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Best Statistics Books For Data Science

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Statistics is one of the important fields upon which data science is anchored. Data scientists rely on statistical tools like linear regression, support vector machines, and classification among others to organize, analyze and contextualize data. 

Statistical concepts like sampling, randomization, distribution, bias, etc. are also commonly applied thus very useful in the field of data science. R certification is highly recommended for any aspiring data scientist since statistical aptitude is a must-have skill when it comes to data science. R programming is widely considered as the most appropriate language in this field due to its ability to not only reliably perform statistical analysis, but to also create applications and software to perform the same.

A successful data science career is not built only on theoretical and practical knowledge. A professional ought to consider building comprehensive knowledge by interacting with peers, mentors, and industry experts, as well as with diverse resources such as books, blogs, articles, and more. As we know, there is never an end to learning and never a limit to sources of knowledge.  

This article reviews books that are widely considered practical, resourceful, and valuable for anyone who wishes to lay a solid foundation of statistics as a basis for their data science career. 

1. Practical statistics for data scientists

Author: Peter C. Bruce, Andrew Bruce & Peter Gedeck

Best for: A beginner who requires a background in statistics in reference to data science alone.

This book bridges the gap between data science and statistics in a very practical guide. It handles statistics from the perspective of data science. If you already have a background in R programming and the basics of statistics, you may want to hone some data exploration, random sampling, regression, classification, and machine learning techniques for better and more informed data handling and ultimately deeper insights from data.  

Statistics is one of the important fields upon which data science is anchored. Data scientists rely on statistical tools like linear regression, support vector machines, and classification among others to organize, analyze and contextualize data. Click To Tweet

2. Bayesian Reasoning and Machine Learning

Author: David Barber

Best for: Final year undergraduate or Master’s students without a strong background in calculus and linear algebra. 

Bayesian Reasoning and Machine Learning is a book with broad coverage that has done well to present machine learning through the bayesian perspective. This is rare because there are not many ML books presented with a statistical approach, let alone a Bayesian approach. Barber comprehensively unfolds the concepts of Bayesian reasoning using graphic illustrations allowing the reader to learn how to present random variables alongside their dependencies. This Bayesian approach of using graphical models in data representation is general enough to accommodate various algorithms and approaches. Each chapter caps off with an exercise to test the reader’s understanding. 

3. The Elements of Statistical Learning

Author: Jerome H Friedman, Robert Tishbirani & Trevor Hastie

Best for: Beginners and intermediate data scientists looking to enhance their data representation skills.

Hailed as the bible of machine and statistical learning, this book covers key elements and concepts in data science comprehensively. These include data mining, machine learning, bioinformatics, neural networks, support vector machines, classification trees, and boosting. It gives a very balanced blend of statistics and data science, in that the reader does not feel too inclined to either data science or statistical knowledge. It also profoundly elaborates various concepts and tools in statistics, and how they integrate into the field of data science.

4. Probability and Statistics for Data Science

Author: Norman Matloff

Best for: Students, and practicing data scientists who learn about statistics and probability concepts later in their upper graduate level and not early enough.

This book is an introduction of probability and statistics concepts to both students and graduates of data science and is a great resource to indulge in ahead of advanced statistics. It comes loaded with real data sets for practical data analysis with R programming and includes several data science applications such as random graph models, linear and logistic regression, neural networks, and more. However, it is important to have a background in matrix algebra, R programming, and calculus before using this valuable resource. 

5. Statistics for data scientists 

Author: Maurits Kaptein & Edwin Van Den Heuvel

Best for: Data science students interested in statistical data analysis for big data and streaming data 

This book covers an exhaustive introduction to data analysis, applying a reusable R code to solve real-world problems using real datasets. With a strong emphasis on probability and statistical principles, this book’s focus on the not-so-often covered bootstrapping and Bayes statistical analysis methods specifically for big data and streaming data making it a great resource in an era where big data and streaming data analysis carries the day for most businesses. 

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6. OpenIntro Statistics 

Author: David M. Diez, Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel & Christopher D Barr

Best for: Both students and employees in the data science field seeking to get a strong foundation in statistics that they can build on later.

This is one of the three statistics textbooks approved by the American Institute of Mathematics for use in Mathematics undergraduate degree courses. It is an open-source book that covers the foundational elements of statistics like inference, probability, and regression, in a way that is easily understandable allowing for both self-and instructor-led study. Also coming with case studies to bring out concepts in a real-world setting makes this a great resource. 

7. Statistics for Data Science

Author: James Miller

Best for: Anyone who wants to get a concrete statistics background before pursuing data science, though it has proved quite useful to professionals in the field. 

This is a very comprehensive statistics eBook that covers everything that its title highlights which are: “Leveraging the power of statistics for data analysis, classification, regression, machine learning, and neural networks.” It is very detailed and it has been hailed as a complete course guidebook and foundation for data science. Build your knowledge on implementing statistics such as linear regression, boosting, model assessment, and neural networks in data science processes like cleaning, mining, and analysis with a basis on R programming. 

8. Computer age statistical inference

Author: Bradley Efron & Trevor Hastie

Best for: Not a coursebook but a book for all who want to appreciate the evolution journey of statistics and data analysis. 

This book gives a historical account of the development of statistics and data analysis since the end of the 19th century, the latest invention of data; big data, data science, and machine learning. To project the future of data analysis. It captures classical inferential theories as well as contemporary statistical analysis techniques like The Markov chain Monte Carlo, logistic regression, Bootstrap, survival analysis, random forests, and much more. 

9. Think Stats

Author: Allen B Downey

Best for: Data scientists who wish to learn computational data analysis using Python programming. 

This book introduces beginners to computational statistical analysis with Python programming. It specifically covers concepts of probability and statistics like distributions and visualization. In the end, you will have mastered how to write and test code, generate samples, and process data right from collecting/importing, cleaning, generating statistics, analysis, and visualizing data. Some programming experience in python is thus required to use this book since it is based on the python library for probability distributions. 


If you aspire to become an effective data scientist working for top companies and commanding a premium salary, experiential knowledge is certainly not complete without reference to statistical books like the ones we have reviewed in this article. Statistics is the basis of data science. As such, a strong foundation in mathematics and statistics sets you on the right path to achieving your data science career aspirations. Most of the books we have reviewed in this article are intended for beginners and students yet they have proved to be a great resource even for refined data scientists who occasionally would need to refresh foundational statistical analysis knowledge.

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