My favourite data science and machine learning books

At all times you should be reading a book which is too hard for you to read.

These books either have or still do fulfil that criteria for me.

They’re the foundation upon which I’ve built my knowledge of machine learning and data science. I’ll continue to read and reread these for years to come.

And if you’re learning machine learning or data science, they’re worth your time.

If I’m learning something new, I’ll usually find a good book on the topic and read it end-to-end. I’ll then follow up on the parts that stick. These books have plenty of parts which have stuck.

Books are listed in order of approachability (roughly), if you have 0 experience in machine learning or data science, start from the top, if you’ve got Python and math down pat, go from the bottom.

Machine Learning for Humans by Vishal Maini and Samer Sabri

A primer on machine learning you can read in a day. Available  free online .

A primer on machine learning you can read in a day. Available free online.

This book started as a series on Medium. The authors wanted to explain all they knew about machine learning in a readable and approachable way. And they’ve done just that.

If you want a zero-to-one resource you can use to build an understanding of some of the most important machine learning concepts, but you haven’t encountered machine learning before, this book is for you. Even if you’re already a machine learning practitioner, this book is worth reading. It’ll give you inspiration for sharing your work in way which is approachable for others.

Read for free online.

Python for Data Analysis by Wes McKinney

Data science begins with data analysis.

Data science begins with data analysis.

Start learning data science or machine learning and you’re going to be using Pandas (a Python library for data analysis). The best thing about this book is it’s written by the creator of Pandas so you know you’re learning from the best.

As a machine learning engineer, I spent most of my time using Pandas to manipulate data to get it ready for machine learning models.

This book will show you how to use Pandas to analyse your data, clean it, change it and most of all, use it for data science and machine learning.

As a data scientist or machine learning practitioner, you can never have enough Pandas knowledge.

Buy on Amazon.

Hands-on Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn and TensorFlow by Aurelien Geron

A must have on the desk of any machine learner.

A must have on the desk of any machine learner.

If you’re getting into machine learning and you want a one-stop practical resource, this is it. It’ll take you through two powerful machine learning libraries, Scikit-Learn and TenorFlow and teach you machine learning concepts through coded examples.

Each concept has code to go along with it. So you could read this book, get an understanding of what machine learning is capable of, then adjust the code examples to your own problems.

Buy on Amazon.

Grokking Deep Learning by Andrew Trask

Grok: Understanding (something) intuitively.

Grok: Understanding (something) intuitively.

I started learning deep learning via Udacity’s Deep Learning Nanodegree. Andrew Trask was of one of the teachers. He’s now a researcher at DeepMind.

Back then, there was only a few of chapters released. I sat on my couch flicking through page by page, learning how to build a neural network from scratch with NumPy (a Python numerical library).

I was hooked on the descriptive analogies he used to describe machine learning concepts.

“Deep learning hyperparameters can be tuned like the dials on your oven.”

I devoured each new chapter as it came out.

But now you don’t have to wait, the full book is ready.

This book is a chance to learn deep learning from the ground-up and with hands-on examples from one of the best practitioners in the field.

Buy on Amazon.

Buy/peek-inside on Manning.

The 100-Page Machine Learning Book by Andriy Burkov

This is the book I wish I had when I started learning machine learning.

This is the book I wish I had when I started learning machine learning.

The start here and continue here of machine learning. That’s what I called it my book review. After reading Machine Learning for Humans, if you’re hungry to get deeper on what makes machine learning algorithms tick, this is the book for you.

My favourite part is it covers problems in machine learning and gives you solutions, as well as the rational behind those solutions. All within 100-pages.

You could read this in a day if you want. But you don’t need to. Take your time. Learning anything new takes time. Especially machine learning.

If the 100-pages aren’t enough, there’s QR codes scattered throughout with extra-curriculum curated by the author.

Buy on Amazon.

Read for free on the book’s website.

The Deep Learning Book by Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio and Aaron Courville

The ground truth of deep learning.

The ground truth of deep learning.

This is the newest edition to my collection. I bought the hard copy. It’s the book which fulfils the criteria at the start of the article.

I’m most excited for the math sections at the start. I’ve been a code-first learner. Hence the order of these books. But deep learning and machine learning are based on applied math. The code and frameworks might change over time but the math doesn’t change. Linear algebra is always going to be linear algebra.

The Deep Learning Book is written by three titans of the deep learning world. Goodfellow is the inventor of GANs, Bengio is one of the original discovers of deep learning and Courville’s academic works have been cited nearly 50,000 times.

