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Nicola believes it is so important for all of us who work in Data Science to be able to flexibly evaluate data across distinct modalities and use it to create a robust and coherent narrative.

This list of books spans topics ranging from geopolitics to social science, from techno-futurism to behavioural psychology, and from data visualisation to artificial intelligence.

1. Factfulness

  • Authors: Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, and Ola Rosling
  • Time to read: 5 hrs 52 mins (352 pages)

This book discusses how the majority of people in wealthy countries hold a skewed and outdated worldview. In general, people tend to think things are worse than they really are. This widely-held opinion seems to be the result of a lack of knowledge, a poor understanding of statistics, and the 24-hour news cycle.
Factfulnessdrills down into each of these issues in order to empower readers with a more fact-based worldview. The authors categorise the top ten biases in how we evaluate the state of the world. They offer education on how to recognize and prevent these misconceptions. Moreover, they highlight how good news is routinely underreported and how this contributes to an inaccurate understanding of other people.

The book criticises the notion that the world can be bifurcated into “developed” and “developing.” In fact, today nearly all countries could be considered “developed” relative to their technological status when this categorization was initially proposed.
The authors put forward an updated model based on income per person adjusted for price differences:

  • Level 1: less than $2 a day
  • Level 2: $2–$8 a day
  • Level 3: $8–$32 a day
  • Level 4: $32+ a day

via Gapminder
As you would expect based on your understanding of the normal distribution, the majority of the countries fall within Level 2 or Level 3 with a select few in Level 1 and Level 4. Thinking about global incomes in this way, as falling along a distribution curve rather than representing a gap between countries with extreme poverty and the so-called “developed world” helps combat this outdated perspective and the catastrophizing 24-hour news media.

This charming book highlights how data can be used to shape an optimistic worldview.

2. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

  • Author: Kathryn Schulz
  • Time to read: 6 hrs 56 mins (405 pages)

“…it does feel like something to be wrong. It feels like being right.”
This statement serves as the thesis for Being Wrong. With engaging prose, Schulz elucidates all kinds of behavioural mistakes and perceptual errors. The book chronicles the journey of being wrong, denying it, realising it, feeling humiliated, and eventually finding humour in the mistake.
Schulz guides the reader through a history of error, from Socrates to Greenspan, and delves playfully into the psychology of mistakes, which plague us all whether we like it or not. She argues that being wrong is an inescapable aspect of human existence.
This book, similar to Factfulness, will help you shape your worldview to become more positive, compassionate, and realistic. Given that it’s impossible to be right all the time, this one is definitely worth a read.
An entertaining book that offers insight into how statistics and decision making apply to the real world.
Photo byJake Nackos on Unsplash

3. The Infinite Retina

  • Authors: Irena Cronin and Robert Scoble
  • Time to read: 6 hrs 42 mins (404 pages)

The Infinite Retina explores how virtual and augmented reality technology could shape the future. This insightful book weaves a thorough picture of the present and future of spatial computing. It offers an introduction to the visionaries, subject matter experts, and up-and-coming businesses that are driving this technological revolution.
The authors provide a thorough treatment of the issues of privacy, security, identity, ownership, and ethics. The frequency at which society will interact with VR and AR technology in the near future will generate ever increasing amounts of data. Therefore, it’s beneficial for data practitioners to have at least a cursory understanding of the implications of spatial computing described in the book.
Overall, this is an excellent and authoritative account of a relatively new technology that should be read by anyone seeking to understand societal implications of changes to the digital landscape.
The Infinite Retina is an overview of the technological foundations that will enable the design of future immersive experiences through virtual and augmented reality.

4. Invisible Women

  • Author: Caroline Criado Perez
  • Time to read: 4 hrs 32 mins (432 pages)

This eye-opener raises awareness about the general paucity of data on women. This deficiency impacts many fields, ranging from medicine to social sciences. This book will make you more aware of the data quality issues that stem from this lack of gender parity in data availability.
By exploring the ramifications of treating male as default, Criado Perez exposes the flaws in a world created by men for men. She provides many unnerving examples of cases when the needs of women were completely ignored by product designers and also cases when the needs of women were inadequately addressed by simply abstracting the gender and treating women like “smaller men.”
The author investigates the root cause of gender inequality through research into the lives of women around the world in various settings such as the workplace, the doctor’s office, and at home. In short, this book offers a groundbreaking summary of data quality issues impacting data about 50%+ of the world’s individuals.
If you’re seeking reliable data, this book offers an education in the issues around so-called gender neutrality and the troubling lack of representation of women.

