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The Best American Infographics 2014

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Year two of this fresh, timely, beautiful addition to the Best American series, introduced by Nate Silver

The rise of infographics across virtually all print and electronic media reveals patterns in our lives and worlds in fresh and surprising ways. As we find ourselves in the era of big data, where information moves faster than ever, infographics provide us with quick, often influential bursts of art and knowledge — to digest, tweet, share, go viral. Best American Infographics 2014 captures the finest examples, from the past year, of this mesmerizing new way of seeing and understanding our world. Guest introducer Nate Silver brings his unparalleled expertise and lively analysis to this visually compelling new volume.

176 pages, Paperback

First published October 7, 2014

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About the author

Gareth Cook

4 books8 followers
GARETH COOK is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, columnist at the Boston Globe, and editor of "Mind Matters," Scientific American’s neuroscience blog.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for Philip.
959 reviews259 followers
November 22, 2014
I was in the bookstore... you know, going in to order a book, but the clerk was helping someone else. I decided to look around.

"Huh..."

Midwest by Consensus

"...I could totally use that picture/idea of the Midwest when I'm teaching my kids about regions, and how (unlike, say, states and countries) the borders aren't fixed. ...Too bad it's not online."

"...Huh..."


World as 100 People

"...I could totally use that visualization of "The Word as 100 People" by Jack Hagley when I teach about standard of living, or urbanization, literacy rate, religion, population density... ...huh... Too bad it's not online."


So, while I was waiting I picked up my allegedly "smart" phone. Pressed a couple non-buttons and *SHAZAAM!!!* Turns out they are online. Of course, I didn't have 20 bucks.

I ordered my book and left thinking: man... that would be great for the classroom. It's full of ideas. It's social studies meets math meets art meets science. Of course, language arts saturates everything. Too bad I don't have 20 bucks. I guess I could have bought it instead of the book I went in for, but that was a book club book, and I ordered it for 6.

So, I went to the school and asked if the block had any spare change lying around for a book I wanted. Not much, but they gave me $20.

When I went to pick up my book, I got this one as well. And boy, was it worth it.

In scrolling through the reviews I saw a couple people complain that the infographics are made for computers, not books. Whatever. The depictions in here a beautiful. Furthermore - and this is may be the best part - they're almost all online. The book is just a starting point, directing you to the infographics - especially in cases like the interactive ones, like NPR's Chart of Arrested Development Jokes. Of course, if you're an Arrested Development fan, and haven't seen that chart before, I'd submit you're not really an Arrested Development fan.

Of course, I'm a social studies teacher, and I'd never heard of Map Stack before. ...That doesn't mean that I'm not a ------ lets just stop that thought in its tracks...

*Side note: While writing this review, I got sidetracked on Map Stack for like... an hour... It's interesting.*

*Another side note: I'm not ignoring my kids right now, they're in the room playing. They're "camping." ...In princess dresses...*

My point is, yeah: a lot of these would be better to view on a computer. But it's not like they're bad in the book. And you can get to them on the computer. In fact, so many people have smart phones now, that it's adding value to the infographic in other ways. For instance, I had seen this one making the rounds a while ago:

Highest Paid Public Employee

I had also seen the Jim Calhoun video. But because the book mentions the video, I watched it right after seeing the infographic, and it was nice (again, adding value) seeing them back-to-back.

Could I have gone to the book store, taken screen shots of the infograpics I liked the best, come home and looked at them online? Yes. But what kind of experience is that? And what kind of crappy book-store patron would that make me?

Finally, if you know me, you're probably aware of my feelings about standardized tests: I don't mind them.

(It's true, I do hate what they've become, and what they stand for. I hate that we use a test that's supposed to measure student achievement to instead measure teacher quality. I hate that this has lead to teaching-to-the-test, drill and kill, outright cheating, or at least gaming the system, school grades that bounce from A one year to D the next up to B... What's that supposed to tell us? Yes, this list could be very long... But I don't hate standardized tests.)

It's easy to make multiple choice questions based off factual recall.

17. Who developed Cuneiform?
a. The Sumerians
b. The Mesopotamians
c. The Egyptians
d. The Babylonians

(Ok... This is maybe another one of my problems with standardized tests... sometimes you'll get a question like that one and say... uhhh... weren't The Sumerians also Mesopotamians? ...Who can you ask about that? Nobody.)

Back to the point: it's easy to write questions like that. They're easy to answer. (As long as you know what's going to be asked.)

Questions drawn from these infographics show us much more, though.

