Three Books for a broader View on Data Graphics

Obviously, basic education today covers simple types of graphs. But where to go from there? The following selection of books doesn’t go into much detail. Instead, it seeks to cover an area as broad as possible – from Tukey’s minimal methods to interactive spatial visualizations with Slocum.

#1: “Data Analysis and Regression : A Second Course in Statistics (Addison-Wesley Series in Behavioral Science)” (Frederick Mosteller, John W. Tukey) is one of the many excellent books by John Wilder Tukey, one of the figures who shaped the way we deal with data today. His groundbreaking “Exploratory Data Analysis” – written in an unexpectedly vivid, strong-minded yet playful style – is hard to come by these days. Either of these books gives our concept of statistics the basis it never really had.

#2: “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” (Edward R. Tufte) To arrive at Edward Tufte when coming from Tukey means spilling the entire Museum of Modern Art into a book. Tufte, in his four canonized books on visual data display, has always made aesthetics a foremost priority. This goes up to a point where data may be conveyed as good as possible – but one is left asking how much data that actually was, and whether that effort really mattered in the presented case. Still, no one digs deeper and pulls up a greater variety of “visual explanations”. His latest work, “Beautiful Evidence” (Edward R. Tufte), hasn’t found its ways into my hands yet. I mention it anyways, mainly for its introduction of “sparklines”, small graphics that fit into the flow of text.

#3: “Thematic Cartography and Geographic Visualization, Second Edition” (Terry A. Slocum, Robert B McMaster, Fritz C. Kessler, Hugh H. Howard) Far too many works by statisticians omit an area that historically belongs to another field of study: Cartography. Hardly any real world data is unrelated to spatial aspects, and many graphs would greatly profit from the amassed knowledge of cartographers. “Thematic Cartography and Visualization” is a lean and efficient introduction, suitable for anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the topic.

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