As much as I enjoy learning about software and data handling techniques on the web, there’s nothing like curling up with a good book. While they’re not the best selling fiction titles, here are some of the best I’ve read that I can easily recommend to you.
John Walkenbach has a great readable style and his books on programming Excel will not only teach you how to do just that, but you’re bound to discover some new things about Excel along the way. You may even get inspired by his teachings and develop some new software solutions.
I bought Code Complete some years ago as I was about a year into my first professional programming job. To this day I maintain that it should be required reading for all programmers from those who are just learning the skill to the jaded pros who may be stuck in their ways a little.
The most recent additions to my library are Stephen Few’s terrific volumes on graph and dashboard design. Show Me the Numbers is a very detailed book for those who are serious about studying the best techniques to present information visually. It has a very serious tone and is more of a textbook than casual reading. The content, however, is outstanding in its accuracy. Understand the views of a consummate pro and you’ll never look at graphs the same again.
His Information Dashboard Design takes it to the next level and discusses in great visual detail what makes a dashboard system functional.
Performance Dashboards documents not only the processes one should undertake at the various stages of the implementation of a dashboard project, but some of the possible issues that may arise between the management group and IT groups and how to best deal with those challenges.
Professional Excel Development absolutely is not for the newcomer to Excel programming. But once you’ve been at it for a while and want to move on to the next level, or just want to know how the best programmers work with the Excel environment, this is the book for you.
Pivot tables are one of Excel’s best features, and I want you to learn how to use them as soon as possible. I have plans to discuss their use on the site but it really is a complex topic. So honestly, at this stage, the best service I can provide to you in this regard is to buy a good book on the topic. Bill Jelen and Mike Alexander have done a great job with these books. Full disclosure: I don’t own either of the pivot table books, but I have poured over them. I assessed that at the point that they were available I personally was comfortable enough with using pivot tables.
Some more full disclosure: these are affiliate links with Amazon. Why Amazon? It’s pretty simple really:
- First and foremost, I’ve personally had very good experience as a typical shopper with Amazon. Reasonable prices. Great selection. They send what you order. I usually receive my orders sooner than they say I’m likely to. And no mall shopping hassles with parking and lineups.
- Amazon’s associate program will pay me a small commission when you buy the products they sell using these links to the Amazon site. This will help me to continue to run the site and provide what I hope is good content and a good place for all of us to discuss the things that helps us all excel with Monarch.
I would be negligent if I didn’t encourage you to visit ExcelUser.com and purchase Charley Kyd’s excellent dashboard reporting kit:
Charley discusses how to prepare magazine style reporting (and more) without any programming at all. On top of that, he instructs how to setup your tools in such a way that regular updates of your reports with current data are a breeze!
Outside of these technical volumes, there are a few others that I think ExcelWithMonarch.com readers might benefit from.
Do you know the name Seth Godin? You should! Some refer to him as a controversial writer, but I’ve learned much from many of his writings, most notably The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). This is a quick read but will motivate you to continue when the going gets tough, regardless of what it is that’s challenging you.
Godin’s Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable–Includes new bonus chapter will make you think about not only what your organization does, but what you can do to contribute to its success with your particular skills.
For an entertaining and informative look at “the hidden side of everything”, you must read Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. It may irreversibly change how you view and interpret data.
Please, I’m begging you, don’t make me or your colleagues sit through yet another boring and ugly PowerPoint presentation. Get yourself a copy of Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds, and apply what you learn immediately. For the love of Pete!
Finally, for perhaps the most controversial volume listed here, in Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History Matt Taibbi describes what led up to the big U.S. bailouts of 2008 and more, in such a way that even I could understand it all. He might have a biased viewpoint, but it’s difficult to refute the facts that he presents.
I hope these products help you both build and apply your skills and abilities, and that you can use them to your best advantage.