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  • SQL Book Reviews

    We'll review here those texts which are, or claim to be, about standard SQL. We try to be current, but we do not always go out and buy the latest edition of every book, especially if we disliked the last edition. We try to be fair, but disclaim responsibility for any errors or omissions. This page has two sections: THE TOP 25 SQL BOOKS, DOCUMENTATION OF THE SQL STANDARD.

    THE TOP 25 SQL BOOKS. We power searched the database for SQL, deliberately excluding any title containing a vendor name or any publication date more than 5 years ago. These were our results, in order by average user rating:

    • SQL Success - Database Programming Proficiency
      Stephane Faroult. Roughsea, June 2013. 5 stars.
      A sample excerpt appeared in an issue of the NoCOUG Journal. We thought that it was handling fairly advanced matters, which would especially apply for Oracle, without any detectable errors. But to us it seemed obvious. For example, there was quite a bit about how indexes might be avoided in the presence of functions.
    • The Complete Idiot's Guide to SQL
      Steven Holzner. Alpha, September 2011. 5 stars
      Apparently this is the same Steven Holzner who wrote Quantum Physics for Dummies. Apparently he has a high opinion of what dummies and idiots can do.
      Read Pearson's review.
    • SQL Weaknesses on Database Processing
      Oswaldo F. Domejean., January 2009. 5 stars.
      The preface claims "This book describes some interesting aspects of the weaknesses and conflictive aspects that the language SQL has in Database Processing, it includes some characteristics of the language that are valid from the perspective of the mathematical theory of Logic, but in the queries could lead us to misinterpretations of results." Sounds like Mr Domejean might be a non-native English speaker, no? Anyway, it sounds similar to what C.J.Date is trying to cover with SQL and Relational Theory (see above). So it's doubtful that there is any need to buy both Date and Domejean.
    • Simply SQL
      Rudy Limeback. SitePoint, January 2009. 4.5 stars.
      According to the sample, the book's draft was checked by Joe Celko (good), and the preference is to say "an SQL" rather than "a SQL" (good). And elsewhere one reads that "Rudy Limeback is a semi-retired SQL Consultant living in Toronto, Canada." OK.
    • Joe Celko's SQL for Smarties, Fourth Edition: Advanced SQL Programming
      Joe Celko. Morgan Kaufmann, November 2010. 4.5 stars.
      Since there's an SQL for dummies book and an SQL for complete idiots book, Mr Celko tried to address the other half of the audience with an SQL for smarties book (there's a story that this led to a legal dispute about trademarks. In an interview Mr Celko said that the first edition of SQL For Smarties was the hardest book he ever wrote, but since then he's done many more. Read accu's review. Read Philip Greenspun's remarks.
    • Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes (4th Edition)
      Ben Forta. Sams, November 2012. 4.5 stars.
      "Now in its fourth edition, this book has taught SQL to over a quarter million English speaking users, and has been translated into over a dozen other languages too" -- this boast appears to be confirmed by the book's high position in the Amazon best seller list. Listen to the audio review. Read a review of Forta's T-SQL book.
      ... Here is what we wrote about an earlier edition in 2003 ...
      There are big gaps (for example I saw nothing about EXISTS or GRANT), the language is pre-SQL-99 (for example "ORDER BY 2,3" is okay), syntax can be vendor-specific (for example the use of "+" for concatenation), the text can be vague (for example the definition for "primary key" would be true for "unique key" too). Of course, Forta's design goal was to make the book tiny, so I can't fault him for missing things. If you're new and really can't spend more than 10 minutes (per chapter), this book is written for you. Read Shaun Smith's review.
    • SQL in Easy Steps
      Mike McGrath. Easy Steps, June 2012. 4.5 stars.
      Read McColm's review.
    • Joe Celko's Trees and Hierarchies in SQL for Smarties, Second Edition
      Joe Celko. Morgan Kaufmann, February 2012. 4.5 stars.
      Who cares about trees? Skip this, but if you want to make Mr Celko rich, buy Joe Celko's SQL Programming Style instead. It is unlike all the "introduction" and "reference" books on this page, and can supplement any of them. And don't worry about the 2005 date. "Fashion changes, but style endures." -- Coco Chanel.
    • Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 24 Hours (5th Edition)
      Ryan Stephens, Ron Plew, Arie D. Jones. Sams, May 2011. 4.5 stars.
      This book is also offered as part of a bundle with an 8-hour DVD for video instruction titled SQL Fundamentals LiveLessons Bundle. They call statements "commands"; they call columns "fields"; they call character strings "characters"; they say "DECIMAL values are numeric values that include the use of a decimal point" (not necessarily because scale can be zero and floats can have decimal points too); they say that one digit takes one byte ... tsk tsk, such language. That does not mean the authors are sloppy, but it does mean they are not fanatically meticulous, like C.J.Date is. Read Vachhrajani's review. Read Shafik's review. Read the geek review (of an older edition). Read the vnunet review (of an older edition).
    • SQL: The Complete Reference, 3rd Edition
      James R. Groff, Paul N. Weinberg, Andrew J. Oppel. McGraw-Hill, August 2009. 4.5 stars.
      Read Baughman's review.
    • SQL Pocket Guide
      Jonathan Gennick. O'Reilly, December 2010. 4.5 stars.
      Very small (206 7-inch by 4-inch pages), so of course it's not useful as either an introduction or a reference. But it turned out to be handy as something to pull out of a purse while waiting for a bus, for quick reminders. Thus it is an okay second book, an okay memory-aider after reading a chapter in a main book, and thirteen bucks is an okay price for that.
