Book Review: “Collect, Combine And Transform Data Using Power Query In Excel And Power BI” by Gil Raviv

I generally try to avoid writing book reviews here, but the fact that there are so few books available on Power Query and M means that I’m making an exception for “Collect, Combine and Transform Data using Power Query in Excel and Power BI” by Gil Raviv.

The first thing to say about this book is that it takes the approach of teaching through exercises and worked examples, rather than by explaining abstract concepts. If this suits your style of learning (and I know that it does for a lot of people) then you’re in luck; if you’re looking for a book that will explain what all the different join types for Merge operations do, for example, then you’ll be disappointed. This isn’t a criticism though – I don’t think it’s possible to write a book that will satisfy everyone – and Gil has done a good job of covering a lot of common data preparation scenarios. One important exception to this is the chapter on M which provides a very clear introduction to the language and the way it works. I suspect a lot of people will want to buy the book for this chapter alone.

The second thing to say about this book is that while it covers both Power Query in Excel and Power BI, in my opinion it’s aimed slightly more at Excel users. Again, this is not a criticism: although advanced Excel users and Power BI report designers have to solve many of the same problems, they also have some very different concerns too. What’s more, if you can assume your readers have good Excel skills and can explain Power Query concepts in Excel terms then you’ll serve that particular set of readers well, and probably do a better job for them than if you assume they are completely new to the area of data transformation and preparation have no existing skills in this area.

All in all it’s a good book that I can recommend to anyone who wants to learn Power Query and M, and also for intermediate users who want to deepen their knowledge. I still think there’s a need for a book completely devoted to M and covering topics such as custom connectors and dataflows; hopefully someone writes one soon!

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the author. I’m also the author of a Power Query book myself, but to be honest it’s several years old now and a bit out-of-date, so it’s hard to recommend it any more.

You can buy a copy of this book from Amazon UK here.

8 responses

    • M is for Data Monkey felt more introductory than “Power Query for Power BI and Excel”. “Collect, Combine, and Transform Data Using Power Query in Excel and Power” is the most thorough PQ book published so far, I cannot recommend it enough, even though I’d rather have a more theoretical explanation of the language.

  1. Hi, great review. I am currently studying PQ and both your book and the reviewed book are on my shelf.

    I like both books a lot, though I really wanted to have a more thorough book with mode details on how the language works, all the functions, the differences of a table, a list, etc., from a more theoretical standpoint.

    Ok, that would be one of those 1200 pgs. O’Reilly books, but that’s exactly what I think M is missing.
    Hope to see such a book in a near future.

    In the meantime, one thing that I don’t understand and haven’t found anywhere: Why have Microsoft chosen M for PQ functional language when there was F# (a better documented language) in their stack?

    • Yeah I would also hope that we have a book talking about the internals, maybe the virtual machine or interpreter. Would be super fan. I mean we do have books talking about sql parsing and thosr kinds of stuffs right…

  2. “I still think there’s a need for a book completely devoted to M and covering topics such as custom connectors and dataflows; hopefully someone writes one soon!”

    So, Chris, when will you write it? I hope soon! 😉

  3. Hi Chris! Yes, we need “The Ultimate Guide to M (Power Query)”, to go deeper in the Language. I bought this book and I think it a good start. I attended the SQLBI courses on DAX, Modeling and Dashboarding and the Workshop with Alberto. After having now a good understanding of DAX, I decided to look deeper into Power Query. For most Power BI users, it is overlooked. It is just a simple tool to load files… but it is much much more than that. I think people are underestimating the power of M, that’s why it is my next focus. Being almost at the end of the Book, I got so many new insights that already helped me in my daily work. Just on comment about your review, in my opinion, it is more focused on Power BI than Excel, or to be fair, balanced. I’m a Power BI user since 2015 and reading the book I just saw a few exercises that had some exceptions for Excel, due the nature of the software being different from Power BI.

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