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2022 in books
A map of dataviz books I read this year, and two recommendations
Which data visualisation books do you recommend?
I get this question so often that in 2021 I created a visual map of the dataviz books on my shelves. If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember the scatter plot below that sparked quite a lot of discussions on social media. As 2022 is coming to a close, I updated this map with the books I read in the past 12 months — you can recognise the new ones by the hatched pattern.
Now that we’ve got the overall picture, let’s take a closer look at two books that I think are well worth your time.
Note: I don’t earn commission on any of the books linked below — I just genuinely think they’re good reads!
Information Design Workbook by Kim Baer
This is the first book I’ve ever got my hands on that talks explicitly about information design — defined as a broad field that data visualisation is only a part of. I love that the structure of the workbook is process-based. It starts with an introduction to what design is and why it’s important, and then delves deep into discovery, user testing and design. It’s chock full of examples and case studies that will surely spark your creativity and inspire ideas.
I particularly enjoyed the chapter on prototypes and testing. In our line of work, we often talk about getting feedback from the target audience, but we rarely go beyond just asking them some questions. In chapter three of this Information Design Workbook, the author walks us through detailed case studies on creating wireframes and then testing them. Did you know that there are at least 6 different ways to perform user research? You can run concept tests, do participatory design, design testing, focus groups, usability testing and beta/performance testing. Do read the book for more details!
Effective Data Storytelling by Brent Dykes
Even though data storytelling is a trendy concept, there aren’t that many books centred specifically around creating stories with data. Besides Cole Knaflic’s Storytelling with Data and Nancy Duarte’s DataStory, Effective Data Storytelling is the only other book that I’ve encountered with this focus. I think it’s worth reading for exactly that reason — it dives really, really deep into the ingredients and nuances of a story. The author even brings us all the way back to some concepts from Aristotle, the father of rhetoric.
There is one uniquely compelling concept in the book — the idea of a data trailer. A data trailer is a condensed version of a data story. It starts with a short introduction and reveals the key data insight right away. It’s suitable for situations in which the audience doesn’t have the time to listen to the whole story. A data trailer could also act as a little teaser that convinces others to dedicate time to the whole story. Just like a movie trailer would!
I do want to share a little warning before you start reading this book. While it’s worth your time because it presents concepts and ideas not really seen elsewhere, it’s not the most entertaining book I’ve ever read. Many chapters feel like a never-ending list of bullet points, and some of the stories are a little flat. So manage your expectations — you’ll be reading a textbook rather than an inspiring publication.
Even more books
I’ve got quite a few more books that I’m either currently reading or plan to read in 2023. My collection is in fact getting so big that the books no longer fit on the shelves and some of them have to live on the floor!
So here is the list of books that will probably make it to the 2023 edition of the map. The two I’m currently reading are:
And here is the list of new books I have my eyes on for next year:
Joyful infographics by Nigel Holmes
Valentina d’Efilippo’s new book (I don’t have the details just yet!)
Building Science Graphics by Jen Christiansen
The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg
Adrift: America in 100 charts by Scott Galloway
I hope this gives you lots of reading material and inspiration for the holiday period and the year 2023. Speaking of the new year, I’ve got an announcement to make — after the holiday break, The Plot will become a weekly newsletter! Starting early January, you’ll receive lots of data storytelling goodness in your inbox every Thursday at 3pm CEST.
In the meantime, I wish you very happy holidays! Make sure to sleep and read a lot ☺️
Did you know that I run my own data design studio called Parabole? 📡 If you like The Plot and my approach to data storytelling, do reach out to us for design projects, trainings or consulting services. Just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get things going! See you soon :)