      Read Rouck's review. Read Katz's review. Read Williams's review.
    • SQL Antipatterns: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Database Programming
      Bill Karwin. Pragmatic Bookshelf, July 2010. 4.5 stars.
      Bill Karwin works for Percona, a MySQL consultancy. Ask for an excerpt. Read coderanch's review. Read Wisdahl's review.
    • The Language of SQL: How to Access Data in Relational Databases
      Larry Rockoff. Cengage, June 2010. 4.5 stars.
      Cengage makes course material for universities. The Language of SQL is on the reading list for courses at Texas A+M and NWU. We got as far as page 6, read the words "Basically, a relational database is a collection of data, stored in any number of tables. The term relational is used to indicate that the tables are related to each other." -- and gave up, because that is not an excusable error. See the author's site.
    • SQL All-in-One For Dummies, Second Edition
      Allen G. Taylor. For Dummies, April 2011. 4.5 stars.
      Re our earlier comments about SQL For Dummies, see this notice.
    • SQL: Visual QuickStart Guide, Third Edition
      Chris Fehily. Peachpit, June 2008. 4.5 stars.
      Read's review (of an earlier edition). Read Duff's review (of an earlier edition).
    • SQL Fundamentals (3rd Edition)
      John J. Patrick. Prentice Hall, September 2008. 4.5 stars.
      Emphasizes Access and Oracle. Read's review (of an earlier edition). Read Ocelot's review (of an earlier edition).
    • Learning SQL, Second Edition
      Alan Beaulieu. O'Reilly, April 2009. 4 stars.
      Some of the examples would only work with MySQL. Has a bunch of exercise questions at the end. No obvious errors. Read part of a review. Read Zubyk's review.
    • SQL Clearly Explained, Third Edition
      Jan L. Harrington. Morgan Kaufmann, May 2010. 4 stars.
      Yes, the writing is clear, the author has qualifications (she's a computer science professor somewhere), and we noticed only one typo ("factional" for "fractional"). But whose SQL is being clearly described? One has to wonder, when reading about using "!=" for "not equal", about surrounding character strings with double quotes if they contain single quotes, and about qualifying table names with "the user ID of the account that did create the table". This is not standard SQL, and it is not necessary SQL.
    • Beginning SQL Queries: From Novice to Professional
      Clare Churcher. Apress, 2008. 4 stars.
    • SQL Bible, Second Edition Alex Kriegel, Boris M. Trukhnov. Wiley, April 2008. 4 stars.
      Heavy on Oracle11g, DB2 9.5, and SQL Server 2008. Has more to say than most other SQL books, because it's thicker (nearly 900 pages). Some of the bulk is DBMS installation instructions, lists of keywords, BNF grammars, etc., and material like that is dated. Read an excerpt.
    • SQL Queries for Mere Mortals: A Hands-On Guide to Data Manipulation in SQL (2nd Edition)
      John L. Viescas, Michael J. Hernandez. Addison-Wesley, October 2007. 4 stars.
      Microsoft-oriented focus on translating English questions into SQL SELECT statements. Hernandez wrote another book which is on our DBMS Book Reviews page, and also The Complete SQL Series Training Course. Read Seewer's review (of an earlier edition).
    • SQL in a Nutshell, Third Edition
      Kevin Kline, Brand Hunt, Daniel Kline. O'Reilly, December 2008. 4 stars.
      Read Marks's review. The site says this is the "top" SQL book.
      ... Here's what we wrote about an earlier edition in 2003 ...
      We didn't like one of the sample chapters from the pre-release; we sent a letter to the publisher; the errors we mentioned were fixed and we have now received a reply; so we give points for customer service. We liked Nigel Martin's review.
    • A Guide to SQL, Eighth Edition
      Philip J. Pratt, Mary Z. Last. Cengage, October 2008. 4 stars.
      This is another Cengage book, which suggests that it's for university courses. It must be okay if it goes through eight editions.
    • SQL and Relational Theory: How to Write Accurate SQL Code, 2nd Edition
      C.J.Date. O'Reilly, December 2011. 3.5 stars.
      We cheerfully recommend Mr Date's 1996 work, A Guide to the SQL Standard, Fourth Edition. This man is the greatest writer on DBMSs who has ever lived or will live. But. SQL and Relational Theory is an attempt to persuade us that there is a better world, and nobody wants that, they want a guide to SQL.
      Read Testi's review. Read Fitz's review. Read Journey's review. Read Schwartz's review. Read A Pittsburgher's review. Read Celko's review. Read an excerpt.
    • Discovering SQL: A Hands-On Guide for Beginners
      Alex Kriegel. Wrox (an imprint of Wiley), April 2011. 3 stars.
      For beginners, indeed. Tries to describe current variants. One complaint is that the examples have errors. Mr Kriegel was co-author of The SQL Bible in 2008, and of SQL Functions Programmers Reference. Read Henrique's review. Read an excerpt.
    • SQL Easy
      Kalman Toth. CreateSpace (Amazon's print-on-demand subsidiary), February 2013. 2.5 stars.
      This is a book about Microsoft SQL Server, not SQL.
    • Advanced Standard SQL Dynamic Structured Data Modeling and Hierarchical Processing
      Michael M. David. Artech, March 2013. No rating.
    • Lectures on SQL and Relational Database Design
      John W Starner. CreateSpace (Amazon's print-on-demand subsidiary), November 2012. No rating.
    • Practical SQL
      David Perry. CreateSpace (Amazon's print-on-demand subsidiary), 2011. No rating.
      Read the author's blog.
    • SQL Made Simple... By Examples
      Rajesh Kumar Khare. Xlibris, July 2010. No rating.
      Xlibris has been called a vanity publisher.
    • The SQL Programming Language.
      Kirk Scott. Jones and Bartlett, July 2009. No rating.
      Only 88 pages? You cannot fit an introduction to SQL in 88 pages.
    • The Database Language SQL Paperback
      Open University Course Team. Open University, February 2009. No rating.
    • SQL: A BEGINNER'S GUIDE, Third Edition
      Andy Oppel, Robert Sheldon. McGraw-Hill, August 2008. No rating.

