Head First Data Analysis Book Review

Let’s get this out of the way. This is a book for absolute beginners. This is not a book for seasoned professionals and it makes no excuses for being so. I like that. The book is focused towards Data Analysis, so you won’t be seeing any algorithms in here.

The book is setup as if you were a consultant and successive businesses come knocking on your door for help (that’s the dream!). Each client has a different problem that fits the single technique that is learnt in each chapter.

The pace is very slow for me and I found myself skipping many pages at a time, but I can imagine that for an absolute beginner the slow pace is easy to follow.

The book talks about a single fundamental concept per chapter, like experiements and hypothesis testing, and then frames them as a way to solve the clients problem. The format is consistent throughout the book and it has been well edited to suit.

Some people, including myself, get annoyed with the number of graphics included in the Head First series, but that formula is so well known now you can’t complain about it. You know it’s like that up front.

Technology-wise, it mostly deals with spreadsheets, so if you’re coming from a non-programming background this could be ideal. It does dip into using R when things get a little more tricky and I think that this was a bad idea in this book. R is a beast and even for a competent programmer, I think the API and language is confusing. I think it too much to expect people, that are used to using spreadsheets, to jump straight into R.

I did find some parts revealing, however, because of their simplicity. I particularly liked:

“One of the most fundamental principals of analysis and statistics is the method of comparison, which states that data is interesting only in comparison to other data.”


“Statistics are illuminating only in relation to other statistics”

Comparing features and data is instinctive for me. But I have never stopped to think about the fact that analysis only becomes interesting when you can compare one feature with another. Comparison is the key.

If you really are an absolute beginner with no programming experience at all, then I think this could be a valuable introduction into why businesses need Data Science. And I think this book does a good job at highlighting how businesses can use simple Data Science to great effect. However for most I think that they will find the content below their level of expertise and get bored. But because of the quality editing, focused demographic and good examples of how businesses use data science, I think this is worthy of three stars.