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Must-read data journalism book list for summer

If you’re a data journalism newbie, enthusiast or expert, check out our top picks for understanding the field and how it is evolving

Summer is here and a vacation from your screen has never been more needed. But for data journalists, that doesn't mean you should stop learning.

There's plenty of material on the subject, and we are here to help you dive in with a good old-fashioned book!

So, which data journalism books are the best? A highly debated topic no doubt, but we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourites to get you started. Below, we’ve cherry-picked a mix of new books and old classics to help you balance your knowledge of the roots of the field and the latest trends.

Whether you’re just starting out in data journalism or looking to expand your skill set, these books will teach you everything from basic spreadsheet tips to more advanced techniques.

So dive in and start learning!

1. Digital Investigative Journalism: Data, Visual Analytics and Innovative Methodologies in International Reporting

by Oliver Hahn and Florian Stalph - 2020

Digital investigative journalism

This book, published in 2020, examines the role of visual analytics, data visualisation, and innovative technologies in digital journalism in recent years. Based on extensive field research, editors Oliver Hahn and Florian Stalph offer a comprehensive guide for journalists and academics who want to know what's happening in the field.

It highlights case studies, techniques, tools, and contributions from leading experts in the field. It is divided into three parts that focus on introducing the reader to data journalism and other data-based outlooks, analysing experimental and advanced approaches to journalistic research (with a strong focus on data visualisation), and finally discussing the impact of digital techniques on media production.

Emilia Díaz-Struck, Mar Cabra, and Nicolas Kayser-Bril are just a few of the international media experts who bring their expertise to the book and illuminate how the latest techniques and tools are changing the media landscape, how journalism is perceived and how it gets done.

Get the book here.

2. I Am a Book. I Am a Portal to the Universe

by Stephanie Posavek and Miriam Quick - 2021

A portal to the universe

This is definitely a unique book with a very special approach. Recognised by several awards i.e. winner of the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize 2021 and one of the Financial Times' Best Books of 2020 (Children and Young Adults), I Am a Book. I Am a Portal to the Universe offers a different, more interactive experience within the world of data.

Authors Stephanie Posavek and Miriam Quick know a lot about information design and data journalism. Both have long careers as reporters for major media outlets and a particular sensitivity to data that has led them to experiment on the cutting edge, such as their work with data sonification.

This book is another example of how to approach data and make it appealing to a wide audience, as it is intended for people who would not necessarily pick up a book with the words data or science in the title.

You can think of the book as a measuring device, as Quick tells us in this interview, "You can use the book to measure things. Each one of the measurements of the book - from the thickness of its pages to the noise it makes when slammed shut - embodies a fascinating fact or data point."

Get ready to go exploring and find out where this book will take you. It's for all ages, suitable for children as young as eight all the way up to adults.

Get the book here.

3. Learning to See Data: How to Interpret the Visual Language of Charts

by Ben Jones - 2020

Ben jones

What exactly do we mean when we talk about data literacy, and why is it particularly important?

Ben Jones, who serves as the executive director of Data Literacy, is considered an authority in the subject. He has devoted a significant portion of his working life to developing materials that help educate audiences on how to manage, handle, and use data in an ethical manner. An illustration of this may be found in the book titled "Learning to See Data: How to Interpret the Visual Language of Charts" (The Data Literacy Series).

You will gain a deeper grasp of how the human visual system understands these codes, in addition to being familiar with the various methods through which data can be represented graphically in a coded format. In this book, you won't just learn how to read graphs, but you'll also get a crash course in the most frequent kinds of graphs.

Listen to our conversation with Ben Jones and save his article to your bookmarks in order to have a better understanding of the significance of data journalism to data literacy and to get a feel for what the book has to offer you.

Get the book here.

4. Data Journalism in the Global South

by Bruce Mutsvairo, Saba Bebawi and Eddy Borges-Rey - 2019


Data journalism is exploding in various countries and contexts while showing little sign of slowing down. This book captures this this surge with real-life examples from the so-called Global South, including the best examples of data journalism in Chile, Iran, and the Philippines to name a few.

It is intended for journalists, academics, and students. However, it's a great read for anyone looking to broaden their perspectives on how the field is approached and the potential it has outside the northern hemisphere.

Bruce Mutsvairo, Saba Bebawi, and Eddy Borges-Rey edited the piece.

Get the book here.

5. Journalism in the Data Age

by Dr. Jingrong Tong - 2022

Journalism in the data age

Dr. Jingrong Tong discusses not only the importance of data journalism, but also the impact of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, computational techniques, and a variety of other innovations in this book.

Within its pages, there are a variety of foreign case studies that address current sociopolitical hot topics such as censorship, democracy, and state control. Dr. Tong also offers much needed perspective on the debate over accountability of algorithmic systems. This book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in understanding the implications of all of these concerns and contributing to the debate concerning the nature of the datafication age.

