The Art of SQL
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: March 2006
Pages: 372

For all the buzz about trendy IT techniques, data processing is still at the core of our systems, especially now that enterprises all over the world are confronted with exploding volumes of data. Database performance has become a major headache, and most IT departments believe that developers should provide simple SQL code to solve immediate problems and let DBAs tune any "bad SQL" later.

In The Art of SQL, author and SQL expert Stephane Faroult argues that this "safe approach" only leads to disaster. His insightful book, named after Art of War by Sun Tzu, contends that writing quick inefficient code is sweeping the dirt under the rug. SQL code may run for 5 to 10 years, surviving several major releases of the database management system and on several generations of hardware. The code must be fast and sound from the start, and that requires a firm understanding of SQL and relational theory.

The Art of SQL offers best practices that teach experienced SQL users to focus on strategy rather than specifics. Faroult's approach takes a page from Sun Tzu's classic treatise by viewing database design as a military campaign. You need knowledge, skills, and talent. Talent can't be taught, but every strategist from Sun Tzu to modern-day generals believed that it can be nurtured through the experience of others. They passed on their experience acquired in the field through basic principles that served as guiding stars amid the sound and fury of battle. This is what Faroult does with SQL.

Like a successful battle plan, good architectural choices are based on contingencies. What if the volume of this or that table increases unexpectedly? What if, following a merger, the number of users doubles? What if you want to keep several years of data online? Faroult's way of looking at SQL performance may be unconventional and unique, but he's deadly serious about writing good SQL and using SQL well. The Art of SQL is not a cookbook, listing problems and giving recipes. The aim is to get you-and your manager-to raise good questions.

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oreillyThe Art of SQL

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Efficient use of SQL (not about syntax)

By Tom

from Nacka, Sweden

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    Comments about oreilly The Art of SQL:

    This is a book for someone that already knows the complete SQL syntax and wants to know how to increase performance in their SQL database design.

    The book is all about how to think of the design of SQL data base schemas and SQL applications to get the best performance. The topics are rather advanced. (The reader is supposed to have created a number of real world database applications before reading this book.)

    The book uses rather advanced SQL in the examples without explaining the SQL. The reader is already supposed to know SQL (including the lesser used syntaxes). The examples demonstrate performance issues, not SQL constructs.

    I like the style of writing. Entertaining but right to the point. No extra text to fill the page count. Every peace of text is packed with information.

    I found it to be a joy to read this book.

    (2 of 3 customers found this review helpful)


    Enables you to improve SQL performance

    By Edmonton Linux Users Group

    from Edmonton

    Comments about oreilly The Art of SQL:

    This book's intended audience is developers with SQL experience

    and significant database components, and their managers. The object is to

    enable you to increase your ability to improve SQL performance. Although

    the cover says "/THEORY/IN/PRACTICE," I was disappointed that the

    practice did not include details for major RDBMSes - A few

    specific examples were given, usually Oracle.

    The back cover describes how the author deals with SQL performance

    with an "Art of War" metaphor (Sun Tzu's well-known book). Often he does,

    but almost as often, the metaphor theme is inconsistent. What struck me is

    that this book does not (normally) use the typical grade 8 language you

    would find with most technical books, these days, but even that was a bit

    inconsistent at times. The use of higher level language was refreshing, on

    one had, yet slowed my comprehension, on the other - I think I've been

    effectively dumbed down due to a lack of use of some of the language used!

    As much as I do not like "writing down," I also know that for what I write

    to reach more readers, it's something I have to do.

    What I do like about the book, though, is that it is a gold mine

    of both general and specific techniques to help you deal with the bloat

    that SQL really is (IMHO). Back in my early days, it was necessary to

    understand the impact of what you did on the system and other users and

    other jobs. Today, you can use some very powerful languages (SQL among

    them), that trade a lot of that power for the performance you might

    actually need. This book will lead you through these considerations so

    that you may not have to call in an SQL tuning guru, because you've

    designed your database and application properly, to begin with. And if

    not, maybe you'll learn how to better deal with taking over a poorly

    designed database, application, or just some bad queries.

    So, although I would have really appreciated seeing examples

    specific to (in my case) MySQL, there is enough presented that I can use

    directly, or know what to look for, elsewhere. I'm happy to have this on

    my bookshelf.

    Reviewed by ELUG. (

    (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)


    This is the book to have if you want to discover better practices for your SQL

    By Roanoke Valley SQL Server Users Group

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about oreilly The Art of SQL:

    This book review was submitted by a Roanoke Valley SQL Server Users Group member as part of the Book Review Program.

    Reviewed by Jerry Ellis

    The Art of SQL does not fall into the trap of becoming "just another reference" for SQL users. It tackles real world problems with the point of view that you know how to write SQL code, but may need help in the proper tactics to most effectively handle them. What is refreshing is that it does not say here is a piece of code that will do this,it says, that may work, but here is a better way and why.

    This is the book to have if you want to discover better practices for your SQL.

    Jerry Ellis

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