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Context Book: Information Is Beautiful

on February 17, 2020

I’ve never read any infographic book like Knowledge is Beautiful before. It is an amazing book. The cover, the pictures, and the information inside the book are mind-blowing. The artwork is very delightful. It is so eye-catchy that even my little nieces want to take a look at it too. I guess they thought it was a cool picture book. Yes, it is one, and no one can deny that. I feel like I’m holding hard-copies of many computer screens/windows and hyperlinks in my hands while reading this book. Windows open to other windows, and the data are distinct yet somehow related to each other. David McCandless, the author, called them “the Never-Ending Graphic” and “the pursuit of knowledge.” 

David McCandless has a very creative way to present the data with the graphic method. The charts, colors, and the content are put together logically, innovatively, cleverly, and artistically. Users can appreciate what they read directly in the book, and they can even research the topics further using the provided links at the bottom of the pages. This book aligns with the INFO 287 course so well. It is transparent, playful, user-centered, and human, and it is able to show partially what connected world of “continuous computing” means for 21st Century libraries. McCandless (2014) introduced Knowledge Is Beautiful impressively: “Understanding really is the key. When you understand something, you’re able to perceive its structure: its connections, its relationships, its significance relative to everything else. How it fits… Context, I’m realising, is the field of these connections, the network we plug any new information into. That explains why, when something is contextualized, we can suddenly get it. It feels ‘meaningful’ to us because it fits into the network of what we already know and understand and can relate to. Our Knowledge.” 

The downside of this book is that it might make some readers overwhelmed because of the massive amount of information it presents, and some of them are complex. Readers need to be flexible to understand the content, or they have to spend time to figure out the codes of the new format. Since the book contains so much information, the readers likely get confused or distracted from the previous topics. For example, I was enjoying information about my favorite animal, dogs, 

but the next page is something totally different, an international train wrecks chart. 

After wrecking my little brain studying the chart, I moved to the next page and saw unalike topics, recycling and movie lens. Also, the small and light text gives readers a hard time to read. 

However, in my opinion, the book reflects the real trend of how people using the Internet. They easily wander off their topics while surfing online and get overwhelmed . This book can be useful for librarians because they can get some knowledge of various topics to introduce to their clients. Data visualization is currently popular. This book is an excellent tool to help people organize and make use of the sea of data that we are swimming in. It is also a good book for users who need to find ideas or like to learn different things. 

David McCandless’s talk on his very own book, Knowledge is Beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anKC7krb-c8


McCandless, D. (2014). Knowledge Is Beautiful. Harper Collins Publisher.

Stephens, M. (2020). Context Book [Lecture notes]. WordPress. https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/assignments/context-book/

The RSA. (2015, Feb 3). David McCandless on Knowledge is Beautiful [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anKC7krb-c8

One Response to “Context Book: Information Is Beautiful”

  1. Narrability says:

    I found your book review so interesting. Thanks for including the images; I was trying to imagine what the book graphics looked like. I can see how “reading” the book could help the reader feel overwhelmed, but as you offer, it does seem reflective of the way we use the internet. I am looking forward to checking this out. Mind maps come to mind at first glance. I do like that each graphic means a new type of reading or way of connecting with information.

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