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CP016: 3 Must have books for aspiring analysts



In the 16th session of Chandoo.org podcast, lets review 3 very useful books for aspiring analysts.

CP016: 3 Must have books for aspiring analysts - Chandoo.org podcast - become awesome in data analysis, charting, dashboards & VBA using Excel

What is in this session?

Analytics is an increasingly popular area now. Every day, scores of fresh graduates are reporting to their first day of work as analysts. But to succeed as an analyst?

By learning & practicing of course.

And books play a vital role in opening new pathways for us. They can alter the way we think, shape our behavior and make us awesome, all in a few page turns.

So in this episode, let me share 3 must have books for (aspiring) analysts.

Note: these are not only 3 books you should read. But these 3 are the ones I am reading now and I think they will certainly help you.

Participate in our Analyst Book Giveaway & win:

  • You could win a copy of any of these 3 books.
  • Last date: 15-AUG-2014 – Friday.

Listen to the podcast to know how to participate.

This podcast is essentially a review of the 3 books – Data Smart by John Foreman, Ctrl+Shift+Enter by Mike Girvin & Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner.

Data Smart by John Foreman

  • Why this book?
  • About John Foreman
  • Writing style
  • Example chapter

Ctrl+Shift+Enter – Mastering Array Formulas by Mike Girvin

  • Why this book?
  • About Mike Girvin
  • Writing style
  • Example Array Formulas

Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

  • Why a non-Excel book?
  • About authors
  • Writing style
  • Example Chapter on Takeru Kobayashi

Note about the book links: These are affiliate links. It means, when you click on them and purchase a copy of the book, Chandoo.org receives a small commission. I recommend these books because I really enjoy them and I genuinely think they will benefit you. I would have recommended them even when there is no commission involved.

Go ahead and listen to the show


Links & Resources mentioned in this session:

About the bicycle ride

Excelapalooza Excel conference:

Advanced Excel, Dashboards & Power Pivot Masterclass:

More on Array Formulas:

Transcript of this session:

Download this podcast transcript [PDF].

Which is your favorite book for analysts?

I read quite a few books every year. Apart from these three, I also enjoy and recommend these books.

What about you? What is your favorite book for analysts? Please share your thoughts in comments.

Participate in our Analyst Book Giveaway & win:

  • You could win a copy of any of these 3 books.
  • Last date: 15-AUG-2014 – Friday.

Listen to the podcast to know how to participate.

Also on Analytics:


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40 Responses to “CP016: 3 Must have books for aspiring analysts”

  1. Thanks for those - another good one is Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres

  2. Bob says:

    Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge provides excellent insight into some of the real fundamentals of data analysis. See his most recent article here: http://www.perceptualedge.com/articles/visual_business_intelligence/distribution_displays.pdf

  3. Pete says:

    Hi Chandoo. One of my favorite books for Excel is "Excel Outside the Box" by Bob Umlas. It has greatly improved my thinking of Excel by changing the way I can view how to apply certain formulas or functions. It really does a great job showing how to think outside of the box and how/why certain formulas can be nested to achieve some really amazing results.

  4. RFairney says:

    One other book I find worth reading is Godel, Escher, Bach.
    Not specifically about data processing or spreadsheets, it deals with algorithm design and methodology.
    Ever since reading it I have found ways to improve how I process data with both SQL and Excel.

  5. Lisa says:

    Hi Chandoo
    Although I do not eat a lot of hotdogs I do like the concept behind the 'Think Like a Freak' book that you are recommending .

  6. Jen Severado says:

    Hi Chandoo, one of my all time favorite books is Outliers written by Malcolm Gladwell. It is not a technical book but the analytical approach that Malcolm takes to explain multiple scenario's is fascinating. For example, Gladwell analyzes a 5-year study done by Karl Alexander of Johns Hopkins University, demonstrating that summer holidays have a detrimental effect on students of disadvantaged backgrounds, who paradoxically progress more during the school year than students from the highest socio-economic group.
    It's a book I couldn't put down and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  7. Deborah Y Williams says:

    Participate in our Analyst Book Giveaway & win

    I enjoyed the review of the three recommended books for analysts. My favorite of the three would be Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner because the same technique or underlying thought of this approach can be applied more widely across other areas..... Thinking like a freak when making decisions, developing strategies, setting direction for almost anything.

