8 Great Books about Data Visualisation

By Andy Cotgreave July 22, 2013

Do you want to learn more about data visualisation and why Tableau behaves the way it does? Do you want to be able to create more effective visualisations? Or are you interested in the history of data visualisation? These are all great topics and knowing more about the topic will improve your use of Tableau. Here is a list of books I have read and found extremely useful over the last few years. This is far from a definitive list; there are many many more.

Click on the thumbnails for more details about each book.

Information Dashboard Design: Displaying Data for at-a-glance Monitoring

Stephen Few

This is a fantastic resource packed full of examples of good and bad dashboards. In explaining how to create great dashboards, Stephen Few also does a great introduction to the principles of the theory of data visualisation and design. I would also recommend any of Stephen Few's other books, but this one is the most accessible.

Beautiful Visualization
Looking at Data through the Eyes of Experts

Julie Steele, Noah Iliinsky

This book describes the design and development of some well-known visualisations. It's a great way to learn how others approach visual design. The thing I liked most about this book is that every single author describes the collection and cleaning of their data as being the hardest part of any project. It was heartening to know that this is a pain point for all of us!

The Accidental Analyst: Show Your Data Who's Boss

Eileen and Stephen McDaniel

This book is about what to do when you find yourself needing to do analytics projects, but you weren't trained as an analyst. Lots of us find ourselves in this position today. We have access to data, but maybe our background is in sales, HR, or operations. It's a great template for breaking down the project into distinct segments and delivering something successful and effective.

The Functional Art

Alberto Cairo

This is my favourite book of the last few years. Alberto Cairo is a data journalist and teaches information graphics and visualisation. What is great about this book is that it explains how important it is to stick as close to best-practices as possible but also ensure that your work is beautiful in order to engage the end user.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Edward Tufte

This is a classic book, first published in 1983. It covers the theory and design of data graphics and is illustrated with some of the best and worst examples. Now 30 years old, it is beginning to seem a bit dated, but it still remains a classic and a great introduction to some core theories.

Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline

Daniel Rosenberg

If you want to read up on the history of data visualisation, this is my favourite book. It focuses on the development of representing time in charts, but is fascinating and, reassuringly, reveals that the challenges we face today in data visualisation are similar to those faced hundreds of years ago.

Information Graphics

Sandra Rendgen, Julius Wiedemann

This is a huge coffee table book. It has over 400 examples of information graphics from around the world, covering journalism art, government, education, business and more. There are also some introductory essays on data visualisation history and theory, and data journalism. Most of the work is not the kind of stuff you would attempt to do in Tableau, but I found it an inspiring book showing the art of the possible.

Visual Thinking for Design

Colin Ware

If you are interested in the science behind data visualisation, this book is amazing. It's a great introduction to design and cognitive psychology. An understanding of this will make you a better visualistion designer.

Comments

Submitted by Laurent Siffert (not verified) on

Stephen Few : Show Me the Numbers (Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten), Analytic Press

Submitted by Nick Vielbig (not verified) on

I agree, Few's Show me the numbers is fantastic - especially for more beginners.