5. Analytics of Life

  • Author: Mert Damlapinar
  • Time to read: 6 hrs 20 mins (348 pages)

Anyone looking for a broad overview of data should pick up this book — a short treatise on data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Damlapinar describes the current technological situation and presents the opinions of several experts in order to inform the reader of possibilities on the horizon.
The author has outlined the effects of advancements in data-related capabilities across various industries. This aspect of the book provides a solid primer for how data can be used to improve organisational performance.
Furthermore, Damlapinar makes a case for analysing flaws in our way of thinking before we embark on the project of developing artificial general intelligence.

This is an interesting take on present and near future data capabilities.

6. Storytelling With Data

  • Author: Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic
  • Time to read: 4 hrs 48 mins (288 pages)

This book is a great teacher of the art and science of getting your point across, whether verbally or visually, using data. Nussbaumer Knaflic draws upon the groundbreaking work of pioneers like Edward Tufte and brings in her own experience working with datadriven organisations as a consultant and executive in order to guide readers on the best practices of data communication.

Nussbaumer Knaflic provides instructions and examples of how to utilise data to create a captivating narrative. She advises on how to choose the correct data visualisation technique for a given audience and circumstance.

Readers will learn how to think like a designer, eliminate the clutter clouding valuable information, direct the audience’s attention to the most important aspect of the data story, and leverage the power of storytelling to achieve emotional resonance.

This is an easy-to-read manual on the principles of data visualisation and successful data communication based in real world expertise. Readers may also be interested in Nussbaumer Knaflic’s newest book, Storytelling with You , which is more about presentation skills and comes out in September.


  • Author: Nick Bostrom
  • Time to read: 6 hrs 30 mins (390 pages)

A concise, convincing analysis of the potential hazards around artificial general intelligence (AGI). This book sets out the incredibly challenging task of ensuring that superintelligent AI systems are robust, safe, and beneficial to humanity. Bostrom outlines the strategies that must be undertaken prior to the development of AGI in order to minimise existential risk.

This classic work is a great read for those of us who interact with data, especially machine learning models. It is particularly relevant in light of recent advancements (e.g., GPT-3, Gato, DALL-E) that seem to be rapidly pushing us closer to this groundbreaking development.

This book outlines the risks associated with the development of artificial general intelligence.


  • Author: Jay Zaidi
  • Time to read: 3 hrs 32 mins (212 pages)

Zaidi has done an excellent job highlighting the importance of data for effective decision making. He highlights the fact that many leaders take data for granted and only call upon it when crucial decisions must be made. These leaders may feel more comfortable governing based on intuition. They may not know what questions to ask to deepen their situational awareness using measurement and evaluation.

Zaidi aims to transform the management discipline by providing instruction on how to become a data-driven leader. He outlines an approach to using data to keep a pulse on the health of the organisation. Data quality improvement forms the basis of further strategies for executive data strategy. The book also discusses ways to prevent common data management difficulties and how to empower owners to enrich data using interoperability and enhanced metadata.

Zaidi has labelled the Fourth Industrial Revolution the “Age of Data.” This book connects the dots across various data management fields, and their practical applications, using real life experience that the author gained while leading enterprise-wide data management programs in the financial services industry. The book helps develop core skills for leaders to win in the “Age of Data.”

The book is created with busy executives in mind. If you’re seeking a straightforward approach to ensure the success of your organisation based on better data management, this book is for you.


  • Author: Irena Cronin and Robert Scoble
  • Time to read: 6 hrs 42 mins (404 pages)

Petzold demonstrates the inventive ways we play with words and create new strategies to converse with one another. Code offers a lens on how the technological advancements of the last 200 years have been fueled by human inventiveness and the need to communicate.

The book gets off to a really good start discussing Morse Code to lay the fundamentals of what constitutes a code. It moves on to describing binary code in an engaging manner – not easy to do. The book is a cleverly illustrated and eminently comprehensible narrative. Along the way, the reader gains insight into objects of modern technological ubiquity. Whether you’re an experienced programmer or just want to learn more about how computers work, this is an excellent starting point.

This book bridges computer science fundamentals with the science of everyday things to offer a delightful reading experience that will deepen your appreciation for working with data.


  • Author: Edward Tufte
  • Time to read: 3 hrs 33 mins (213 pages)

Tufte is the OG, and this book is a beautiful and precise treatise on crafting analytical visualisations. This book is truly a joy to read. It is essential for rounding out a data practitioner’s understanding of analytics and presentation. Your Tableau dashboards and your coffee table will benefit.

Beautiful Evidence is about how seeing turns into showing, how data and evidence turn into explanation. The book identifies effective methods for showcasing just about every kind of information. Tufte suggests several new tools such as sparklines. The book concludes with two chapters that leave the world of two-dimensional representations and venture into three-dimensional considerations such as space and time.

Tufte offers the reader guidance on how to produce and how to consume presentations. He aims to enhance the viewer’s analytical toolkit for assessing the credibility of evidence presentations.

This is a foundational work on data visualisation that’s comprehensive and visually appealing.

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