R in Action fills an important gap by introducing the basics of R and statistical data analysis from a very practical and pragmatic point of view. It has a broad coverage and after introducing basic data set manipulation techniques and commands, it goes on to describe many important statistical data analysis techniques from simple linear regression to more advanced methods such as ANOVA, power analysis, resampling, bootstrapping, generalized linear models, PCA, factor analysis, and handling missing values.
One of the nice features of the book is the description and discussion of many different visualization methods. The author, using many interesting and real world examples, shows how basic and more advanced visualization methods in R can be very helpful in exploring and understanding many different types of data sets.
The reader should be careful, though. This book does not dive into the gory details of all the topics it covers. Luckily the author is also aware of that, and he always mentions the good and detailed references for the readers who want to master the mathematical details. But make no mistake, some of the discussions about the pitfalls of some modeling techniques such as regression are quite adequate.
You should also bear in mind that this book is not a guide to programming in R in general, even though you’ll be able to do many different types of data analysis after having finished this book, you’d definitely need a book like The Art of R Programming: A Tour of Statistical Software Design in order to develop your own sophisticated functions, modules and packages. Nevertheless I still consider R in Action is the perfect book for people who are curious about R and want to discover how they can utilize R to analyze real world data and come up with predictions.
I would easily give the book 5 stars if it also included the list of references. This is a huge omission and I want to believe that this was just an accident which will be corrected in the next edition. For example on page 111 it reads: “… recommend two excellent books that you’ll find in the References section at the end of this book: Venables & Ripley (2000) and Chambers (2008).”. But there is no References section at the end of the book! Thus you cannot learn more about Venables, Ripley and Chambers (you are left to your own Google skills).