  8. samtheman says:

    Hi! Chandoo,
    My favorite data analysis book is "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. It might be little unconventional mention for data analysis like "Think like Freak" but it's awesome. It explains how the company uses data to analyse its customer behaviors so that it attracts more customers or convince the same customer to spend more money on the company. Eg; Retail store "Target" gives each customer unique code to analyse its customer habits. If one customer say John Smith regularly buys corn flakes but does not buy milk from Target. The store assumes he is buying milk from some other retail stores, so it mails discount coupons for milk to John Smith's house in expectation that he will come buy milk too in Target on reduced price. So, due to clever data analysis, the company can personalize coupons it sends to its customers.

  9. Jan says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    I don't have a favorite one at this moment because I just have been started to study the analysis in Excel in depth. Ofcourse I can work with PT, the What-If-Analysis and so on.

    Anyway, in my opinion the best book ever written for Excel (not really a book for analysis) is Slaying Excel Dragons (Mike Girvin).

    I'm glad you have mentioned Datasmart by John Foreman and the ctrl shift enter book by Mike Girvin because those two books are lying in front of my nose (desk) :).


  10. Noah Helenihi says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Great Podcast! I hadn't had a chance to listen until this episode. You're doing awesome work!

    I think that some of the best books on Data Visualization also have deep insights for Data Analysis. Someone already mentioned Stephen Few, above. I agree he is pretty great. But, if I want to recommend a book for data analysis, it's hard to do better than Edward Tufte's "Visual Explanations"-- particularly his chapter on the Challenger shuttle accident. This chapter shows how thinking and communicating clearly about data is incredibly important. It's a great case study on dealing with data-- from data analysis to presentation.

  11. Kim says:

    Hi Chandoo!

    Thanks for the podcast and it is insightful for me as an early career stage analyst.

    Data Smart by John Foreman is sound interesting and new to me as I wanted to learn how to apply statistic methods especially the techniques you mentioned in the podcast, clustering and forecasting techniques in analyze the data. Hopefully i can explore more in data analysis areas by reading this book.

  12. chris says:

    anything at all by Steven Few esp "Now You See it" and "Show Me the Numbers". I also have Data Insights: New Ways to Visualize and Make Sense of Data, by Hunter Whitney which is very interesting so far.

    So many books such litttle time *sigh*

    • Anton Roodhuijzen says:

      Hi Chris,

      The Hunter Whitney book looks very interesting. I have just ordered it. Thanks for the tip!

  13. Francesc says:

    Participate in our Analyst Book Giveaway & win

    Thanks for your podcast, they are very interesting.

    “Think like Freak” sounds very interesting, because sometimes when you should analyze some data you mus be a little freak too.

  14. Anton Roodhuijzen says:

    Hello Chandoo,

    Thanks for the podcast and the contest. I have already bought CTRL-SHIFT-ENTER and can recommend the Excel is fun youtube channel of Mike Gel Girvin. The comments of other readers are interesting as well and made me check out some books. I am especially interested in data visualisation and therefore my recommendation is Alberto Cairo's book "The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization". It is very interesting book with lots of real life examples from his work as a "visual journalist".

  15. Krishna Teja says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Great podcast for upcoming analysts.

    Working on Excel has driven me to understand more on statistics and data analysis. The review on book Data Smart sounds really great. Loved the cluster analysis using prom dance. Anxious to read this book.
    I haven't read many books related to Excel, however I can give a few suggestions.
    My favorite book is "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg, awesome examples and fun to read (chapter on Pepsodent toothpaste is worth read for many analysts). In addition, I also recommend Competitive Strategy by Micheal Porter (the famous Porter's 5 forces). Its like a must have book for one to understand about any new company or venture they are looking for.

  16. Utsav Shah says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Thanks for the great podcast. I great book I came across was Microsoft Business Intelligence Tools for Excel Analysts by Michael Alexander, Jared Decker and Bernard Wehbe. This book does a good job of explaining how to use excel when you have data from multiple sources.