This book dives deep on all of the deep learning concepts you should know about (not a pun).

Buy on Amazon.

Read for free online.

Remember, machine learning is broad. Use these books as a foundation to base your knowledge on and improve it by getting your hands dirty.

Knowledge which isn’t applied is wasted. There’s no better way to learn than to make mistakes.

Keep learning.

The mistake of reading too much

Learning is fun. It can seem like its the way to keep going. To read more, to learn more. To keep learning.

But knowledge is useless is it’s not applied. You can read all you want but until you use the knowledge you’ve been acquiring it’s not helpful to anyone.

Once you’ve made the decision to learn something, your next most important move is to use it.

A negative of continually reading and accumulating knowledge is it can hold you back. It’s counterintuitive. But eventually you become your own worst enemy. You know too much. Now you hold yourself back because you know all of the potential outcomes of your next venture. The good and the bad.

The good outcomes seem great. The stuff your dreams are made of. But they quickly get brought back to Earth by the potential bad outcomes.

Then there’s the other mistake. The mistake of doing without reading, doing without learning. When you push to far in one direction without educating yourself about the path ahead.

Knowing of the balance between learning and doing is dangerous too. Because you stop and wonder if you’re learning enough, or are you doing enough? Should you spend more time doing or more time learning?

You’re spinning in circles. Between reading between learning between doing between learning and doing. Each require each other to exist.

What’s the answer?

It’s easy to say find the right balance. Find the right balance can be said about anything.

What then?

You have to combine ignorance and arrogance.

Be aware but ignorant towards the potential pitfalls. To do this requires arrogance.


Because everyone (including you, mostly you) will be saying things trying to prevent you from ignoring the potential bad outcomes. Listening to them may prevent you from failing but it also prevents you from winning.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The thing you dreamed of trying to do didn’t work out? No worries. You just did both. You learned and you did.

Now you’ve got a story to share. And people will read about it.

Winners never quit

You might’ve heard the saying. Winners never quit.

It’s wrong. Partially wrong. Winners quit plenty of things. They quit the things which don’t matter.

Realising you can’t win at everything is the first step towards becoming a winner.

And if your goal is to win at something. The next steps is to start quitting the things you can’t win at.

What does winning mean?

It may mean a gold medal. It may mean being the best in the market. It may mean being able to work on the things you want to work on.

Knowing the thing you want to win at is as scary as it is exciting. Scary because it means to get there, you’ll have to quit all the other fun things in the way. Exciting because now you know where you want to get to.

The filter of quitting what doesn’t matter is what people first get stuck with. Spread your attention across too many things and you’ll fail to make significant progress in any of them.

The next filter is quitting when the thing that matters gets hard. It’s often not because you’re good enough, you could be. It’s because you haven’t been through this kind of challenge before. This point is when winners don’t quit. Instead, they seek out the uncomfortable situations. They know if they can get through them (and they can), they’ll be doing something others can’t.

Now you know this, the saying can be reworded.

In beginning, winners quit everything. Everything that doesn’t matter. Then when it gets hard, winners never quit.

[This blog post is a riff from the ideas Seth Godin talks about in The Dip. I’m listening to it at the moment. If you’re seeking to be a winner at what you do, I recommend you check it out.]

Health inheritance

Everyone is familiar with the concept of DNA.

One generation passes theirs onto the next.

Evolution slowly but surely worked out the best way to transfer information across generations.

Now we’ve got different methods; books, video, photos. But when it comes to replicating the population, DNA is still King (and Queen).

Chances are if you’ve heard of DNA, you’ve heard of genes.

“How does she look so good?”

“She must have got good some genes!”

But what are ‘good genes’?

From the sounds of things, most people would think you get your genes, they’re good or bad and that’s that.

Well, that’s partly true. You are born with specific genes but they won’t stay 100% the same throughout your life.

Much like how your bank account fluctuates depending on your spending habits and earnings, your genes with fluctuate with your health.


Let’s say you want your kids to get a big inheritance. You work hard and control your spendings.

Eventually, little Johnny gets a good deal of cash after you pass.

Whether this is good or bad is up for debate.

But the other side of the coin to wealth inheritance is health inheritance.

Just like years of poor spending habits will put a dent in anyones bank account, years of poor health habits will damage your genes.

Now you may not notice the effects immediately. Once formed, the human body is a resilient beast.

But your offspring may not be as lucky.

You know you shouldn’t smoke or drink during pregnancy as it can lead to a deformed baby.

But what about eating a diet lacking Vitamin K2, which is crucial to jaw development?

