Choosing The Right R Book
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Monday, 14 January 2019
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Choosing The Right R Book
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R is a language that is mostly used for statistical computing and any book on the subject has an important choice to make about whether or not to include teaching statistics. Some of the books here concentrate solely on the language, others try to cover some of the statistical techniques as well.  



In a decade of reviews, I Programmer's book reviewers have read and commented on over 1500 programming titles. That's only a fraction of the programming books published, but we try to cover the important ones. In Programmer's Bookshelf we recommend the books you might find helpful for different purposes and at different levels of experience. You can, of course, read the full review by clicking on the book's title.

Doing stats with R isn't difficult and mostly just a matter of finding the appropriate built-in functions or packages to perform the analysis. There is an argument that says if you are trying to learn stats and R then better to learn the stats first and then master R - it will make a lot more sense.

Learning R

Author: Richard Cotton
Publisher: O'Reilly
ISBN: 978-1449357108

This book doesn't make any attempt to teach you statistics via using R. It is about R as a programming language and nothing else. Awarding it four stars, Mike James said that if you are looking for a book that teaches stats and R you are going to think it isn't very good.  If you know the stats and want to learn R as if it was a standard programming language then this might well be the book for you. However, you do also need to take into account the fact that the approach is very slow and very detailed.


The Art of R Programming

Author: Norman Matloff
Publisher: No Starch Press
Pages: 373
ISBN: 978-1593273842

This is another title that focuses on the programming rather than the statistics, while including quite a lot of examples that, naturally enough, illustrate aspects of statistics.



Awarding it 4.5 stars, Mike James said that this is a good book if you want to learn the important facts of life about programming in R. It explains the features that make R different and takes you through all you need to know to perform standard analysis and implement custom procedures. There are plenty of examples, but another important caveat is that this isn't a cookbook. You have to read, understand and then implement your own solutions to the problems that arise in everyday data analysis.

If you aren't already an R expert, read this book and you will be well on your way to becoming one. Recommended. 

R For Everyone, 2nd Ed

Author: Jared P. Lander
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Pages: 560
ISBN: 978-0134546926

Mike James awarded this book 4.5 stars, describing it as well balanced in that it avoids taking either the programmer's view or the statistician's view. Instead it tries for a nice balance between the two and it mostly works.


In conclusion, Mike says that while this isn't the best possible book on R, it is good enough for you to think about adding to your collection. It is a good book for the R beginner, but be warned there are some advanced topics when it comes to the stats. Overall the stats isn't explained as theory, but as practice. If you hope to use any of them, and reason about them, you will need to read another book. However, the chapters on data manipulation are particularly useful. So this is recommended to R beginners who know enough stats not to worry about the advanced material.


The Book of R

Author: Tilman M. Davies 
Publisher: No Starch Press
ISBN: 978-1593276515


This is a big book and reviewer Mike James says it gives the impression that it really is THE book of R. He gave it four stars, saying that it doesn't try to focus exclusively on the task of teaching you to program or statistics, it does both.

The book is divided into five sections. The first two are about programming, the final three are about statistics. Personally Mike would have preferred a more in depth book on programming in R and another one on statistics, but if you really want an encyclopedia then this format will suit you.


This is a huge book that tells you everything about R, on the assumption that you want to read a very complete and logical introduction even if you aren't sure why you need to know it just yet. The result is more like a manual than a tutorial. If you already know how to program then this is not going to be a good choice. It is suitable for the programming beginner but only if you want a very plain presentation of the facts. Not a book for everyone interested in R, but it would make a good resource to have on a shelf.


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Last Updated ( Monday, 14 January 2019 )