  17. Karthik says:

    Hello Chandoo,

    This was a great podcast. From my side, I would like to recommend the book "Predictive Analytics: Microsoft Excel by Conrad Carlberg". It explains complex issues in a simple way..great for beginners and expert users of Predictive Analysts.

  18. Ronald says:

    The Excel analysis guide to access by Michael Alexandr

    I am working through this book.


    Controll shift enter

  19. Jack says:


    Thanks for the excellent reviews. I don't have a good recommendation for you. I tend to rely on experience. I would be interested in a good mathematical modelling in Excel l book!



  20. Alhassan says:

    My favourite book is "50 alternatives to college" by James Altucher. This is NOT about data analysis
    This book(just like Think Like a Freak) encourage individuals to think outside the box. More importantly, this articulates the idea that "there is nothing that one will learn at college that one cant learn on his own". As a fresh graduate, this book has changed my world view point and in few months,i have learnt so much at my work place, including DASHBOARD

    Acheivement: Among other things, the DMD of my company(in spite of his BUSY SCHEDULE) phoned to thank me for a data i analysized for him

  21. Terry says:

    It's old now, and has gone to at least a second edition, but I read Excel Dashboards and Reports for Dummies years ago and it opened my eyes to so many new possibilities. I found it hard to believe that people could be using the same system as I was and coming up with results from another dimension.
    I have had similar experiences since. One was when I first heard about array formulas. I am gradually coming to grips with the mysteries of arrays, but have a long way to go. That's why contol+shift+enter sounds so interesting. It still boggles my mind a bit to think that a whole book could be written about them.

  22. Moraino says:

    Double Down On Your Data - Third Edition by Clive Pearson.
    Details some of the data analysis issues and opportunities in casino business analysis.

  23. Mike Moscato says:

    I use the follwoing books:

    The Wall Street Journal - Guide to Information Graphics
    and, Edward Tufte The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

    Boith books provide insight into formats and ideas on how to present data so that it is properly consumed by the audience

  24. Kamil says:

    Balanced Scorecards and Operational Dashboards with Microsoft Excel by Ron Person. I found it really interesting and it was the book that got me started in Excel. Later on I found this website 😉

  25. I'll second the mentions above for Outliers and The Power of Habit - they're both fantastic, can't put down reads.

    I have both Data Smart and Think Like a Freak, (hint: can I win Ctrl Alt Enter and complete the collection please?) although I admit I'm not very far into them yet - I'm currently working my way through Vincent Granville's "Developing Analytic Talent - become a Data Scientist", but that's a bit heavy, being distinctly oriented to people with a background in programming - I wouldn't recommend it for beginners.

    I'm looking forward to the Think Like a Freak especially, since I loved the Freakonomics books as a fantastic way of highlighting the unexpected consequences and causes that real life can throw at you.

  26. Oops. Pick the tech support background. Too used to Ctrl Alt Delete! (Is that a digital freudian slip?)

  27. Jorge Supelano says:

    Hi Chandoo

    I was interested in the giveaway but I was not going to comment because the books I have read are more related to Financial Modeling than Excel analysis (I have learned Excel from the Internet, this site included, of course).

    However, I remembered that there is one book that I truly recommend, not only for aspiring analysts but for everyone working in a company, specially outside the Finance department: Financial Intelligence by Karen Bergman and Joe Knight.

    It's a book that basically explains (using simple language and real-life stories), what the numbers mean and what the concepts are (depreciation, balance sheet, assets, equity, cash flow, etc.) and how your work affects the financial health of a company. It gets you motivated because then you know what you are working for. Really enlightening


  28. Ken says:

    Thank you Chandoo for recommending these books. I have just reserved them from the local library. I also recommend Mike Alexander's book The Excel Analyst's Guide to Access. Although I think Excel is great, Mike clearly points out the benefits in using Access for database applications.

    I look forward to your future podcasts.

