When people think of great storytelling, data is not the first thing that typically comes to mind. Creative imagery, well-written prose, and intriguing characters are what make so many books so great. However, these two books I have fallen in love with are unique. They use data to tell compelling stories. Every claim is rooted in research and backed up by numbers.
These books are testaments to the magic that happens when you combine data with creativity. The numbers wouldn’t be compelling without artful storytelling, and the words wouldn’t be as powerful if not supported by stats that speak for themselves. These are my recommendations for anyone who is a little right-brained and a little left—you’ll see what I mean once you crack ’em open.
The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates
When I finished this book, I was so inspired by the author’s ability to make a compelling argument that hooks you and keeps you reading. I admire Melinda Gates’ consistent use of data to dive deep and get to the root cause of every issue the book tackles (and a lot is covered in this one). It never reads like a textbook, but you’ll suddenly become aware of how much information you’ve just taken in after every chapter.
Another huge reason I’m a fan of this book is that she is able to establish trust with her readers. For a huge celebrity with a powerful last name like “Gates,” I imagine this can be hard to do. But she doesn’t let that make her afraid to discuss the failures of her organization with an authenticity that is both striking and humble—and I respect that a lot.
Wisdom isn’t about accumulating more facts; it’s about understanding big truths in a deeper way.
Factfulness, Hans Rosling
This book completely changed the way I look at data and how I speak (as well as refrain from speaking) about issues depending on my own level of education. Asking your data questions is a good practice for anyone who works in an insight-driven industry (like advertising), so I found that it holds a lot of relevance for people who are both analytical and creative.
Factfulness has also helped me to better understand the biases around me and how I can best move past them in forming my own unique opinion. It challenges me to slow down enough to be intentionally self-aware enough to make thoughtful decisions that will both save me time and help me grow as a human.
Things can be bad, but getting better.