Opportunity in the US

Income Ladders

Can they read it? Can they analyze it? Can they interpret it?

I don't know if this book has everything for everybody (unless you're a teacher or a renaissance man person... always fighting the patriarchy...), but it certainly has something no, LOTS for everybody: sports, music, art, food, taxes, billionaires, birds, lion attacks, drone attacks, Everest attacks, earthquakes, cosmos, surfers, cheese. Working, playing, kissing, guns. Bourbon, T-Rex, spying, TV.

Yeah, it's awesome.


Profile Image for Art.
551 reviews17 followers
October 17, 2014
Fun. An art book, data transformed into graphics, six dozen stories expressed as visuals. The best of these infographics snaps a story into place, quickly clarifying the data and relationships. Styles range from hand-drawn schematics to top-notch computer graphics.

This is an interesting study of how the brain processes information. Half of the brain processes images. Imagine a long text article that would explain each graphic, without the graphic. It's easy to see how these quick-grab visuals implant so efficiently.

Most tell a two-page story, although several foldouts appear. A four-page spread argues ammo as a greater problem than guns. Control the bullets and magazines, says these graphics, published by Wired. A sociogram reveals the recording networks of 1920s jazz musicians, with Louis Armstrong at the center. There's a matrix that shows caffeine drinks by their buzzy boost, from Scientific American. National Geographic, meanwhile, first published the three-page fascinating foldout showing the unmanned space flights since 1958. The clock of the seasons begins at the winter solstice then takes a year to sweep around. This is the boldest and most elegant graphic in this year's collection. Oh, and then there's the one about …

Transit systems naturally lend themselves to interesting graphics. The London Underground famous schematic of 1931 gets an update here with each stop labeled by its aroma or sensation, a synesthesia tour. New York City transit time shows how long it takes to get from A to B. It is one of ten interactive graphics in the book, with links. Also, it was one of two produced for radio. This one for WNYC by its data news team, another for NPR by its visuals group.

As we head toward the World Series, several baseball graphics explain the sport. One shows how to throw a fastball at 100 miles an hour. Another shows what fastballs look like to the batter. A third one, meanwhile, overlays the dimensions of all the ballparks, anchored on home plate. Another overlay graphic plots a hundred maps of The Midwest on top of each other, which results in a fuzzy definition of the region. Illinois is the most Midwest, with its surrounding states fleshing out the core.

This is the second year of this new annual. This year it avoided publishing two-page graphics into the bound page, which drew complaints last year because of unreadable data that fell through the cracks of the gutter. At twenty dollars, this is a good value for good thoughts, data and journalism expressed visually on high-quality art book paper.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,293 reviews424 followers
February 25, 2015
Who knew infographics could be so entertaining that they'd be compiled in a book?
Apparently, a lot of people because there's a 2013 edition and it must have sold enough copies to warrant a 2014 edition.
I love these little charts of information, these illustrated factoids, these instructions told through pictures. I'm just as slow-witted and short-attention-spanned as the next average American so having everything boiled down to a few words with helpful pictures makes it easier for me to understand stuff.

There's a recipe for kale salad in here that I've used twice, now. I've added to it, but it's a solid basic recipe. My niece hateHATES it because it's slimy to make but that's one of the reasons I love it so.

 photo Infographic20kale20salad_zpsbcpogeoh.jpg
I stole this picture from someone off the internet. I'm too lazy to go back and find out whose it was and give proper credit. Man, I am the worst librarian in the world!
Profile Image for Laura.
828 reviews12 followers
September 5, 2014
The best infographics (and these are, as advertised, the best of the year) make you interested in a subject you didn't realize you had any interest in and make you understand something you've never understood. I pored over these pages and emerged bleary-eyed and enlightened. This book would make a great addition to any coffee table.
Profile Image for Bruce Overby.
Author 1 book1 follower
November 3, 2014
A beautifully produced survey of the best infographics from US publications and websites, this book is not only captivating enough to hold the attention for hours of careful review, it's also reasonably priced! A large-format, high-production-value book for $20?! Amazing.
Profile Image for Cale.
3,479 reviews24 followers
November 12, 2018
This collection of Infographics covers a wide spread of topics, and many of the pieces are fascinatingly detailed with a bevy of different topics. In general, it's a fascinating collection, but there are a couple of issues:
1) The interactive infographics are impossible to portray in a manner that truly presents their depth. There was one, Arrested Development recurring jokes, that looked complete until you ran out of characters covered. It's a limitation of the form, and understandable but still disappointing.
2) For a book focused on making information easily readable, the choice of a color for the font that is literally unreadable in direct light from many angles makes little sense.
These aren't major complaints, but the sum didn't quite reach the heights I was expecting. There's lots of good information here, and I have found myself visualizing ways to present data in unique ways, which I credit directly to this book.
Profile Image for Gary Crossey.
142 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2016
Very engaging read.

