Viktor Mayer-Schönberger & Kenneth Cukier – Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think

Why did I choose to read the book?

Big Data, one of the big buzzwords and game changers of our generation. Though I thought I know what it is, what it meant, its applications etc. I still wanted to know more, hence, this book.

What is it about?

Via a high level approach, this book gives laymen the chance to understand the history, current usage and potential future of big data. It tells the story of how mankind used and still uses sampling by hypothesis (and thereby biased) to be able to manage vast amounts of data, as we were not able to analyse all data at once. Now, with big data mining, we can do just that, analyse all data, n = all. Big data companies, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn and the like, use their collected data to build new services and to learn new things about our world, our behaviours and how to identify patterns. Due to the vast amounts of data being collected (especially considering the rise of the Internet of Things – IoT), the quality of data is not as important, as patterns and conclusions can still be derived. What has to be kept in mind, when working with big data, is that big data delivers correlations, not causality. Correlations are derived from recognized patterns, answering what, but missing to answer the question of why.

How did I like the book?

Awesome book. I found it to be the perfect choice to deliver on what I set out to learn about big data. The book keeps the high level approach throughout, without going into too much detail. Perfect read, if you want to learn what the buzz is all about and you want to be able to join the conversation on this topic.

The Manga Guide to Databases

Why did I choose to read the book?

Included in a humble book bundle some time ago, I stumbled upon this book / comic by chance. While I like reading comics and manga, I did’t know of the edumanga genre, until this book.

What is it about?

Half manga and half guide, this book introduces readers to concepts and usages of databases, in particular SQL-databases. The manga portions feature a story of a princess, which has to take over the family business and is plagued with process inefficiencies, due to data redundancies and related data differences. Along comes a magic fairy (yes really, look at the cover, that’s her) and shows the princess and her assistant the magic of centralized databases and their uses. The guide parts show the theory and extended explanations introduced in the preceding story chapter.

How did I like the book?

Loved it. I liked the bonkers story and the way all the concepts are introduced. Towards the end though, SQL functions are introduced and make the guide a little hard to follow, if you have no experience or way of replicating the lessons in a real SQL database. As an introduction, this book is perfect and easily accessible, and even if you do have experiences in SQL database design and programming, this will still be a fun read.

Dona M. Wong – WSJ Guide to Information Graphics

Why did I choose to read the book?

On my job as strategy and sales controller, I created a lot of reports and visualized lots of data, especially when I first created our controlling cockpit. Since its inception, it’s design always bugged me. Concept and information were well thought through, but if I had the chance to redo, I would like to do it differently. But how exactly? How do I make the graphs easier to understand? How do I get the point across, in a better, more self explanatory way? These questions fueled my desire to learn more, hence, the need to read up.

What is it about?

The sub-title pretty much explains it all: “The dos and don’ts of presenting data, facts, and figures”. The book includes examples of how to visualize data, what colours to use, how to stylize text via fonts and what to avoid. It shows common design mistakes and how to avoid them, while also showing haw to visualize different kinds of data properly.

How did I like the book?

Very informative and does what it promises quite well. After just a couple of pages, some pages about the usage of colour to be precise, I already found a lot of what I was looking for. I did not expect colour, especially its sparse use (less is more), to make that much of a difference in reporting and data visualization. Overall this book is great, what I missed though was some kind of narrative or course, which I though the word guide implied. To me, this is not a book to read from start to finish, but a nice book for quick reference, and as a reference book, it’s perfect.

Michael Lewis – Moneyball

Why did I choose to read the book?

First off, I know next to nothing about baseball. I played some in High-School, during my time in the US, but aside from some basic understanding of it’s rules, I know next to nothing. Why then did I choose to read this book? To my understanding, this book is not solely about baseball and I felt it outside my comfort zone, which made me bump it up my reading list, as I hate missing out on great stuff and knowledge simply because its outside my comfort zone.

What is it about?

The book provides an inside look on how the Oakland Athletics (short: Oakland As), a relatively poor US baseball club achieved success, while being one of the least funded clubs in pro baseball at the time. It describes how it’s general manager and former pro baseball player Billy Beane together with his assistant Paul DePodesta, used statistics and market inefficiencies to assemble the best possible team he could afford with what little money he had, making his club’s ratio of money spent vs. games won by far the highest in pro baseball at the time.

How did I like the book?

I liked the story of an underdog rising to prominence via outsmarting the competition. I also liked the authors approach of telling his findings in little personal stories of people involved. Most of the book and stories were very interesting, especially all parts covering the personal stories of Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta and how they proceeded in their endeavour. As stated at the very beginning, I know next to nothing about baseball. Which brings us to what I did not like about this book, it is written with a certain type of reader in mind: baseball fans. While most stories are interesting, the name dropping, baseball stats and insider intel presented mean nothing to me. Often times, names were dropped where I had the feeling, the author expects you to know who this person is and be in awe, which….I don’t and I’m not….. Had I been a baseball nut, I probably would have liked the book better, as it stands it was okay. Overall, when the book was about how David used his cunning to fool and outsmart Goliath, I loved it and it inspired me to question conventional wisdom and to search for inefficiencies to exploit. Whenever it was about baseball players, their stats and play styles, I was bored.