If you're not sure how to get started with R, this blog post will give you our pick of the top 3 best books to learn R programming for beginners to help you make your first steps.
They are all extremely highly rated with amazing reviews at Amazon, and are amongst the best books to learn R.
We don't just stop at 3 R programming books, though.
There are loads of great R data science books as well as plain vanilla R programming books, and we've collated quite a few over the years that we also feature here.
Before we get into that, though, we're going to take a quick look at what the R programming language is, whether it's better than Python and whether it's difficult to learn.
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What is R?
R is a programming language and free software envirnment for statistical computing and graphics.
One of R’s great strengths is the ease with which well-designed publication-quality plots can be produced, including mathematical symbols and formulae.
R is a good choice for data science, where it seems to come down to a direct choice between R and Python.
Interestingly, R seems to be the main choice for data science academics, whereas Python is mostly used by data scientists in the business arena.
If you're interested in learning more about programming in R, our pick of the best books to learn R programming for beginners will help you with that.
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Is R Better than Python?
Recently, R was overtaken by Python as the most used programming language for Data Science.
I guess that R is dead then.
R is still a superb language for Data Science, and while it may not be as easy to learn as Python or as quick, if you choose R you can enjoy these benefits:
Added to that, in recent years there has been a big surge in the number and quality of R programming books published, in particular R data science books.
It's clear that these authors don't think that R is dead - and I think they're right. R is a superb programming language, and is well suited to data science.
3 Books on R that All Aspiring Data Scientists Should Read @chi2innovations #datascience #rstats
Is R Difficult to Learn?
R has a reputation of being hard to learn. Some of that is due to the fact that it is very different from other analytics software, while some is a by-product of its extreme power and flexibility.
I particularly enjoyed reading an article by Robert A Muenchen in which he gives an example of Unhelpful Help in the R help files:
R’s help files are often thorough and usually contain many working examples. However, they’re definitely not written for beginners!
My favorite example of this is the help file for one of the first commands that beginners learn: print.
The SAS help file for its print procedure says that it “Prints observations in a SAS data set using some or all of the variables.”
The R help file for its print function says, “print prints its argument and returns it invisibly (via invisible(x)). It is a generic function which means that new printing methods can be easily added for new classes.”
The reader is left to wonder what “invisible” output looks like and what methods and classes are.
The help files will tell you more about “methods” but not “classes”. You have to know to look for help on “class” to find that.
Despite the steep learning curve for R, it is an incredibly powerful language with unrivalled graphing and charting capabilities.
For myself, I found it incredibly helpful to learn by going through the examples in the 3 R data science books highlighted below, and in video courses (more on that later).
If you're just getting started, I highly recommend that you get help by going through one of these R programming books. It really will save you months of struggle.
Top 3: Best Books to Learn R Programming for Beginners
In this post - the 5th in a series of 8 in which we bring you 21 Inspirational Books for All Aspiring Data Scientists, we highlight our top 3 picks of the best books to learn R programming for beginners to Data Science - or from any other discipline:
These R data science books are all highly recommended reading and are among the best books for R programming for beginners.
If our pick of the best books to learn R doesn't inspire you, there are many more R programming books further down the post.
R for Data Science
Import, Tidy, Transform, Visualize, and Model Data
Hadley Wickham and Garrett Grolemund
Learn how to use R to turn raw data into insight, knowledge, and understanding. This book introduces you to R, RStudio, and the tidyverse, a collection of R packages designed to work together to make data science fast, fluent, and fun...
Learn how to use R to turn raw data into insight, knowledge, and understanding. This book introduces you to R, RStudio, and the tidyverse, a collection of R packages designed to work together to make data science fast, fluent, and fun. Suitable for readers with no previous programming experience, R for Data Science is designed to get you doing data science as quickly as possible.
Authors Hadley Wickham and Garrett Grolemund guide you through the steps of importing, wrangling, exploring, and modeling your data and communicating the results. You’ll get a complete, big-picture understanding of the data science cycle, along with basic tools you need to manage the details. Each section of the book is paired with exercises to help you practice what you’ve learned along the way.
You’ll learn how to:
Practical Data Science with R
Nina Zumel and John Mount
Practical Data Science with R lives up to its name. It explains basic principles without the theoretical mumbo-jumbo and jumps right to the real use cases you’ll face as you collect, curate, and analyze the data crucial to the success of your business...
Practical Data Science with R lives up to its name. It explains basic principles without the theoretical mumbo-jumbo and jumps right to the real use cases you’ll face as you collect, curate, and analyze the data crucial to the success of your business. You’ll apply the R programming language and statistical analysis techniques to carefully explained examples based in marketing, business intelligence, and decision support.
Practical Data Science with R shows you how to apply the R programming language and useful statistical techniques to everyday business situations. Using examples from marketing, business intelligence, and decision support, it shows you how to design experiments (such as A/B tests), build predictive models, and present results to audiences of all levels.
Proven Recipes for Data Analysis, Statistics, and Graphics
JD Long and Paul Teetor
The R language provides everything you need to do statistical work, but its structure can be difficult to master. With more than 200 practical recipes, this book helps you perform data analysis with R quickly and efficiently...
With more than 200 practical recipes, this book helps you perform data analysis with R quickly and efficiently. The R language provides everything you need to do statistical work, but its structure can be difficult to master. This collection of concise, task-oriented recipes makes you productive with R immediately, with solutions ranging from basic tasks to input and output, general statistics, graphics, and linear regression.
Each recipe addresses a specific problem, with a discussion that explains the solution and offers insight into how it works. If you’re a beginner, R Cookbook will help get you started. If you’re an experienced data programmer, it will jog your memory and expand your horizons. You’ll get the job done faster and learn more about R in the process.
6 More R Programming Books
If our top 3 list of R programming books above isn't for you, then here are another 6 of the best books for R programming for beginners:
Another 6 R Data Science Books
Still browsing for the best books to learn R? The next 6 R data science books might be just what you're looking for:
Even More Books to Learn R
Still looking? There are loads of R programming books, so I'm sure one of the next in the list of the best books to learn R programming for beginners might just hit the spot:
R Programming Courses
If books aren't really your thing and you prefer to learn by video course, we have a post dedicated to The Best R Courses for Data Science.
Check them out - you won't be disappointed!
Best Books to Learn R Programming for Beginners - Summary
If you want to call yourself a Data Scientist, then you're going to have to learn to program, probably in R or Python.
Hopefully the R programming books in our list of the best books to learn R programming for beginners will help you get a strong start.
Are there any R data science books that you think should be in this post?
Leave a comment below and I'll add them!