Saturday, February 04, 2012

Book Review: SQL and Relational Theory: How to Write Accurate SQL Code by C. J. Date

SQL and Relational Theory: How to Write Accurate SQL CodeSQL and Relational Theory: How to Write Accurate SQL Code by C. J. Date
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Date's book is almost two books in one. First is a book on relational theory. As such, it is meant for deep reading. The second is SQL, the Good Parts. And as such it can get pendantic. But for someone who already knows something about working with data, it can be a good discussion on what you can and cannot get away with.

The first part of the book is an introduction to relational theory, mixed with the author's discussion of what is wrong with the SQL specification and the various implementations in database management systems that are currently available. While I appreciate the discussions from the point of view of making definitions clear, the numerous digressions into the failings of SQL become distraction after a point.

The second part is dominated by how to think in relational terms, and often the implementation within SQL. This is probably the valuable part of the book. Actually, because this is approached as much from a relational theory point of view as an SQL one, it becomes quite applicable to non-SQL forms of manipulating data (I usually manipulate data through programming languages such as R or Python). What this book becomes is a illustration of how to think when digging into data, and what transformations are reasonable and which gets you into trouble.

This is not light reading, or a reference to use when learning how to use SQL, or data manipulation tools in general. If you get around the discussion of the faults of implementations, it is a book on how to think when manipulating data as the first steps in data analysis.

Note: I received a free electronic copy of this book through the O'Reilly Blogger program

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