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Head First Data Analysis: A learner's guide to big numbers, statistics, and good decisions Paperback – August 7, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0596153939 ISBN-10: 0596153937 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Head First
  • Paperback: 486 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (August 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596153937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596153939
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael Milton likes books. Before his first day of high school wrestling, he checked out a stack of books on technique from the library and practiced on his not-terribly-enthusiastic little sister. Then he spent the first few minutes of tryouts kicking the butts of other newbies, until the experienced wrestlers realized how much fun it would be to kick his. Within a few months, he became a decent wrestler, but he always stayed a bit ahead of the other newbies because of those books.

His life has consisted of gleefully going through that process over and over again in completely unrelated fields. Naturally, he's a Head First fanatic.

Until recently Michael spent most of time looking at databases to help nonprofit organizations figure out how to make more money. He has a degree in philosophy from New College of Florida and one in religious ethics from Yale University. When he's not in the library or the bookstore, you can find him in-line skating, taking pictures, and brewing beer.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By calvinnme HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is for professionals that must analyze data in their daily work. First off, if you are unfamiliar with the approach of the "Head First" series of books by O'Reilly, the approach was and is revolutionary in the field of technical writing. The authors of this series know that page after page of terse text will not easily penetrate the brain of the working professional who needs help rather quickly. Traditional textbook models work best on students in a traditional classroom setting who can slowly absorb material over a period of several months with the help of bi-weekly classroom sessions with a professor. The working professional does not have this luxury of time or of personal tutoring.

Thus the authors both penetrate your brain and hold your interest by serving information up in unusual ways - odd pictures and illustrations, Q&A sessions, repeating the same material in different ways, and interesting case studies in which you are asked at every step to give your input. They'll even lead you down the the wrong path every now and then so that you remember the right one all the better.

As for the subject matter, this is not a book on statistics and how to solve problems in statistics. Instead, it is how you use various statistical models and tools and visualization to analyze often confusing corporate data and come up with recommendations based on that data. Some mathematical methods will be presented as they are necessary to solving the underlying problems - optimization, hypothesis testing, bayesian statistics, subjective probabilities, heuristics, and histograms - these are all mentioned and even have their own chapters. However, this book is also about tools - R and the analysis tools of Excel specifically.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bill Mietelski on August 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
First, a disclaimer: as one of the technical reviewers for the book, I might be a little biased. Having said that, I'm willing to bet my copy of Head First Data Analysis that this won't be the last 5-star review you'll find here :-)

By my count this is the 20th book in the Head First series, so by now most Amazon customers know the story behind the Head First format, style, and pedagogy. These aren't your typical technical books, so if this is the first Head First book you're considering, you owe it to yourself to get a sneak preview first. I think you'll be in for a treat.

The Amazon Reader does have the first six pages of Chapter 1, which will give you some idea, but I'd recommend going to Head First Labs where you can download and read the entire 2nd chapter. You can also grab the full Table Of Contents in PDF format, which I believe is a little easier on the eyes than the TOC in the Amazon Reader.

The book is written for folks without hardcore data analysis experience who are looking for an introduction to analyzing data to make better decisions. You won't need a background in statistics, engineering, or computer science. While some data analysis books assume you're a math geek, Michael Milton does not.

And while many "Data Analysis" books pretty much revolve around Excel's data analysis functions (Analysis ToolPak, Solver, etc), this book is more about how you work with data, not about how you use a particular software tool. While you do use spreadsheets and a statistical computing software package called "R", the focus is on using the tools between your ears to become a better data analyst.

These days almost everyone needs to deal with and interpret data. Those that become successful know how to make sense of it all. This book will help you think about, process, and present your data so you can draw reliable conclusions to real-life questions.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Gregory A. Stobbs on February 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While some of the Head First series have been quite helpful, this one has way too much fluff, making it tedious to find the important content. By way of example, the entire page 97 is devoted to "Profits fell through the floor" with a picture of a sad person, a picture of a pile of rubber ducks, a sample letter expressing a complaint, and the conclusion that "this is pretty bad news." Page 97 lies in the middle of the "optimization" chapter, but you don't get to the punch line on what to do about the "pretty bad news" until page 108. The pace of the book is simply too slow--which I attribute to an overuse of the Head First style, a style supposedly "designed for the way your brain works." My brain would have been happier if the editors had picked up the pace.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ira Laefsky VINE VOICE on August 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
Like the rest of the excellent Head First Series this volume provides excellent planned pedagogy (teaching) in the field it addresses.
But, this excellence has been put to a harder test in this volume that asks: "How do I find, analyze and present the data which will answer the questions being asked by business leaders, scientists and policy makers?". It begins with an excellent introductory section (that easily could be turned into a book of its own) about how business and policy questions and undefined verbal problems can be analyzed and directed toward the data which will provide an accurate answer to the underlying question. It proceeds to design of data-based experiments, hypothesis testing and the appropriate statistical techniques which will provide accurate and easily understandable analysis. While there is a certain amount of data-based experimental design which is presented in introduction, the statistical methods are presented together with the tools that will allow anyone with a basic quantitative intuition to analyze complex data with Excel spreadsheets and the "R" statistical language. Data visualizations of quantitative information, data cleaning and representation of relational databases are presented in a light that will lead to accurate analysis and clear conclusions, as opposed to beautiful information visualizations for their own sake.

This volume will be a valuable educational tool and reference for future generation of business and policy analysts, as well as anyone who must find and communicate the answers to difficult questions based upon numerical and data-based analysis. This book illustrates that the Head First editorial format can be excellently applied to real life decision making and analysis issues as well as it has previously been employed in teaching high school and university subject matter.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Michael Milton is the author of Head First Data Analysis has spent most of his career helping nonprofit organizations improve their fundraising by interpreting and acting on the data they collect from their donors.

He has a degree in philosophy from New College of Florida and one in religious ethics from Yale University. He found reading Head First to be a revelation after spending years reading boring books filled with terribly important stuff and is grateful to have the opportunity to write an exciting book filled with terribly important stuff.

When he's not in the library or the bookstore, you can find him running, taking pictures, and brewing beer.

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Head First Data Analysis: A learner's guide to big numbers, statistics, and good decisions
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