E53: Best Data Visualization Books for Beginners 📚

podcast episodes Mar 30, 2023

If you want to learn data visualization, here are the best 5 books you should read. I’ll have the titles & links to each in the description down below.

Number 1: Storytelling with Data

Storytelling with Data by Cole Knaflic should be your first read in the data visualization world. It is a complete beginner’s guide to data visualization for all business professionals.

The author Cole, taught data visualization at Google and now teaches dozens of companies data viz best practices.

In this book, you’ll get a complete introduction to how to make beautiful data visualizations. One thing that’s nice about the book is it is tool agnostic so you can take what you learn & apply it to any software you want: Excel, Power BI, Tableau, whatever!

She’ll walk you through complete visualization makeovers step-by-step showing you why these techniques will help tell your data story through graphs and charts.

Check out Storytelling with Data 👉 https://amzn.to/3n2rDwJ

Number 2: The Big Book of Dashboard

This book is awesome for anyone wanting to improve their dashboard design. The authors Steve Wexler, Jeffrey Shaffer, and Andy Cogreave are data visualization experts & they’ll teach you EVERYTHING you need to know about building an efficient dashboard.

I like this book because they have some good theory in the beginning, but then they dive straight into 28 practical examples spanning all sorts of different industries. All 3 authors will give their thoughts on the dashboard & walk through different thought experiments of why different elements of the dashboard work.

They even give you access to some of the Tableau files for the actual dashboards that you could use as a template for your next dashboard.

If you’ve already read Storytelling with Data, this is your next purchase!

Check out The Book Book of Dashboards 👉 https://amzn.to/42nBmO4

Number 3: Envisioning Information

This book is by the Godfather of Data Visualization, Edward Tufte. Tufte is seen as THE leader in the data visualization space, and he’s written 5 books on the subject. Envisioning information is my favorite, although they’re all good. At this point, we are no longer at the elementary level as this book is much more detailed & advanced. But I love it.

In this book, he teaches amazing concepts like:

  • Micro/Macro Readings
  • Small Multiples
  • How to use color professionally
  • How to visualize space and time

The contents of the book are amazing, But it’s also an amazingly beautiful book. It’s very clear he’s spent a lot of time designing the layout of the book. And each page has room for notes, which I absolutely LOVE

Check out Envisioning Information 👉 https://amzn.to/3yN8a5z

Number 4: How Charts Lie

How Charts Lie by Alberto Cairo is a great book for any data viz beginner. It covers how people (mostly the media) use charts to illustrate a message that isn’t entirely true. He gives real world examples from news organizations that are very compelling. And he’ll walk you through how he would fix the graphs & make them more truthful.

This book also exposed me to a lot of different chart types. And helped me know when to use them, and how to use them effectively. So I highly recommend it! Quick read too!

Check out How Charts Lie 👉 https://amzn.to/3luqQ77

Number 5: Show Me the Numbers

Show Me The Numbers is THICK & chock-full of all sorts of amazing data visualization tips.

I like this book because it spends an inordinate amount of time talking about designing tables. Yes, the rows and columns, a basic table. It’s actually not really talked about a lot, but tables are actually the most common form of data visualization and so it’s important to know the best practices of building them out.

I used this book A TON in my consulting job with a Fortune 500 company that was struggling to get users to read & gain value from their report. We implemented 18 core table principles & built out a new table design for their software.

He also covers graphs, color uses, and best principles. Honestly, this feels more like a textbook compared to the others and is more on the intermediate to advanced side.

Check out Show Me The Numbers 👉 https://amzn.to/3FxgeuW


And there you have it, the 5 best books for data visualization beginners. 

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