Customer Review

764 of 791 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, July 18, 2006
This review is from: Beautiful Evidence (Hardcover)
I finished tufte last night... what a disaster, or perhaps sunk with high expectations.

I'm a huge fan of dr. tufte's very influential writing on information visualization - as far as I know he's done the best work in the field. But this book - while simply physically and visually stunning - is a real disappointment.

In this work I read about 20% insight, 40% recycled material and preaching to what is probably the choir (this includes an overly repetitious chapter-long discussion of minard's lovely march to moscow graphic & his previously available power point piece), and 40% filler & drek. I don't find his comments on art, writing styles, baseball, and the like to be terribly compelling, and are certainly done better in many other works - and indeed, his thoughts on these ended up as being pretty grating and condescending, if not just wrong.

And that the book ends with several pages of photos (a few of really poor quality, I might add) his own outdoor artwork (which are of passable quality, but what the *bleep* does this have to do with evidence as defined at the front of the book?) only throws salt on the wounds.

This thing is maddeningly inconsistent. I wish I could simply dismiss the work, but it's full of beauty and joy as well as the bad. Sparklines are fun, but could be improved on. Words + images combined inline, some great stuff there. But while some of the really lovely things, like the translations of galileo, are wonderful and exciting to any science-loving person, they really are pretty pointless to the conversation at hand. He has gone straight down since his first major book - a 5+ star effort, the 2nd, 4.5-5 stars, 3rd, 3 stars, and this is about a 2 star one (2.5+ if you haven't read the others.)

If he'd stop believing his sycophants and stop taking himself so seriously in his quest to convince the reader that he's a high priest on a moral crusade it'd be wonderful. He really does try to convince the reader that this topic is of high moral concern - not just sometimes, but in general. I don't buy it.

And you shouldn't buy this if you haven't read his other works (although if you haven't I'll admit you'll probably like this, you just don't know any better ;-)). Read the staggeringly good "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" or the wonderful "Envisioning Information". And if you must read this, soak up the good points, and try not to grind your teeth with the rest.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 15, 2007 3:09:27 PM PDT
A. W. Epp says:
Excellent review, actually I found his three other books to be a little thin on content, it's hard to tell if they belong on the coffee table or are serious. Too bad he doesn't go into any depth or devote a single book to any one idea. Either give us something new-all of the important thought as you point out is repackaged from his earlier work-or develop the old ideas in meaningful ways. Perhaps, this latest book is the kind of evidence that makes one wonder if his ideas are too superficial for a lengthy treatment. As much as Tufte rails against content-less graphics and presentations he seems seduced by style over substance, i.e. books as objects-if not by vanity, especially with the amount of space given over to photographs of his sculpture.

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2007 3:14:57 PM PDT
I totally agree (with both the reviewer and the commenter).

Posted on Jul 14, 2007 9:33:36 PM PDT
Yes, I agree, the emperor has no clothes. It's just become politically correct to praise Tufte.

Posted on Feb 20, 2008 5:38:52 AM PST
Yep, I agree. I've attended ET's seminar twice now, two years apart, and pretty much got nothing out of the second that wasn't gleaned from the first (except a new book, which I would agree is inferior to his other works). Someone should also inform ET that Microsoft is not merely an easy target, but a passe one at that, *unless* the critic creates new and persuasive ammo (which, ironically enough, is the intent of all of ET's texts). I would argue that many contributors to ET's web site have learned and applied more of ET's insights than ET himself. This book was something more than a call-in effort, something less than a rush job. Two stars is a generous gift.

Oh, and just one more critique about ET: anyone who doesn't say more about Richard Feynman than, "want to increase your IQ by 20 points? Quote Richard Feynman ..." probably hasn't read Richard Feynman enough, and found a quote or two from him useful enough to sound 20 IQ points more intelligent. ET is right, but there's more to Feynman than that. Much, much more.

Posted on Jun 12, 2008 2:22:23 PM PDT
Mark Crane says:
So who would you recommend *instead* of Tufte?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2008 2:23:31 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2008 2:24:16 PM PDT
Mark Crane says:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness

(in response to the comment that praising Tufte has become "politically correct")

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2009 11:11:44 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 16, 2009 2:58:50 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2009 9:12:56 AM PDT
too many of *these* and "those" in our *"comments"* nowadays.

B) his first book was the best hands down. Sometimes people have a point and are able to lay it out clear enough the first time around that they should really get on to something else or perhaps a more evolved approach. I'm sure he had more to say. He must.

Posted on Aug 6, 2009 8:45:03 AM PDT
Mark Wagner says:
Thanks for the review. I have the others, remember that one is good, the other are too esoteric for application in my world, and even they start to overlap in content and ideas. I'll pass on purchasing this book.

Posted on Aug 6, 2009 8:45:18 AM PDT
Mark Wagner says:
Thanks for the review. I have the others, remember that one is good, the other are too esoteric for application in my world, and even they start to overlap in content and ideas. I'll pass on purchasing this book.
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