We have just had a graduate join the team with the end aim of assisting out our very busy DBA.

He has only a basic SQL knowledge from his degree so we are looking for a really good getting started book preferably based on MS SQL server.

Purchase Update: Thanks to the replies we have now purchased Head First SQL to review what he already knows and Beginning SQL Server 2005 Programming to enhance these skills.

Further down the page you can see my full review of the books for our needs. However still feel free to post more books as others may find them useful!


I would have thought that being able to work with an experienced DBA and see things hands on would be enough.

With a basic grounding in SQL surely a 'getting started book' wouldn't add any value but perhaps that's just me :)


For a relatively new developer "A First Course in Database Systems" by Ullman and Widom is really good. Get the first edition, it is super-cheap on Amazon used books.

Mark Harrison
+4  A: 

Are they helping with data maintenance issues, or more operational items? There is a huge body of knowledge for either of these in MS SQL.

Once they get comfortable, get them something really like Kalen Delaney's Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2000.

Brett Veenstra
+4  A: 

For a graduate just starting out with SQL, I would recommend Head First SQL as the book to start with. It is a fun book to read with exercises all along the way to keep the reader interested.

This is specially good for people just starting out as otherwise you do get bored with the reading the 'regular' technical books. After that, you could graduate on to higher things! ;)

Adhip Gupta
+1  A: 

Thanks for all your answers they have been really helpful. I have had a chance to have a look at some of the books and just for others interest this is what we found.

The HeadFirst Book is an easy and interesting read (bought based on the sample chapter as the other books we have read in the series). It also has many good samples and hands on lessons. This said it does only covers the basics missing out some topics such as stored procedures etc. We have also found in places it is not very clear at showing what SQL code is specific to say MYSQL and what is specific to MSSQL but overall a good starter book.

The Beginning SQL Server 2005 Programming book seems from the content seems the correct level for what we need at this point in time. It covers a wide range of topics (including design, normalization, sp’s, triggers, views, indexes) in a range of detail. The one downside is that is is very text based with few practice examples.

The Beginning SQL Server 2005 Administration book seems a good DBA book looking at backup, schedule tasks, maintenance etc. and one I think we will defiantly look at once the more advanced topics of the SQL syntax have been covered.

The First Course in Database Systems, seems from the contents a theory based book rather than practical skills so we decided not to purchase.

Thanks again to all who replied.

"Inside Microsoft SQL Server" series is something you'll have to read sooner or later.
+3  A: 

for a T-SQL book, I don't think it gets any better than The Guru's Guide by Ken Henderson

+1  A: 

Since you mentioned that you're looking or a good theory book; check out "Database Systems" by Connolly & Begg. I used the fourth edition in an advanced database course and I feel it's really good. A starting tip for ya: Projection before Selection

Matt Cummings
+4  A: 

I would recommend Joe Celko's 'SQL For Smarties'.

Although the subtitle uses the word 'Advanced' it starts from a basic level of SQL and works up, and is great for anyone who is looking to be practical and useful with databases.

+1  A: 

"Database Design for Mere Mortals"

I always recommend learning solid fundamentals before applying yourself to any specific instance (SQL server, MySQL, etc).

Mark Renouf
+1  A: 

I found a good book to teach you the fundamentals of databases is Database System Concepts (5th Edition) - Abraham Silberschatz, Henry F. Korth, S. Sudarshan. It barely has any actual code examples, but gives good insight on how transactions, indexing, E-R diagrams, etc actually works. It also has case studies of the major DBs (Oracle, PostGreSQL, DB2, MSSQL Server) and how they relate.

Magic Hat
+3  A: 

I know the question was on beginner books but i have to recommend these 2 books. They are Microsoft press (which usually suck) but these are the best Sql server books i have ever read. If you want to go beyond syntax and learn the “why” which in the long run makes the “how” easier give them a go.

Inside Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2005: T-SQL Programming (978-0735621978)

Inside Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2005: T-SQL Querying (978-0735623132)

On a side note one of the co authors of these 2 gems is Itzik Ben-Gan who is a Sql Server ninja of the highest order check out his blog and writing on the web.

Matthew Pelser

This is a little off of the question, but I figured it's worth bringing up anyway...

For those interested in learning how to get started with MS Access databases and, more importantly, applications, I recommend Building Microsoft Access Application by John Viescas (ISBN: 0735620393).

It may not be what you're asking about right now, but it's a good place to start if you end up ever needing to go in that route.


This book will come in handy:

Beginning SQL Queries: From Novice to Professional ISBN: 9781590599433

if you are looking for classroom training, we have a transact sql programming course.