2013 Summer Reading List for the Healthcare Data Geek

When I go to the beach, I always make sure whatever book I take with me is wrapped in a brown paper cover. I imagine that it creates an air of mystery about me: perhaps I’m reading something really steamy that I need to protect young children and the infirm from.

Alas, the sad truth is that I am just a geek who really likes to read non-fiction (you know-statistics, data visualization, design), and the brown paper cover is simply my feeble attempt to avoid having sand kicked in my face by the cool kids.

Okay, now you know that you won’t find any racy love stories or intriguing mysteries on my summer reading list for the healthcare data geek! What you will find are titles of terrific references for your work — especially for those hooked as firmly on data visualization as I am –books that offer great ways to increase your knowledge and spark new ideas.

So for all of you kindred spirits, here is my 2013 Summer Reading List.

Information Dashboard Design

  • Steve Few has just published the second edition of his Information Dashboard Design, and I am proud to say that KSR contributed an example of a healthcare dashboard to it (what more reason do you need to pre-order your copy today?)! This edition includes six new chapters that focus on the fundamentals of a well-designed dashboard, along with detailed instructions for creating and using bullet graphs and sparklines (love them).

The Functional Art

  • I have been struck lately by the number of people who ask me about infographics, and have been very happy to be able to refer them to Alberto Cairo’s terrific book The Functional Art: an Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization. Whether you have been working with data and visualization techniques for some time, or are new to the field, I feel certain you will enjoy this practical introduction to understanding information graphics. Cairo has selected wonderful examples of statistical charts, maps, and explanation diagrams, and shows you how to use them to spot the stories in your data and learn more from them — really a great and interesting read.

naked statistics

  • How can anyone possibly make reading about statistics fun? Believe it or not, in Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data, Charles Wheelan has done a darn good job. No, you won’t be rolling on the floor, but you will be engaged and amused. Here’s what I really like about this particular book: it has lots and lots of healthcare examples. For example, Wheelan pays homage to Stephen Jay Gould’s classic essay on prognosis, “The Median Isn’t the Message,” in which Dr. Gould uses his own cancer diagnosis to illustrate how misleading median-survival data can be. (Told he had a malignancy with a median survival of eight months, Dr. Gould died of an unrelated cancer two decades later.) Mr. Wheelan also discusses the very hot topic of predictive analytics (regression analysis anyone?) with terrific examples of when it works and when it doesn’t. I know: it sounds like a snooze, but it is a pretty fun read (brown paper wrapper and all).

the art of explanation

  • Years ago when Twitter first came on the scene, I was one of the people scratching my head trying to figure out what in tarnation it was all about. I really didn’t get it. Then Arab Spring happened, and I began to have an inkling of the power of the 140-character message. Still, it wasn’t until I read Lee LeFever’s analysis of Twitter in his book The Art of Explanation: Making your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand that I really connected the dots. LeFever helps you to understand the fundamentals of how to plan, package, and present your ideas, concepts, and work in a way that will capture your audience’s attention and its imagination — and best of all, stimulate potential clients, customers, or supporters to take action that will lead to your success.

These are a few of the titles I think would be worth toting to the beach or lakeside — with or without discreet paper wrappers. In the interest of full disclosure, of course, I’ll admit (just this once) to a few Danielle Steeles and John Grishams in my straw bag as well — oh, and a thermos of margaritas, of course! Girl’s gotta have some guilty pleasures…

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One Response to 2013 Summer Reading List for the Healthcare Data Geek

  1. Karen H. says:

    So I just stumbled onto your blog today after just learning about data visualization as a specialty field on Wednesday (it is now Friday). I am hooked! And yes, I completely get the brown paper wrapper, it is easier than trying to explain my version of “light” summer reading.

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