What I’ve Read and Recommend to Others – Joe Celko Edition

I’ve known Joe for a number of years and have a lot of respect for his experience and knowledge around relational database design and the SQL language. Joe is a prolific writer and has been writing about technology since I was in grade school with articles going back into the early 80’s. Not to mention his ten years serving on the ANSI board for SQL standards. I would put Joe’s books between the purely academic text on relational and set based theory and the more popular books out today that don’t always cover some of the dryer materials that newcomers to SQL may find to hard to digest at the start of their career. If you have been working with SQL for a while and want to take the next step Joe’s books are generally the way to go. Joe’s style is humorous at times and completely unflinching at others. When it comes to things that he thinks is the right way to model and develop using the SQL language, and that is against what popular or easy methods call for, he makes his feelings known on the subject.


Joe Celko’s SQL for Smarties: Advanced SQL Programming Third Edition (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems)

Now in its third edition this book covers, in detail and depth, what many other texts leave behind. This isn’t a beginners book. This isn’t a text for the dabbler in SQL.

Joe suggest at least a years worth of experience and I would qualify that as a years worth of solid 40 hour a week kind of experience. If you have mastered third normal form and want to take it to the next level this will be one of the text’s I’ll always point you to.

For those who are squeamish about a little math, get over it. I hear people say relational database work isn’t math and they are flat wrong. Just because you may not understand the math doesn’t mean it doesn’t govern every aspect of your relational world.

If you want to take a real peak behind the curtain of relational theory and cover some advanced data modeling this is as good as it gets.


Joe Celko’s SQL Puzzles and Answers, Second Edition, Second Edition (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems)

I liked this book because it allows you to see how many different ways there are to solve the same problem using SQL. Some of them are very interesting in the approach. It will show you how to think in other ways through the eyes of others. Any time you can get a look into how others solve issues you only build up your own problem solving skills. Plus, for a SQL geek like me I like taking the Pepsi challenge and see how I stack up.


Joe Celko’s Trees and Hierarchies in SQL for Smarties, (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems)

This is one of my favorite books that Joe has ever written. It covers one of the more complicated modeling issues you will come across, and come across regularly. It explains clearly trees and hierarchies, how they are the same and how they are different. Now that SQL Server 2008 has a hierarchy function don’t think it does away with this book! Joe covers lots of different methods and what works best in different situations.


Joe Celko’s Thinking in Sets: Auxiliary, Temporal, and Virtual Tables in SQL (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems)

Joe takes one of the common issues new, and some intermediate, users of SQL have a hard time overcoming, sets. I would say most of us that have a background in SQL probably came from a traditional programming back ground and that means iterative thinking. Loops, lots and lots of loops. Having come from that kind of background I still consider the day I finally got functional over procedural was the day I really started down the road of being a SQL developer. 

This book can be a heard read if you are locked into procedural mindset, but if you are trying to break out and really get past the same old mistakes we all make this will help you along your path.


Joe Celko’s SQL Programming Style (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems)

Here we are again, Joe tackles a subject that gets glossed over in many other texts if it gets touched on at all. One of the keys of this book is helping you develop a consistent and predictable way to get the data in and out of your system. Even though this book is on style part of that is understanding set based architecture.  Even if you understand the math behind normalization that doesn’t mean you understand the data that goes into it. Even if you don’t agree with everything in this book it will help you focus on the data, consistency and improve you as a SQL developer.


Joe Celko’s Analytics and OLAP in SQL (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems)

The concept of this particular work is to help transition the online high transaction, high volume database developer over to the analytical side of data aggregation and warehousing. Some folks think because they understand databases in an OLTP environment they can move easily in to OLAP. I’m here to testify that isn’t as easy as it sounds. Joe covers the concepts and some of the newer SQL syntax available in the ANSI-99 standard. Not all of it is available in SQL Server but it is a solid introduction to data warehousing and how to put your general SQL skills to use in the OLAP world.
This book is based on materials in SQL for Smarties. It expands on some of the topics covered there. 


I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have, over the years I have relied on Joe and others like him to build my own knowledge base and skills. I also have tried to share that knowledge like Joe has for so many years to others who want it.