Vitamin K2 is a fat soluble vitamin which means it’s found in fatty foods (especially eggs).

During the past few decades there has been a trend to go against fatty foods.

Which may explain why so many dentists are driving around in BMW’s. The braces business is booming.

Causation or correlation?

More work has to be done but this is just one example of how food can influence future generations.

Eating well and taking care of your health won’t only mean you’ll look good, it’ll give your future offspring the best chance of growing up attractive and healthy.

Inheriting health is far more important than inheriting wealth.


PS If you’re looking to learn more about nutrition and health, I’ve been loving the book Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan, 11/10.


How to be the King of Your Own Kingdom (by reading books...)

Here’s the sitch.

You’ve been thrown back in time. Somewhere where Kings and Kingdoms and Knights are still a thing. Not like today but like the ones in Game of Thrones. The cool ones.

When you arrive, you’re naked. You end up in the middle of a field and you’re a bit sizzled because we haven’t quite worked out the ins and outs of time travel yet.

You walk up to a farmers house.

‘What are you doing here?’

‘I’m from the future.’

‘What’s the future?’

‘Do you have any spare clothes?’

You offer to help on the farm in exchange for clothes. Why? Because you read Influence by Robert Chaldini and know about the law of reciprocity.

The farmer agrees.

You help around the farm for a few weeks. Then decide it’s time to head into town.

The farmer taught you some good things. But it’s time to try something else.

You find a library. It’s bare. And the English in the books is broken but you can still make it out. You help others to read. They appreciate it.

Everyone starts coming to you as a source of knowledge.

‘I can’t seem to get my troops to follow me into battle.’

‘Well, how are you treating them?’

‘I train them hard and often.’

‘Are you doing the training?’

‘Of course not, I’m a leader, not a solider.’

‘Perhaps you should consider leading with actions, rather than words.’

The Commander comes back a few days later.

‘What you said worked,’ he says, ‘where did you learn such things?’

‘In a book called Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink.’

‘Willink? I’ve never heard the name,’ the Commander says, ‘but if you see him, let him know I must know more of his techniques.’

You keep making friends in the town. You know everyone’s name.

Paul the baker.

Mary the shoemaker.

John the blacksmith.

When Samuel needs new shoes you send him to Mary. And when Jacob wants a new piece of armour, you always recommend John.

‘Morning John,’ you say heading through the streets.

You remember how someone’s name is the sweetest thing they can ever hear from How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

An election is coming up. The King is getting old and wants to pass on the crown. He has no sons or relatives.

Your name gets thrown in the hat. You’ve only been in town for a year. But it’s been a good year.

‘We have a new King!’

It’s you.

‘How could this have happened?’ you wonder.

Then you remember back to all the actions you took in the past year. Helping the farmer, sharing your knowledge, making friends and connecting them to each other.

All these things came from books you read.

But you realise it wasn’t only because you read them. It was because you put them into practice.

Someone’s life’s work spread across the pages, absorbed into your head, then spread throughout and look what happened.

Remember how you helped others to read?

The people appreciated it. Why? Because they were learning. They were gaining knowledge.

It’s in our DNA to seek knowledge. It’s why reading self-help books can be addictive.

Each one sheds a little more light on what we could be doing better. But it’s like the coin stuck down the back of your couch, the closer you get, the more it inches away.

And so you keep reading, and reading, and reading. But never quite satisfying your thirst.

Then you realise.

There is no book which is going to help you become yourself. Because the books are simply the tool.

And what good is a tool which doesn’t get used?

But now you know. You know what’s possible when you use the tools available to you.

You can become the King of your own Kingdom.

Get ready. Being a King is hard. There will be times where you don’t know what to do next. That’s when it’s time to reach back into your toolbox.

Don’t have the right tool for the job? No worry. There are plenty more down at the hardware store.


You don’t have to read the whole book

Take the knowledge you need. Use it. Share it. And move on to the next.

Many books would be great blog posts but instead got dragged out into a whole book. They probably started out that way. Then someone came along and said, ‘Hey we should turn these 1200 words into 60000 and sell it for more.’

I grew up with the internet so my attention span is fleeting.

I’ve got about 3-4 hours a day of deep work time. No where near enough to read all the books I want and work on the things I want to.

This morning, I’m reading The Unpublished David Ogilvy. Its brevity makes it a page turner.

And if you’re a writer, remember, less but better. This is more so a note to self. Kick my ass if I don’t.

Excerpt from The Unpublished David Ogilvy.  

Excerpt from The Unpublished David Ogilvy.