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Which SQL Books Should You Read in 2021?

Readers keep asking for books that I can recommend to complement our SQL courses. There are quite a lot of SQL books on the market, but only a few are worth your attention. See which SQL-related books to read in 2021.

A while ago, I wrote an article about my favorite SQL books for 2020. I chose books about various aspects of working with databases with the goal of helping you get a clear picture of SQL in the real world. Due to popular demand, I’ve made another list of SQL books that are worth reading.

My choices are purely subjective. If you think some other book has a greater right to be included in this list, let me know in the comments section. To make it easier for you to use the SQL manuals and books I suggest, I am giving you links to Amazon right away. I do not get a penny from these links (or sales, if you decide to buy the books); this is not an advertisement, but my honest recommendation based on my experience and opinions.

1.  SQL: The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Learn SQL Today

SQL: The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Learn SQL Today

I’ll start with something completely basic. This book is for people who are just taking their first steps in SQL. Have you already started our SQL Basics course and want to read (without a computer) about how to write your first SQL queries? This book is for people like you.

In SQL: The Ultimate Beginners Guide, you'll get chapters dedicated to all the basics of the language. What's cool is that the author didn't go overboard with complicated examples and language. Everything is described quite neatly so that you will have no problems with finding your way in the SQL jungle.

As usual, this type of guide lacks one thing: the actual writing of SQL queries. Even the best book will not replace real SQL practice on dozens of exercises. Such hands-on practice can be found in our SQL Basics course. This book can be a great supplement to our courses. I'm not saying that this is the best SQL book I have ever had in my hands, but it is quite good and may be of use to those getting started with SQL.

2.  SQL Database Programming

SQL Database Programming

This is one step closer to advanced SQL. In my opinion, it’s not for complete rookies – but if you already have some experience, you will benefit a lot from reading it.

SQL Database Programming by Chris Fehily is a good SQL reference book. Here you will find answers to common questions about the language and its syntax, commands, and functions. The answers are in plain language, so it's pretty easy to grasp and retain this knowledge.

Who is this book for? In my opinion, it will be useful for analysts and data scientists who want to learn SQL better and improve their skills. The book has tons of fairly realistic examples and you can actually understand something from them. It’s also useful for developers who need to quickly check how to implement a given solution in their application and do not want to bother with the documentation.

You will learn standard SQL here, but any of the SQL queries discussed should work in any database management system (Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL etc.). This is a big advantage, considering that most of the books are oriented towards only one of SQL’s dialects.

Overall, this is a good book that you’ll keep nearby while you’re working on projects – rather than collecting dust on the shelf with more theoretical offerings.

If you are interested in this approach to SQL, practice, and training, I recommend our SQL Practice Set. It is full of interactive exercises that will take your SQL to the next level.

3. Business Analytics: The Science of Data-Driven Decision Making

Business Analytics: The Science of Data-Driven Decision Making

This is a slightly different approach to the subject of data analysis. If you've read my previous articles, you know that I like to weave something less obvious into this type of statement. This book is just like that. It's a pretty high-end book on various analysis topics. You don't know what prescriptive analysis is? I didn't know either before I read this book. It is worth keeping the bar high and developing in different directions.

Why do you need such a theory? After all, there is no profit or money behind it. You may think all you do is spend your energy to understand it ... But believe me, this book is worth reading.

First, you will learn what analysis means in a business context. You’ll also learn the basics of statistics and mathematics. And you’ll find out how to test hypotheses and correlations. Eventually, all of this will lead you to a place where you can make informed business decisions based on the collected data. And that's what it's all about.

Although the topics discussed here are complex, the author does not use academic language. I really like the case studies presented to illustrate the theories. Thanks to this, even a humanist like me can cope with the flood of mathematical and statistical information.

LearnSQL.com offers several courses that can help with business analysis. Interested? Get started with our popular SQL Reporting track. You'll find courses about reporting, revenue trend analysis, and tracking customer behavior trends. Get even more out of your data!

How is information different from insight? Reach for Dinesh Kumar’s book and find the answer for yourself.

4.  T-SQL Window Functions: For Data Analysis and Beyond

T-SQL Window Functions: For Data Analysis and Beyond

I know Itzik Ben-Gan from YouTube. This guy really knows what he is talking (and writing) about. He travels the world and teaches people T-SQL. He has written some really nice pieces about this dialect. They are all worth paying attention to. However, I chose this one specifically. Why? Because he can write about SQL window functions and make it bearable for ordinary people like me.

Window functions are one of the newer features of SQL. If you know them and can use them well, congratulations! If not, it's worth taking the time to learn them; they make life easier. But the functions themselves are not easy – they’re one of the most advanced topics in SQL.

This book gives nice examples of SQL queries. You'll find aggregation, ranking, distribution, offset, and ordered set functions. It also provides examples of code optimization. Everything is written in SQL Server 2019 and based on the Azure database, so this book is perfect for Microsoft geeks.

If you want to master window functions, I recommend the Window Functions in MS SQL Server course. There are over 200 interactive exercises that will help you join the group of SQL experts.

5.  Data Professionals at Work

Data Professionals at Work

Someone once told me that if I want to be successful, I must listen to those who have already succeeded. I believe that to this day. That's why I highly recommend the book Data Professionals at Work by Malathi Mahadevan.

This book is a collection of interviews with database experts from around the world. They tell about their daily work and the realities of the industry. More importantly, they share their stories from which you can draw inspiration. Many of them directly tell what to do to achieve success. Do you want to follow in their footsteps and reach their level? Reach for this book.

The interviews are conducted in a friendly, light manner. Find out about the life of a data controller, analyst, or developer as you read interviews with people in finance, IT, marketing, and other sectors.

Why else should you read this book? Many of these experts openly speak about their failures and the mistakes they made. It is worth learning from them so that you do not have to repeat the same errors. The interviews also allow you to understand the modern IT world, which has made a sharp shift towards collecting and using data. You’ll learn the latest trends and best practices.

What SQL Books Are You Reading?

Here you have the next edition of my recommended SQL books. I chose five, but there are many more that could make the list. If you want more, let me know in the comments. Maybe your favorite SQL book should be on my list? I would love to read it and share my thoughts.

Remember that no book can replace practice. Therefore, if you want to be successful, practice SQL as much as possible. Write SQL queries and analyze data. Set yourself increasingly difficult tasks and challenges. This is how you become an SQL expert!

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