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Graphic Discovery: A Trout in the Milk and Other Visual Adventures Hardcover – October 26, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2005


"Well written and innovative. . . . The book is fascinating with its wide view, including introductions to historical personalities, analyses of statistical paradoxes, and well-documented discussions of actual uses of visual data to mislead viewers."--Choice



"During a dairyman's strike in 19th century New England, when there was suspicion of milk being watered down, Henry David Thoreau wrote, 'Sometimes circumstantial evidence can be quite convincing; like when you find a trout in the milk.' Howard Wainer uses this as a metaphor in his entertaining, informative, and persuasive book on graphs, or the visual communication of information. Sometimes a well-designed graph tells a very convincing story."--Raymond N. Greenwell, MAA Online



"Wainer's wit and broad intellect make this a very entertaining book."--Linda Pickle, ,American Statistician



"[A] personalized and readable jaunt through the history of charting."--The Economist



"This book may be seen as a chronology of graphic date presentation beginning with Playfair to the present and pointing toward the future. . . . It is a remarkable value that every practitioner of statistics can afford."--Malcolm James Ree, Personnel Psychology



"Graphic Discovery is a welcome addition to the literature on investigation and effective communication through graphic display. It contains a wealth of information and opinions, which are motivated and illustrated through a plethora of real life examples which can be easily incorporated into any educational setting: classroom, seminar, self-enhancement. . . . This book will be useful to and it can be mastered by a diverse readership."--Thomas E. Bradstreet, Computational Statistics

From the Inside Flap

"The use of charts and graphs to make numbers both intelligible and memorable is a surprisingly modern idea. How this idea grew from a curiosity into a basic tool of modern science is a story of remarkable men and curious paradoxes, a story that Howard Wainer tells with zest and sympathetic understanding. Informative, readable, profoundly engaging."--George A. Miller, Princeton University, author of The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two

"I liked this book very much indeed. It will be very useful to the many who are interested in the interplay of forces that have yielded modern science."--Eric T. Bradlow, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

"Fascinating. This book . . . the first to explore the chronological development of graphical data display . . . should be required reading for statisticians, applied researchers, scientists, and certainly for all journalists."--I. Elaine Allen, Babson College

"A delightful and thought-provoking book on statistical graphics. Wainer provides compact case studies of how graphical presentations such as bar charts, plots, and scattergrams can lead to important discoveries. The most compelling examples show how a published graphic could be dramatically improved to avoid misleading interpretations or make new discoveries. The most entertaining parts are his vignettes of historical figures, such as his twin heroes of William Playfair and John Tukey. I enjoyed Wainer's sardonic wit, personal anecdotes, and popular culture references, but the real gift was the clarity of thinking and the wise guidance about deep issues in statistics, data mining, and information visualization."--Ben Shneiderman, College Park, MD

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691103011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691103013
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 7.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #482,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I ordered this book with great anticipation. I had read the previous review which calls it the best mathematical book of 2005. I was sorely disappointed. The writing is extremely wordy and many of the digressive footnotes served the author better than they serve the reader. The author is overly proud of his having known John Tukey and he also subjects us to a tediously long example involving his son's Princeton acceptance letter.

I think the author is actually a fine fellow who genuinely loves graphs and charts, and he does manage to present many classic pieces of graph design advice in a congenial way. But the essays are rather disconnected. The author is fairly good on mathematical graph design but his ventures into related issues such as collation and ordering and document design are not successful and his lack of expertise in these areas is painful.

The book ends with a very odd twenty-page biographical dictionary, which partly covers people prominent in the history of graphing, but also includes random folks who just seemed to have caught the author's attention or who were mentioned peripherally in examples in the text, such as Seneca, Henry David Thoreau, and all (I think) of the current American Supreme Court Justices.

Overall, this book is a kind of brain dump which feels like reading the backup copy of the author's future-projects file. There are other better places to start learning about graph design, including Tufte, Cleveland, or even the old standby "How to Lie With Statistics."
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Format: Hardcover
A delightful and thought-provoking book on statistical graphics. Wainer provides compact case studies of how graphical presentations such as bar charts, plots, and scattergrams can lead to important discoveries. The most compelling examples show how a published graphic could be dramatically improved to avoid misleading interpretations or make new discoveries. The most entertaining parts are his vignettes of historical figures, such as his twin heroes of William Playfair and John Tukey. I enjoyed Wainer's sardonic wit, personal anecdotes, and popular culture references, but the real gift was the clarity of thinking and the wise guidance about deep issues in statistics, data mining, and information visualization.

Ben Shneiderman, College Park, MD

[...]
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You may think it's too early to already be picking the best math book of 2005, but I can't imagine I will regret this choice. Wainer's book is accessible to people with a minimal statistical background, with its fascinating voyage through the history of data displays. It provides interesting biographical information on some of the characters we meet along the voyage. Then it finally looks to the future direction of data analysis.

I can't imagine any mathophile, and particularly any teacher of statistics at any level, who won't find this book a treasure trove of delights. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you work with data and have to communicate it with others this book is a must read. There is beauty in simplicity and Wainer brings it to the fore in Chapter 5. His focus on Playfair and Tukey gives us good historical insight. It just so happened that the first example I read was Chapter 11 'Order in the Court' and it solved two problems in a totally unrelated field for me. The moral is that alphabetical order is great for finding information but useless when you are using the information to make judgements.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have read Tufte's books and, especially, W.S. Cleveland's books, you do not need to buy or read this book. You've got most of it and much more. I may recommend this book only as a first and fast approach to this matter.Then go directly to the Masters.
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