      DOCUMENTATION OF THE SQL STANDARD. SQL is an officially standardized language. The current standard came out in SQL:2011 so it is known as SQL:2011. You can order hardcopy documents from an unrated site,techstreet, if you have a few hundred dollars to spare. Or you can find draft copies on the web, at or However, since the official ANSI/ISO documents are notoriously difficult to read, it's better to get a guide. We know of no books which are specifically about SQL:2011, so the references here are for older standard versions, SQL:1999 (aka SQL-99 aka SQL-3) or SQL-92. The four guides are known by their authors' names: "Cannan and Otten", "Date and Darwen", "Gulutzan and Pelzer", "Melton and Simon". Another (" Kulkarni") is no longer available.
      • Stephen Cannan and Gerard Otten, SQL - The Standard Handbook; Mcgraw-Hill, 1993. We haven't read this, but we took some notes in the bookstore while pretending to browse. Discussing UPPER and LOWER functions, they include a shocking detail that Date and Darwen omitted. There's a full description of all information_schema tables (another thing that's missing in Date and Darwen), but it's lifted from the standard with insufficient accompanying explanation. They give "DROP CHARACTER SET EBCDIC" as an example of a legal statement; we believe it will always cause a runtime error. We could also quibble with their ideas of "what's a legal identifier" and "what objects are by default deferrable". We only saw one typo in a half hour of browsing. Rating: looks Good but we didn't buy it -- the bookstore wanted too much money. [Dated; hard to get nowadays.]
      • C.J.Date with Hugh Darwen, A Guide To The SQL Standard, Fourth Edition; Addison-Wesley, 1997. Could use more examples, and could contain more details, and could be less critical. But these guys know their topic, they cover it all, and they spent some care getting it right. Rating: Very good. Read Jones's review.
      • Peter Gulutzan and Trudy Pelzer, SQL-99 Complete, Really; R&D Books, 1999. Let's make a fair disclosure here: Gulutzan and Pelzer worked for Ocelot, and Ocelot maintains the web site you're looking at. Nevertheless, we recommend this book on objective grounds: (a) it's up to date with the latest version of the standard, (b) it's gigantic, (c) it's recommended by at least one member of the ANSI/ISO standards committee. But you do not need to buy it -- it's available free online! Go to the AskMonty KnowledgeBase.
      • Jim Melton and Alan R. Simon, Understanding the new SQL - a complete guide; Morgan Kaufmann, 1993. Mr Melton played a large part in the creation of the SQL-92 document, so we originally gave this a Rating: Probably Okay. That rating is now revised to Good. Read Ocelot's review from the April 1998 issue of THE CAT'S MEOW. Two more recent books by Jim Melton: SQL:1999 Understanding Relational Language Components, Advanced SQL:1999 - Understanding Object-Relational And Other Advanced Features You can get more information about the SQL standard from other pages on this site, such as the glossary or the SQL Links list.

        See also our related pages: Database Book Reviews, ADO Book Reviews, Java and SQL Book Reviews.

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