Get the book here.

6. The Data Storytelling Workbook

by Anna Feigenbaum and Aria Alamalhodaei - 2020

Data storytelling workbook

If you are looking for practical exercises and a good set of tips to tell engaging data stories that captivate your audience, this could be the book for you.

The Data Storytelling Workbook addresses key concepts, challenges, and problem-solving strategies related to data storytelling and explores how to use data responsibly.

Authors Anna Feigenbaum and Aria Alamalhodaei reflect on lessons learned while working together at Bournemouth University's Civic Media Hub. The two have struck a good balance between theory and practice and managed to create a book with many practical exercises to help communicate big numbers effectively and sensitively with audiences.

The book is suitable for both media practitioners and trainers with a range of interests, as the examples cover topics from health, the environment, human rights and advocacy.

Get the book here.

7. The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization

by Alberto Cairo - 2011

The functional art 800 x 800

You can't just look at charts and graphs without understanding what they are. In this book, you'll learn how to interpret information graphs and charts, and how to create these graphic elements as well. The Functional Art is a basic guide that shows you how to properly use data visualisation and infographics to enhance your stories.

What more could you want? The book is written by Alberto Cairo, the guru in data visualisation, so you'll be in good hands. His clear tone combined with his expert methods, compelling stories, and finely tuned interviews make it a must-read. Cairo then makes a smooth transition into models and explains the main principles of several key theories keeping it accessible and digestible for you. The book is full of illustrative visuals to make the reading more understandable.

In case you’ve already got this book under your belt you should look for other works by Alberto Cairo such as “How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information” out now and then stay tuned for his next book, "The Art of Insight" coming out in April 2023.

Get the book here.

8. Facts are Sacred: The Power of Data

by Simon Rogers - 2013

Facts are sacred

Data is ubiquitous and it’s been shaping our understanding of the world through data journalism for some years now. How did this paradigm shift start to take hold and how can you take part in it?

Simon Roger shook things up when he said data journalism is the new punk and he continues this transgressive perspective in his book “Facts are Sacred”. This compilation of the most startling findings from The Guardian Datablog encapsulates the title as the modus operandi that defines the discipline of data journalism.

What can you expect from this book? It’s the sacred text of the principles of data journalism. It’s not only a review of the most important events in the field in recent years but it also offers a deep reflection on the power and importance of open data.

Get the book here.

9. Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Findings for Maximum Impact

by Dr. Stephanie Evergreen - 2017

Presenting data effectively

You have probably heard of this book, as it spent several weeks at number one on Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Dr. Stephanie Evergreen gives you the tools to amplify your data’s outreach with Presenting Data Effectively, which is already in its second edition.

You could say that this book was a pioneer in the field, but it still holds its relevance to this day. It will help you get the most out of your data by making it easier to express it in a way that your audience will understand. If you normally have to present data in various formats, then this is your book.

Get the book here.

10. Finding Stories in Spreadsheets -Scraping for Journalists

by Paul Bradshaw - 2021

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It was impossible to choose only one book by Paul Bradshaw for this list, so why limit ourselves to one?

These books are the result of Bradshaw's wealth of experience as a data journalist and educator. He shares some priceless knowledge in these books and hopes it will inspire readers to think about the kinds of stories they can write.

In Finding Stories in Spreadsheets, you'll learn how to clean and properly analyse your data in order to find connections and trends that you can later present to your audience. Packed with real-world examples of journalism and actual data for hands-on practice.

If you’re looking for something a little more technical, Scraping for Journalists is a great introduction for anyone who wants to learn how to automatically collect and organise data from websites and databases. You'll learn step-by-step how to get the information you need and tricks behind using Google Docs and PDFs.

Get the books here.

11. The Data Journalism Handbook 1 and 2

by Liliana Bounegru and Jonathan Gray - 2012, 2021

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Not to risk sounding biassed by putting books that we’re hosting on the list but these handbooks have become an essential resource amongst data journalism classes, newsrooms and more.

The Data Journalism Handbook was born at a 48 hour workshop led by us, The European Journalism Centre and The Open Knowledge Foundation at Mozfest 2011 in London and then when it was first published in 2012 it laid the groundwork for data journalism education. It details good practices by the best authors in an accessible format that readers could continually and easily reference.

The second edition, published in 2021, showcases the evolution that the field has had in recent years all over the world, with examples coming from across the globe, from China to Brazil.

Both books are translated into different languages and are completely free to access and download on our website.

Edited by experts Liliana Bounegru and Jonathan Gray.

Get the books here.

There are a ton of data journalism books on the market, but these eight books come up time and time again as the most valuable. Each book has something different to offer, so there isn’t one “best” book for every skill level. What you choose depends on your personal preference.

Enjoy the reading!

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