of the book that is devoted to addressing many practical and psychological factors you will encounter in your work. It’s great to have theory and evidenced-based research at your disposal, but what will you do when somebody asks you to make your dashboard ‘cooler’ by adding packed bubbles and donut charts? – adapted from Goodreads.