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The Best SQL Books for 2023

SQL, or Structured Query Language, has emerged as one of the top skills demanded by recruiters for data related jobs. What books will help you learn SQL and level up your skills?

SQL is a programming language that allows you to retrieve and manipulate data stored in a database. Its English-like syntax enables you to run through gigabytes of useful information in a matter of seconds. No wonder the number of people looking to learn SQL is higher than ever! And there are also more resources than ever available to learn it.

With the talk around online learning and education increasing by the day, books can generally go unnoticed – especially for courses dealing with digital or data-related skills. And while online learning is definitely great and useful, different learning mediums should complement (not replace) each other.

In this article, I specifically talk about the top books that will help you learn SQL and related skills. However, it is also important to practice writing actual queries. So along with the books you choose, I recommend the SQL Practice Set course from It offers 88 interactive exercises, which will help you cement your skills.

Before I dive into the list, I just want to mention that these SQL books are neither sponsored nor part of any affiliate program. My choices are based on my understanding, my colleagues’ recommendations, and reviews from industry experts.

Also, the books in this article are mostly for SQL; they do not cover concepts like Big Data, which may be important for some data engineers. You can read The Best Books for Data Engineers if you are looking for guidance in that area.

With that in mind, let’s jump straight in.

Top 5 Books for SQL

1.  SQL QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's Guide to Managing, Analyzing, and Manipulating Data With SQL

Suitable for: Students, data analysts, backend programmers

Level: Beginner

Coverage: Mostly basic, with some advanced concepts

SQL QuickStart Guide

If you are a beginner and want to get started with a basic book that covers core SQL concepts, this book is for you. SQL QuickStart Guide is quite simple and it covers basic queries and examples pretty well. Its author, Walter Shields, has more than 18 years of practical work experience, which he uses really well in explaining SQL with a practical yet easy to understand approach.

The book begins by helping you set up an SQL practice environment in SQLite; it goes on to cover some basic and advanced functions in SQL. It covers all the fundamental SQL query concepts like SELECT, JOINS, and functions, as well as slightly more advanced concepts like subqueries and views.

The downside is that the book is not comprehensive and the text can feel a little too wordy at times. But it is definitely worthwhile for someone who is just starting out.

2.  SQL All-in-One For Dummies

Suitable for: Database administrators, data analysts, developers

Level: Beginner to advanced

Coverage: Basic to advanced concepts

2.	SQL All-in-One For Dummies

What I like the most about this book is how comprehensive it is. It’s useful for beginning and advanced users. In fact, I still occasionally refer to this book for a quick primer.

The author, Allen G. Taylor, has over 40 years of experience in the computer industry and has practically seen the evolution of databases and the SQL language. He has written over 40 books and quite beautifully covers a wide yet important range of concepts related to SQL and relational databases.

The book covers relational databases, SQL queries, database security, error handling, SQL programming (procedures, functions, cursors, etc.), database and query tuning (very useful for developers dealing with voluminous data), XML, and JSON. My favorite parts of the book are on error handling and SQL tuning, which are both quite important. One bad query can put a lot of stress on your resources, so tuning is a must-learn concept that few books cover this well.

This is one of the best reference books on SQL. If you are someone who uses multiple learning sources but wants to keep a reference copy for a quick consultation (like me), this book is for you.

3.  Practical SQL, 2nd Edition: A Beginner's Guide to Storytelling with Data

Suitable for: Data analysts, functional analysts, students

Level: Beginner to intermediate

Coverage: Basic and advanced functions (practical use cases)

Practical SQL

If you are easily bored by textbooks, this book is for you. It’s one of the most readable books I have found for SQL – probably due to its very relatable and practical dataset, which makes understanding the examples quite interesting.

The book is written by Anthony DeBarros, a journalist with a deep interest in data analysis and storytelling. Perhaps that is why the book is so practical and easy to read. Here is a great interview with the author for you to enjoy.

This book introduced me to PostgreSQL, since most of the examples are written in it. It is indeed quite an interesting database with some useful functions. I especially enjoyed the chapter on PostGIS.

The book has around 20 chapters; the first 10 give you a good idea of how databases work and the basics of SQL. Then the book dives deeper into slightly more advanced topics like statistical functions, working with date and time data, text mining, using spatial data through PostGIS, and working with JSON and database maintenance.

This is the only book that we’ve repeated from Best SQL Books for 2022, so that should tell you it’s definitely worth a read.

4.  MySQL Crash Course - A Hands-on Introduction to Database Development

Suitable for: MySQL beginners, students, Data analysts and Data Developers

Level: Beginner to advanced

Coverage: Almost everything MySQL related with a hands-on approach

MySQL Crash Course

MySQL Crash Course is a book written by Rick Silva that provides a hands-on introduction to database development using MySQL. It is well-suited for beginners who do not have prior database experience, but also good for those who want to transition from another database system like Oracle, Postgres, or SQL Server.

To be honest, I don't think you can write a better book on MySQL that combines theory and shows how it works in practice. You gain skills that will actually be useful in later work with the database. I had a lot of fun reading it because it is simply well written.

The book explains how to create database tables, views, and procedures, as well as different ways to join tables in MySQL, how to compare values, and how to use MySQL functions.

It also includes a chapter on real-world tips and tricks, and provides interesting examples that show how to track everything from subway systems to sports arenas and election data, in a MySQL database.

The book is perfect for anyone who wants to learn MySQL, and all the scripts in the book are available online, making it possible to run them in your own MySQL environment. If you choose it, the SQL Practice in MySQL course would be a good way to broaden your knowledge and train writing queries.

5.  SQL For Data Analytics

Suitable for: Data analysts and data experts

Level: Beginner to advanced

Coverage: Basic to advanced concepts in data relationships and analytics

SQL For Data Analytics

The books covered so far are mostly centered around SQL with some aspects of data analytics. However, SQL used specifically for data analytics needs to have a special emphasis on statistics, data preparation, import and export (from and to various sources) and special analyses (like time series).

And this is where the book SQL for Data Analytics adds value. It is a must-read for data analysts or even business folks looking to get the most from their data using SQL.

This book will help you understand how to uncover insights using data. It also goes into some detail on improving efficiency and automation; the last chapter has a case study on preparing data and answering real-time questions that I think you’ll really enjoy.

Anyone interested in data analysis can read this article on the best 5 data analysis books for some additional recommendations.

6.  Head First SQL

Suitable for: Students, functional analysts

Level: Beginner

Coverage: Basic

Head First SQL

The Head First series uses cognitive science and neurobiology concepts to design learning around how our brain works and retrieves information.

Head First SQL is strictly for beginners. If you are someone who already understands SQL and data in general, this may not be the best book for you.

Head First SQL has a lot of visual aids and an extremely conversational tone. The book is aimed at SQL and does not go into much detail on databases. I would recommend it to students and beginners who find other SQL books boring. While the learning definitely sticks, the book can feel a little slow at times, especially for people who have some SQL knowledge.

Nevertheless, the book can be a decent read for someone willing to learn SQL.

Where to Find More SQL Book Reviews

I hope the article gives you enough reading material to enhance your SQL learning.

If you prefer to use books alongside a comprehensive online SQL learning source, then I would highly recommend our A to Z SQL track. Its 7 interactive courses offer a stellar learning experience.

If you are looking for more books to choose from, you can check out these articles:

Happy learning!