This book may not for everyone, however. It does not contain ready-to-use concepts nor does it present a comprehensive solution for displaying dynamic information. What it does contain, are keen observations and commentary on past attempts at dynamic information display. The relation of each chapter to the next is not readily apparent and is quite precarious in fact. What results, is a book that reads better if each chapter is taken independently. In short, this book will be more rewarding to those willing to spend time to ponder over Tufte's observations. Conversely, the book will appear to have a lack of focus to those in a rush to find solutions.
I own all three volumes. I use VISUAL EXPLANATIONS: IMAGES AND QUANTITIES, EVIDENCE AND NARRATIVE when I teach statistics. Students, but mostly professors, are too caught up with the power of inferential statistics leaving behind or seeing the visual display of data as insignificant or too simple to be introduced in a college course. Even worse, some are just plain ignorant regarding data presentation. To dispel any attitude that inferential statistics are the heart and soul of the study of cause, I use the section about the Challenger space flight to illustrate the importance of graphic illustrations in the field of engineering. The book hits home like no other visual presentation. Students see how decisions are made on the basis of poor quality and high quality graphics. These graphics produce a rare quietness in the classroom. There emerges a respect for the deceased astronauts. Students see how decision-makers employ graphic illustrations to determine a critical (in this case, life-threatening) course of action. The illustrations played an important function in endorsing the liftoff of the doomed Challenger.
After students emotionally recover from the trauma of visually understanding the flaw in the O-rings, the graphics lead students to understand the statistical concept of "independence." This statistical concept is initially difficult for undergraduates to grasp. However, the illustrations in VISUAL EXPLANATIONS provide a powerful springboard.
On the lighter side, I insist that students turn to page 90-91 to review the graphic that establishes the cause and effect of "rock `n roll." It, like all of Tufte's illustrations, is inspiring.
Every professor who teaches statistics should have a copy of this and Tufte's other volume entitled, THE VISUAL DISPLAY OF QUANTITATIVE INFORMATION. In addition, every academic library should house all the volumes.
This third book in the triology on "information presentation" is as splendid as the previous two books. In this volume the emphasis is, as the title suggests, on methods for creating powerful illustrations and graphics that could help you present your knowledge in a non-disputable way.
The most intriguing section in this book without doubt the chapter on the Challenger disaster in 1986. The rocket engineers back then had worries about the launch on Jan 28. However they were not at all able to communicate their worries to NASA and so it ended... In a worrying few number of pages, Mr. Tufte, dissects the data presented to NASA by the engineers and creates a information redesign which makes it clear to anyone that the launch should have been postponed.
I still belive that book 2, "Envisioning Information" is the most required. Buy that book and if you love is (as I do), then buy the other two books as well.
The layout of this book is fully in thread with the others in the series. Beautiful, engaging, ingenious, etc. The print quality is second to none - you really have a feeling that the crew behind these books have been nursing their babies.
So Mr. Tufte - where is number four in the series?