Book Reviews | Painting with Numbers

3/1/14 by Brian Lapidus of Clarent Ventures LLC, in AFP Exchange, a publication of the Association for Financial Professionals. Since Exchange content is only available to AFP members and paid subscribers, I’ll present somewhat lengthier excerpts here:
"I intend to use this book as part of the on-boarding process for all new hires as a means of establishing a culture of doing good work and effectively sharing that good work with the wider company.

Bolten's experience seems born of his frustrations as a CFO, board director and consultant who has witnessed too many examples of good work undermined by poor presentation. He is trying to save us from those moments where the audience misses the point despite your hours of calculation.

As a final note, for those of you who revel in the details; I don't think I've ever read a book with such interesting end notes.No, really. Bolten references interesting resources, makes nuanced points, [and] elaborates on publicly available data sets."

3/5/14 by Kip Marlow, host of Entrepreneur’s Club Radio and author of The Entrepreneurs: Success and Sacrifice, reviewed on I don’t normally post Amazon reviews here, but I couldn’t pass this one up. An excerpt:
"As one who is usually bored by income statements and balance sheets, this book has been a game changer. Randall’s book helps you present any kinds of numbers, not just financial statements, in a way that makes them jump out at you and say look at me."

1/1/13 in Strategic Finance, by William Boehman (link to issue contents — for the review, click on “SF Bulletin” near the bottom of the page). Strategic Finance is the flagship publication of IMA®, the association of accountants and finance professionals in business. An excerpt:
"Bolten's style of writing is engaging, entertaining, and, most important, effective at delivering his message. This book hasn't only become a key reference on my bookshelf, but I also now have a comprehensive, textbook-style reference to use when I mentor others on communicating effectively with numbers."

12/6/12 in The Value Examiner, by Michael Goldman (link to PDF file — online edition is only available to subscribers). This publication is “a Professional Development Journal for the Consulting Disciplines.” The reviewer is to my knowledge the first CPA to review Painting with Numbers. An excerpt:
"The key [to the last section of the book] isn’t the technique, style, tips, or tricks that you use.  The key is actually understanding what it is you are trying to say before you set out to say it.

I am going to give my copy of Painting with Numbers to a CFO client I am working with who spends 75 hours a week cranking out reports that nobody uses because their financial grammar is so deficient."

6/13/12 in Gust, “The Global Platform for Startup Funding.” Tim Berry, the reviewer, is founder and CEO of Palo Alto Software, a provider of business planning software for entrepreneurs. An excerpt:
"If you're doing investment pitches, you should read this book. If you're doing a pitch I'm going to see, I want you to have read this book. And if you’re a startup CFO, finance lead, bean counter, or presentation slide deck preparer, then you should read this book."

1/17/13 in the website of the Association for Institutional Research, an organization devoted to “Data and Decisions for Higher Education.” The reviewer, Michelle Kiec, assesses Painting with Numbers from the perspective of institutional researchers and administrators, who are not typically “numbers people” by profession or inclination, but for whom clear presentation of numerical information is sometime critically important. This is perhaps the more thorough and comprehensive review I’ve seen.

7/30/12 (online edition, 7/31 in the print edition) in Investor’s Business Daily, by Michael Mink. This is more of an article than a review, but I include it here as well because Mink does an great job presenting the essential points of Painting with Numbers. An excerpt:
"A reader might have just five minutes to grasp [your information]. You don’t want them spending four of those on deciphering and only a minute evaluating."

6/1/12 on Devlin’s Angle, a monthly column sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America. Keith Devlin is a mathematics professor at Stanford University, and is “The Math Guy” on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Devlin observes that while quantitative literacy (QL) is getting increasing focus from educators, Painting with Numbers is the first book to address QL as it relates to the most ubiquitous way that numbers are presented in today’s world — the spreadsheet. Two excerpts on this point:
"Anyone faced with giving a QL course should devote some time to the crucial skill of being able to communicate effectively with numbers.

Bolten is to the spreadsheet what Tufte is to the graph."

5/1/12 on Financial Bin, a website (and media company) focused on personal finance and enterpreneurial education for the Generation Y age group. David Domzalski’s review is particularly directed at young professionals and entrepreneurs, who often have to present numbers under difficult and high-stakes circumstances. An excerpt:
"Bolten’s book is perfect if you’re looking to give more successful presentations. It’s as simple as that. You will be doing yourself – and your career – a huge favor."

6/29/12 on LDRLB (formerly LeaderLab), “an online think tank that shares insights from research on leadership, innovation, and strategy”), by David Burkus, LDRLB‘s editor. An excerpt:
"Overall, Painting With Numbers offers a needed perspective on the quantitative. It’s not about how to better understand numbers (although you will), it’s about how to better present them to others."

4/23/12 on “J.D. Meier’s Blog.” This is a shorter version of Meier’s 4/22/12 review (see below), and more specifically focused at engineers who present information. (Meier is a senior engineering project manager at Microsoft.) I particularly appreciated the following quote, since engineers are among the many professional people in addition to accountants and financial analysts who have to present numbers:
"I found the perfect complement to Edward Tufte’s, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It’s Painting with Numbers, by Randall Bolten. It’s the best book I’ve seen on how to present numbers with skill."

4/22/12 in Sources of Insight, by J.D. Meier

6/28/12 in Persuading with Data, the website of Stephanie Levinson Lee. The author is the CEO of Levinson Lee Consulting, LLC, a practice focused on helping expert witnesses communicate complex economic and financial information. An excerpt:
"I was delighted to hear him articulate the idea that “presenting numbers is a communication skill.” This philosophy is at the heart of how I think about quantitative graphics and why they are so important for expert witnesses."

4/20/12 in Blog Business World, by Wayne Hurlbert. An excerpt:
"I highly recommend the very accessible and process based book Painting with Numbers. . . to anyone in business, public policy making, analysis, science, or any occupation or profession who works with numbers and must present that data to an audience."

6/1/12 in LifeHealthPro, a website and publication for life and health insurance advisors, which includes salespeople. The reviewer, Richard Hoe, writes from the perspective of professionals who must use numbers to sell a product to consumers. Two excerpts:
"We…get so involved in how happy we are to have created a worksheet with formulas that work like gangbusters…that we fail to think about how the customer will perceive our efforts. I’ll bet their eyes glaze over… Do you want to tell a story with numbers? If so, I recommend you run, don’t walk, to buy this book."

6/10/12 by Wenbin Nah on Better Interpersonal Communication. I particularly appreciated the reviewer’s comments on the layout and clarity of Painting with Numbers.

6/9/12 by John D. Cook on The Endeavor, the reviewer’s own blog. In addition to being a prolific blogger himself, Cook has played a number of roles, including math professor, programmer, and statistician. His comments about Painting with Numbers reflect that perspective.

4/30/12 by Rob Nance (“iShade’s Curator Comments”) on iShade, the Accounting Profession Online. This short review focuses on Chapter 3 — about the importance of using the words in your quantation “in a professional, succinct, yet not demeaning way to clients and co-workers.
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