What SQL Server Books Do You Recommend?

Reprinted and amended from my editorial at Database Weekly.

For nearly 11 years now, one of the most common questions people e-mail me about is what SQL Server books do I recommend for the novice DBA. A decade ago, there were many, many titles available, and it was easy for me to recommend books. I had several favorites for many generic categories: “Introduction to SQL Server Administration”, “Introduction to Transact-SQL”, “SQL Server Certification”, and “Advanced SQL Server”.

However, over the past 11 years, as each new version of SQL Server has been released, there have been fewer and fewer SQL Server titles published. This is in spite of the fact that the number of DBAs has grown significantly. So why are there fewer SQL Server books being published?

There are many reasons. Some of them include:

  • A huge amount of SQL Server content is freely available on the Internet;
  • Higher book prices;
  • Poorly written books put together in haste that harm the reputation of all technical books;
  • Pirated copies of books available on the Internet;
  • Authors generally don’t earn enough money from writing technical books to make it worth their time.

In fact, I believe that the biggest reason why fewer books are being published is because many of the good authors have given up writing entirely, which means that there are fewer good books to choose from. Of course, there are a number of top writers who still do persevere and write books.

While it is true that there is a lot of free SQL Server content available on the Internet, I am still one of those people who like to curl up with a real, physical book, and read it from beginning to end. And based from the e-mails I get, I am not the only one who feels this way.

Today, because of the lack of a wide selection of quality SQL Server titles, when I get questions about my favorite books, I have a much more difficult time recommending SQL Server books, especially those designed for novices (although there are a number of advanced titles that I regularly recommend).

So my question to you is this: what SQL Server titles have you read that you can highly recommend to novice DBAs? Share with us your favorite SQL Server books, and why you recommend them.

9 thoughts on “What SQL Server Books Do You Recommend?

  1. I started to read the book series of Joes 2 Pros about a year ago. I liked the writing style and knowledge shared in the book so much that I ended up being co-authored in the fourth volume of the same series. I seriously liked the book series and I recommend this book to every one who is willing to begin SQL Server from fundamental.

    Here is the detail of the book which I ended up co-authoring after reading the first two books. http://amzn.to/pb49jq

  2. To me the best book that I read when getting started was the 70-431 SQL 2005 TS Certification book. Sure it is not a deep dive, but it introduced me to a lot of information that I needed to learn.

    I know I know it’s SQL 2005, but a lot of the good stuff we have in 2008 and will be continued in Denali started there.


    it is available for under $15 on amazon. It was a combined text book for the Database Developer & DBA TS certs, and while there is a lot more to add on to it in 2008 and up, there are is still a lot of great information in there.

    If you read through it and do the exercises you will be a much better DBA because of it.

  3. The book that is worn and filled with post-it notes so I can find the important pages is Professional SQL Server 2005 Performance Tuning by Steven Wort, Justin Langford and Christian Bolton ( http://amzn.com/0470176393 ).

    The best part of the book is that in multiple sections there is a gray box of Best Practices. For example in the section related to NTFS Allocation Unit Size it displays the Best Practice box stating “Format the partitions holding your SQL Server data and transaction log files with an NTFS Allocation Unit Size of 64K”.

  4. I’m a bit of a book worm and not just when it comes to SQL Server.

    I think if I had to choose a favourite SQL Server book right now though it would be Professional SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting.

    I share a complete list of all of the SQL Server Books I enjoy, as well as others, on my blog:


  5. For SQL beginners I would definitely recommend Itzik Ben-Gan’s T-SQL Fundamentals. Another SQL book I always recommend which is not for beginners is SQL Server Performance and Query Tuning Distilled by Fritchey and Sajal Dam.

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