The truth about infographics - they are useless unless the viewer is engaged. Spending time with an infographic and processing the information. Drawing your conclusions.

Before this book, I had an idea that infographics were a visual means to present information quickly. This book changed my view on infographics. Some infographics take longer to get the point across. And, that may be the point - the infographic is not there to be rushed. Infographics are most rewarding when you take the time to engage. Start where you want, read the parts you care to, take the parts of the data that interest you. Create your connections. These processes take time and require the viewer to reflect on the infographic.

The infographics included covering a broad range of topics and visual rendering.
Profile Image for Wayne McCoy.
3,798 reviews22 followers
October 24, 2014
'The Best American Infographics 2014' is a mind-boggling compendium of facts distilled down to image form. This collection represents the best of the past year in this art and data form for America.

The book is divided into four categories: You, Us, Material World and Interactive. The infographics range all over the place. A circular graph shows various cheeses based on source and hardness or softness. The same circle is used to show how long a song takes to reach the charts in various categories of music. There is an underground map with stations named after the flavors a man with synesthesia associates with them. There are charts for baseball and animal droppings and wine pairings and Justin Bieber. It just goes on and each one is beautiful and intersting.

I spent lots of time soaking this book in. The ability to distill large data into something easier to digest and elegant is truly an interesting modern artform. There are infographics from major publications, but also from blogs. I really enjoyed this book.

I received a review copy of this ebook from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley in exchange for and honest review. Thank you for allowing me to read this beautiful ebook.
883 reviews5 followers
March 16, 2015
I have always been a HUGE fan of infographics, so I was so excited when this book came out. I hope this becomes an annual tradition; I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more.

The best thing about infographics is that they're so unique and versatile. There really is no "right" way to create one, other than ensuring that it is the best way to depict the information that needs to be displayed and clarified. The selection chosen for this book display that very well - they represent a wide range of subject matter, design style, and publications.

This book really has a two-fold focus; one is the information represented by each infographic, and the other is the style of the infographic itself. There is a lot of information to be gleaned by reading each infographic, and the range in style is really inspiring.

Any graphic design fans who want to stay on top of their field should read this. Infographics are only going to grow in popularity and importance (thanks to social media and digital innovations), and it's a necessary skill set to have. I actually wish there would have been a course on adequately presenting quantitative data in my journalism degree coursework, with a focus on infographics - I could certainly use it now.
Profile Image for Karen.
779 reviews
February 26, 2015
Spectacular book with a collection of the best info graphics, just like the title says. The introduction starts with a small but powerful and self-explanatory graphic of Ted Williams' strike zone depicted in an array of color-coded baseballs, and only gets better from there. The book shows off about a hundred awesome depictions of a wide variety of data and information put together in striking visuals, from wine pairings to dinosaurs and galaxies and Tom Brady's haircuts. I can attest that it takes a huge amount of time to make a graphic simple, and all of these are wonderful, wonderful. The large format and beautiful color printing enhance each example. Highly recommended to all data junkies and marketing gurus.

Along these lines, I nominate for next year's edition Warrant Sharp's analysis of Total Fumbles and Offensive Plans Run per Fumble
Profile Image for Marc.
737 reviews101 followers
November 20, 2014
Big improvements over last year's collection, as they bumped up the size of the layout allowing you to actually enjoy and see a lot the graphics (even throwing in a few foldouts to boot). The option to go with a kind of silver metallic ink on white glossy paper made it almost impossible to read if the light caught the page just right, but this is not a book heavy on text. Quite a few of the images chosen felt like they were selected because the data itself or the research concept was intriguing but the actual graphic was not all that interesting. Also felt like more than a few graphics were basically the same approach to presenting data/visuals. Or maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy.

