22 January, 2013

Information is Beautiful

You may have heard of the fabulous Information is Beautiful before. It is a wonderful place where lists and ideas and statistics are, well, made beautiful. Their graphs and other "infographics" pop up all over the internet. I can waste hours on their website looking at their images. I absolutely love them. Data and pretty things - my perfect combination.

Some of their graphics are really detailed and extensive, others are very simple. They are sometimes employed to make them for a specific reason. For example, the picture on this post is of the graphic they did to win a competition for helping people understand their blood tests in the USA. Potentially life-saving work.

One of their projects I came across recently is this beautiful representation of the books everyone should read. Go on, click the link, it'll open in a new window. (I don't want to post a picture of it here as the whole fabulous enterprise is funded by people buying their images, except the ones - as in this post - which they allow people to use for free.) On the face of it, it's quite simple - a word cloud of popular books. But the data analysis that has gone into the production is incredible.

Basically, they searched through tonnes of lists of books to put together the ones that come up most frequently - the definitive list, if you like. The more times a books appeared in their search, the bigger its name is in the cloud. So, by the looks of it, the book we all absolutely have to read above all others is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Other big hitters are The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Crime and Punishment and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

I love that this list is one person's bias, or even a public vote, but pulls in information from so many sources. Of course nobody's going to like all those books, but it's fascinating to see the ones that come up time and time again. Their sources (full list on the graphic) include:
  • UK most borrowed library books
  • Desert Island Disc choices
  • Oprah's book club
  • Pulitzer Prize winners
  • Booker Prize winners
  • various polls and lists of must-read books produced by newspapers and others
  • goodreads.com

I'm still creating my own list of must-read books, and I still need your help. If you have suggestion of a book I have to read before I die, pop it in the comments, or click on the Books tab at the top. Thanks!


  1. That is cool. It'd be fun to have that as a little poster on the wall.

    1. Yeah, that'd be pretty cool I've got a few word clouds on my wall at home - they make great art.

  2. Great to see your Tell No One score. Apparently his new standalone novel is even better - but then he's hardly going to say that he's plateaued! The IiB site is beautiful and it's interesting how information presented in a new way makes a completely different impact. When do we get to see the word cloud for your novel?

    1. Well, as you've requested it... I'll pop it up soon. Though it's not so pretty. It basically just shows how much I overuse about five words!

      I shall be taking more book recommendations from you!

    2. Only five words? Now I am impressed.

      I know that my crimes include 'that' and 'just'. In Covenant I was obsessed with light, so many things seemed to shimmer. Also, as I recall, there were a lot of glances!

    3. Even after six drafts/edits I am removing 'that's from my MS. It's my nemesis. 'Just' is one of mine too, but I've tamed it by using 'only' as a replacement from time to time. My characters don't glance too much, but they do turn a lot!

    4. A friend of mine had a seabird sanctuary. He started off with one rescued bird and worked his way up. He said one good tern deserves another. (Exits with blushes.)

    5. I'm not sure if that's exactly what I needed to start my day with. Or exactly what I didn't need to start my day with... :)


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