Best books on data visualization is a bold claim, but my best doesn't have to be someone else's best. 🙂 I have benefitted and learned from these books, and you would enjoy reading them too.

Visualizing Data

Although it is an old book, its concepts are still relevant today. William Cleveland, a professor of Statistics and Computer Science at Purdue University, provides great examples of using simple charts and exercising caution with aspect ratios. It is written for an academic audience, but it is hardly intimidating to practitioners. The best part: you can find the R code used for creating the charts from this book.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

A data visualization book list will remain incomplete if missing Tufte's books. Edward Tufte, with his beautiful design of the book and charts, has led the charge against bad data visualization a.k.a chart junk.

Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten

When I first started reading about dashboards and good chart design, I bumped into Stephen Few's book Information Dashboard Design. This book changed how I looked at charts and tables. Show me the numbers is a great book if you haven't read any of Few's works. 

Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals

Cole Kanflic's Storytelling with data is a great addition to the collection of data visualization books. It is beginner-friendly and does not assume the knowledge of any programming. Most, if not all, the charts in the book can be created in Excel. The result is pleasing to the eyes and is clutter-free.

Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations

The charts in this book have more of an infographic-y feel to them -- but that's not a negative. I have advocated for simplicity and clarity and criticized "interesting" things, but often you need to splash the charts with some design elements to gain attention. This book provides you great examples of such charts.

The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don'ts of Presenting Data,...

Dona Wong, a former graphics editor at the Wall Street Journal and Tufte's student, gives concise advice on colors, chart types, and clarity. This book is my first recommendation for anyone interested in data visualization.

The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios

The big book of dashboards provides a great introduction to key data visualization principles and then presents valuable examples of dashboards that you may see in real life.

Fundamentals of Data Visualization: A Primer on Making Informative and Compelling Figures

In the fundamentals of data visualization, Wilke shows countless examples that differentiate a good chart from a bad chart. This book is special because Wike created his own plotting style available via an R package.

Observe, Collect, Draw!: A Visual Journal

Observe, collect, draw is a special book. One of my design professors recommended it to me. While it is not strictly a data visualization book of Tufte or Few variety, it provides great examples of how even simple data can be viewed with the help of a graphic. This book is great for ideation.

How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information

Alberto Cairo offers many examples of how the chart creators knowingly or unknowingly "lie." He shows how they do this: using faulty axis starting points, aspect ratios, and outright wrong data. This book will help you see how charts can manipulate certain emotions, and you will learn to question or avoid such charts.

Data Science for Fundraising: Build Data-Driven Solutions Using R

Yes, I co-wrote this book. Yes, I am biased. The data visualization chapter in this book is so detailed and long that it could have become a separate book. I wrote about principles of effective data visualization, summarizing my learnings from the books before me. I advised which charts to use. And I provided detailed R code to create your own effective graphics.

Here's the list of books on data visualization again for your quick review.

Visualizing Data
12 Reviews
Visualizing Data
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • William S. Cleveland (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 360 Pages - 03/01/1993 (Publication Date) - Hobart Press (Publisher)
Sale
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
434 Reviews
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
  • Graphics Press
  • Hardcover Book
  • Tufte, Edward R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 200 Pages - 01/01/2001 (Publication Date) - Graphics Pr (Publisher)
Sale
Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten
153 Reviews
Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten
  • Analytics Press
  • Hardcover Book
  • Few, Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 371 Pages - 06/01/2012 (Publication Date) - Analytics Press (Publisher)
Sale
Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals
1,082 Reviews
Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals
  • Nussbaumer Knaflic, Cole (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 11/02/2015 (Publication Date) - Wiley (Publisher)
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Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations
177 Reviews
Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations
  • Good Charts The HBR Guide to Making Smarter More Persuasive Data Visualizations
  • Berinato, Scott (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 264 Pages - 05/17/2016 (Publication Date) - Harvard Business Review Press (Publisher)
Sale
The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don'ts of Presenting Data,...
169 Reviews
The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don'ts of Presenting Data,...
  • W W Norton Company
  • Wong, Dona M. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 12/16/2013 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)
Sale
The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios
251 Reviews
The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios
  • WILEY
  • Wexler, Steve (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 04/24/2017 (Publication Date) - Wiley (Publisher)
Sale
Fundamentals of Data Visualization: A Primer on Making Informative and Compelling Figures
63 Reviews
Fundamentals of Data Visualization: A Primer on Making Informative and Compelling Figures
  • Wilke, Claus O. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 390 Pages - 04/23/2019 (Publication Date) - O'Reilly Media (Publisher)
Sale
Observe, Collect, Draw!: A Visual Journal
72 Reviews
Observe, Collect, Draw!: A Visual Journal
  • Lupi, Giorgia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/25/2018 (Publication Date) - Princeton Architectural Press (Publisher)
Sale
How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information
151 Reviews
How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information
  • Hardcover Book
  • Cairo, Alberto (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 10/15/2019 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)
Data Science for Fundraising: Build Data-Driven Solutions Using R
25 Reviews
Data Science for Fundraising: Build Data-Driven Solutions Using R
  • Nandeshwar, Ashutosh R (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 568 Pages - 02/14/2018 (Publication Date) - DATA INSIGHT PARTNERS LLC (Publisher)

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About the Author

A co-author of Data Science for Fundraising, an award winning keynote speaker, Ashutosh R. Nandeshwar is one of the few analytics professionals in the higher education industry who has developed analytical solutions for all stages of the student life cycle (from recruitment to giving). He enjoys speaking about the power of data, as well as ranting about data professionals who chase after “interesting” things. He earned his PhD/MS from West Virginia University and his BEng from Nagpur University, all in industrial engineering. Currently, he is leading the data science, reporting, and prospect development efforts at the University of Southern California.

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