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SQL Pocket Guide Jonathan Gennick
Published by O'Reilly Media
160 pages
£ 6.95
Published: 8th April 2004
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the June 2004 issue (pdf), (html)

I must own up to being so old that they hadn't invented stuff like SQL when I was still being taught things so to do anything with databases I rely entirely on information in books. (I have learned from experience that asking people about things like complicated SQL joins just makes everyone's heads hurt.) Since I tend to do simple things (largely because I don't understand the complicated things of course) I need simple books. Ones that tell me what happens but not too much detail about why: mostly, I really don't care why so long as I get the data I want in a reasonable time, that's the beauty of databases. I also use MySQL, though I believe that other products are available (Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server in this book).

So when I want information, I sometimes go to the MySQL documentation: online, free, sometimes has useful comments attached but mostly way too terse and has no explanation at all. If that fails, I turn to SQL In a Nutshell, which is OK but often fails to tell me what I need to know. From now on, however, I shall be turning to this book first. It is almost ``just the facts, ma'am'' but with a light dusting of examples and explanation. Loads of Oracle stuff (reflecting the size of the product more than its market position) info of course (as well as other two), but the MySQL part is big enough.

The book is nicely sized, like all the pocket guide series, and I keep picking it up and flicking through, and, for the moment, every time I do, my eye catches an entry and I learn something. If you work with SQL but are not entirely database centred then this is the book for you. The author's intention is for the book to be written for programmers and he succeeds. There are lots of PHP/ASP/Perl/JSP web programmers out there who would find this a useful addition to their library.

Mind you, I still don't know why some of big joins don't work.

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