Top data books of 2021

Andy Cotgreave—dataIQ Top 100 in data 2021, author of Big Book of Dashboards and Tableau technical evangelist—shares his top data-related books from this year.

Atlas of the Invisible

Atlas of the Invisible

Atlas of the Invisible, James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti
"Atlas of the Invisible is an ode to the unseen, to a world of information that cannot be conveyed through text or numbers alone." This is a sumptuous book to browse or, as I did, devour cover-to-cover. It's not just that its topics are diverse and important. Nor that it displays myriad approaches to what a map can be. Nor that the authors have put so much effort into ensuring the physicality of the book itself is part of the experience. Or even the fascinating essays that introduce each section. All of those factors come together to create a profound book examines vital themes in a powerful visual way. James and Oliver will be live on the December Chart Chat.

Living in Data

Living in Data

Living in Data, Jer Thorp
As a data professional, working at Tableau, it's easy sometimes to take data for granted. Jer Thorp's book brilliantly encourages us to stop doing that. He asks the reader to consider the implications of increasing usage of data in all parts of our lives. Should we continue to passively accept the way data is used, or should we challenge it, and carve out a more equitable future? Can we craft a new world where data supports a more just and democratic future? No book this year has made me stop and think so much about our field. 

How to Make the World Add Up

How to Make the World Add Up

How to Make the World Add Up, Tim Harford
How is that statistics have become more powerful and yet less trusted? How do you tell good statistics from smoke and mirrors? And how do you do this without needing a statistics degree? Tim Harford explores how statistics have been used to shape the world, for good and bad. He shares ten rules you can use to better be able to understand how numbers are used. I interviewed Tim for an episode of If Data Could Talk, and he joined my co-hosts for a geeky dive into his favorite charts on Chart Chat.  Note: in the U.S., the book is called The Data Detective. The UK version came out last year, but the U.S. version came out in 2021.

The Big Picture

The Big Picture

The Big Picture, Steve Wexler
Have you noticed that 99% of books about data visualization are aimed at the people who build charts? What about the people whose job isn't to build charts, but to be fluent enough to have intelligent conversations based on dataviz? Steve's book is for that person: his goal is to help everyone get insight from data more quickly, not just the data geek who loves their dataviz platform. I love the book because it's targeting an underserved audience, but also because it's fun. Steve's personality leaps out of the pages. It also has a lot to teach old hands like me, too. 

 

Connect with Andy on Twitter at @acotgreave or on LinkedIn, and share what you think of these books, or if there are any others you recommend.

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