Top critical review
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A bit disappointed, but it'll help me learn R
on 9 February 2016
I bought this book on a whim and have slightly mixed feelings about it. All in all, I like it as I was very keen to learn about using other packages to present my data (and it gives a good and thorough overview of R and Adobe Illustrator in the book – both of which I am interested in using – as well as suggestions for other open source software e.g. Inkscape and paid software too). I was getting fed up of doing all my analysis in Excel – it’s not only clunky for large datasets, but I felt the output looked boring/dated and desperately wanted to make my analysis more inviting and interesting. I wasn’t sure which packages I should think about using given I have used a combination of SAS, excel and SQL before. The book has definitely given an overview of what’s out there - plenty of it is open source so I feel I can experiment without the worry of cost.
Good points about the book:
The layout and graphics in the book and clean and inviting and the author gives suggestions on how to label and present graphs and charts to make sure the audience understand them (this is all fairly standard stuff, but if the target audience is non-analysts then these points need to be reiterated). He also clearly explains when certain graphs will/won’t work; this isn’t ground-breaking stuff (I found myself agreeing with most of what he says) and for the seasoned analyst this is probably too basic, but it’s useful to get an idea of where a different type of graph/chart might work for your analysis. It gave me some great ideas for a big project I am working on.
Bad points about the book:
At times, it felt like the main focus was an intro to R. If you’ve got a decent background in R this book will no doubt be too basic for you and you are better off downloading a trial for Adobe or getting Inkscape and fiddling around with your graphs to make them look more interesting – if this is what you want to do.
The writing style is very informal and a bit too ‘chatty’ for my liking (perhaps all books are heading this way?) I imagine this approach would work in a video format or for a lecture, but in a book I prefer a more formal style. The casual language in the book didn’t work for me.
Things I am not sure about:
I am not entirely sure who this book is aimed at – analysts or non-analysts, or both? If you’ve got an analytical background, the content might be too simplistic for you, but if you want fresh ideas because the presentation of your analysis feels a bit stale then this book will help.
Buy this book if you’ve got an analytical background and are wanting to learn how to do very basic data analysis in R and then improve the graphs in Adobe (as the first 6 chapters do a lot of this!) As others have said, plenty of code is provided so you can plot basic graphs in R. If you want to practice examples, there are links to the datasets on the author’s website so you can easily read the data into R and create the output yourself. If you're a non analyst, you might want to get a more technical book first before you reach for this so you're clear on the basics (e.g. what a histogram is and how you interpret it).