Bottom line: Better production/layout than the 2013 volume, but the visuals themselves seemed less impressive.
Profile Image for Julie N.
807 reviews25 followers
February 2, 2015
As much as I enjoyed this one, I'm not sure that it'll be added to my yearly collection. It's exactly how it sounds - a collection of the best infographics posted online and in various publications throughout the year. Some appealed to me more than others, just based on content (I'm never going to be really excited by anything related to sports), but that didn't diminish the quality. They're all well done, informative, and contained a great deal of information presented in a visually appealing way. I enjoyed the reading experience, but I think it's something I'll be fine picking up from the library and not owning personally.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
2,001 reviews11 followers
March 22, 2017
With a mix of educational and entertaining entries, The Best American Infographics 2014 is an enjoyable, quick read. For those who have enjoyed the rise of infographics over the past years, having a volume such as this handy to flip through and peruse will be at treat. However, those looking to do research on the topics included should be advised as to the timeliness of these entries- while the book is published in October 2014, the infographics included were originally published in 2013. Review copy provided by NetGalley.
662 reviews
December 7, 2016
My favorites infographics in this year's edition were:
The world as 100 People, pairing wine and food, The Game of Happiness, The Secret to Success is Starting Early, San Francisco as seen by a Cat & Imagined by a Cat Owner, Email: Not Dead-Evolving, English by the Book, Gay & in the Closet, Is your state's highest paid employee a coach? Probably, Hate [twitter] Maps, Raising the Debt Ceiling, The NSA's Vast Net, The Wheel of 65 Cheeses, The Literal Meaning [i.e. names] of States...okay, I really liked a lot of them.
Profile Image for Elaine.
252 reviews4 followers
October 31, 2014
Knew this was a book I wanted to "read" and enjoy graphics. Far exceeded my expectations based on description posted with contest. Anyone interested in subject should make this a must have book in their reference library. Will definitely be a staple in my reference library for years to come. Will be looking forward to the next book. Received as winner on Goodreads which did not influence my review.
Profile Image for Patricia.
618 reviews20 followers
November 3, 2014
It's always interesting to page through a selection of infographics. My favorites in this edition included: The World as 100 People - English by the Book (When New Words Were Made) - Is Your State's Highest-Paid Employee a Coach? (Probably) - The Midwest (a map that overlays 100 different definitions of the American Midwest) - The Literal Meaning of the States (I didn't know I grew up in Land of the Large Creek - Ohio).
Profile Image for Kathleen.
398 reviews
November 30, 2014
I enjoyed this one off the bat - some very cool info graphics to start off the collection. Then, in the middle I began to feel that this compilation wasn't very well curated. There are a few inclusions that I would have left out, just nothing special or very interesting.
But when I got to the "interactive infographics" section at the end, I was wowed. I can't wait to try and search these tonight. Some really fascinating stuff there. Well done The Best American!
Profile Image for Matt.
271 reviews2 followers
November 11, 2014
Some clear winners here: the literal meaning of the States (map), tornado maps, cosmic journeys (of satellites), bieber vs bieber, and how to pick a Pope. However, the rest were of little interest to me - and the interactive session in a book (essentially static screen shots) seemed pointless. I liked last year's offering much better.
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,237 reviews58 followers
December 21, 2014
This was fun. Some of these were EXTREMELY interesting. Some were meh (why would I want an intricate visual comparison of Justin Bieber in two different years???) and some were so huge and complex I could hardly believe the artists thought it was a simplification of information. Kind of fun to see all the different styles and topics gathered together.
22 reviews
December 31, 2014
A very fun read. If you like infographics and/or interesting tidbits of information you will get a kick out of this book.
It is split between some graphics being visually beautiful and some graphics having great content.
I found most of the pages really fascinating, but as i'm not that into to sports some of the sports graphics weren't that interesting to me.
Profile Image for Du.
1,757 reviews11 followers
January 27, 2015
Great resource to learn about the different ways people are communicating information now. The data presentation is so informative and available to everyone. Beyond the educational element, there are some great visuals here with every topic or area covered. It is a lot of fun to browse and root through looking for different examples of information and education.
713 reviews4 followers
November 20, 2014
I like infographics, and these are pretty good. But there comes a point where the information to graphic ratio gets too high. Many of these are dense, DENSE infographs, and you lose a lot of the accessibility of the basic idea when it tries to hard to convey so much information.
Profile Image for Anders Jecha.
2 reviews3 followers
November 25, 2014
I won this book in a goodreads giveaway. The illustrations in this book are magnificent and every page held new information that I actually wanted to read. Each infographic was unique and did a great job of showing the data in a understandable manner. This is a very fun read.
Profile Image for Grace (The Reading Raindoe).
95 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2016
Very informative (and pretty) infographics. Ranging from the world as 100 people to Brady Vs. Manning Haircuts. Some are more informative than others. Nice book overall. I received a copy of this in exchange for a honest review.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,607 reviews59 followers
January 17, 2015
I love infographics, but these were too detailed and hard to follow.
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