  29. Siddhartha says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    My favorite book on Data Analytics is Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book illustrates the creative thinking that goes behind analyzing data and statistics using the game of baseball. The book is often recommended in MBA programs across the world's best business schools as a must-read.

  30. Hamilton says:

    Great podcast with lovely insights.

    A great book that I have benefited from is
    Head First : Data Analyst

    Written in a very simple style and particularly good if you do not have a background it any formal training

  31. Alexis says:

    Just finished listening to the podcast and I'm so glad you included John Foreman's Data Smart. It's an absolutely fantastic book and couldn't recommend it more!
    I bought it a couple of months after starting my current job having seen someone mention it on a post here and it completely transformed my thinking as an analyst. It made me think and feel like an analyst, a problem solver, rather than just a spreadsheet monkey who was thought of as an "advanced Excel user" just because I knew how to do pivot tables.
    The part that inspired me most was the chapter on optimisation using solver. Since then I've put together cost models for incentive plans that would have been impossible without it and the bosses love them!
    One other John Foreman plug, read his blogs, they're brilliant!

    Another book I would recommend is Data Analysis and Business Modelling by Wayne Winston. It's starts with functions but then goes into optimisation, forecasting and statistics with very simple business problems. Very well written, each chapter is concise and has a downloadable excel file to work through.

  32. Jimmy says:


    A book I would recommend is

    Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data by Charles Wheelan

    The book is a fresh take on Statistics 101, and to quite the Amazon Review

    And in Wheelan’s trademark style, there’s not a dull page in sight. You’ll encounter clever Schlitz Beer marketers leveraging basic probability, an International Sausage Festival illuminating the tenets of the central limit theorem, and a head-scratching choice from the famous game show Let’s Make a Deal—and you’ll come away with insights each time. With the wit, accessibility, and sheer fun that turned Naked Economics into a bestseller, Wheelan defies the odds yet again by bringing another essential, formerly unglamorous discipline to life.

    The book is a great read that is quick too. Maybe you could read this the next time you are the bicycle mechanic, wanting to pass the time. 🙂

  33. David says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    My recommendation for one of my favourite books for analysts is one I think really helps new users for Excel as well as those with more experience; Microsoft's own publishing - Microsoft Excel 2010 Data Analysis and Business Modeling, 3rd Edition by Wayne L. Winston.

    I have a few reasons why I recommend this book;
    1) It has lots of function & formula information in logical steps - very similar to the other Microsoft published book - MS Excel 2010 Formulas and Functions - so its like a reference book of formulas and functions.
    2) It also covers many chapters of 'real life' business issues and how to approach solving them through functions, Excel's own Excel Solver and industry standard recognisable business approaches and models - but using Excel of course for the models.
    3) It covers analysis from manufacturing, distribution, sales and right through to financial market analysis all in one massive reference.
    4) its available as an eBook which in .pdf form is very easy to search or surf using the Contents so it can be a very quick reference look up or a longer analytical theory read.

    All in all an excellent resource well worth considering as a ready reference for analytics, models or functions all in one.

    • Chandoo says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the recommendation. I just checked it out and liked the contents. So placed an order for it. Will be looking forward to reading it and sharing my review with our readers.

  34. Gauri says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful reading experience with us.
    I am great Fan of Mr. Mike Girvin the way he explain and simplifies his you tube training is good learning experience.

    Looking forwarder to many more such (Excel and Non Excel ) podcast to keep us updated.

    Thanks and Rgds

  35. Jdogzilla says:

    Great post ... and thanks for the recommendations.

  36. Ahmed KARIM says:

    Hi I am an Accountant and was wondering whether somebody could recommend a book to learn financial modelling.
    Many thanks

    • Dave says:

      Hi Ahmed,

      Also there is Danielle Stein Fairhurst at Plum Solutions, who has partnered with Chandoo and hosted his visits to Australia if you specifically want a hard copy book. She has the "Using Excel for Business Analysis" book, recently updated for Excel 2013, that is primarily targeted at financial modelling and analysis. You can get new versions of this or the earlier Excel 2010 version (Wiley publication) from suppliers on AbeBooks at good rates. Hope this helps, Dave

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