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There’s a ton of SQL Server books out there to help get you started on the road to becoming a database administrator.  I’m going to start at the start of your career, and go forward.

Category Beginner Books
Advanced Books
Performance Tuner Books
Production Database Administration:
Backups, restores, installing SQL, clustering, security.
SQL 2008:
SQL Server 2008 Administration in Action

SQL 2005:
Professional SQL 2005 Administration

All:
Troubleshooting SQL Server – A Guide for the Accidental DBA

SQL 2008:
SQL Server 2008 Management and Administration
SQL 2008:
SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting(I coauthored this)SQL 2005:
Inside SQL 2005: The Storage Engine and
Professional SQL Server 2005 Performance Tuning
T-SQL Development:
Stored procedures, queries, views, triggers.
SQL 2008:
SQL Server 2008 T-SQL Fundamentals
SQL 2008:
Inside SQL 2008 T-SQL QueryingSQL 2005:
Inside SQL 2005 T-SQL QueryingSQL Server, Oracle, and MySQL:
SQL in a Nutshell
SQL 2008:
SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning DistilledSQL 2005:
Same book as 2008. Almost everything applies.

My Favorite Non-SQL Server Books

These books aren’t specific to DBAs, but are things I’ve found really helpful in my career:

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Do you get nervous at the thought of opening your email in-box because there’s so much piled up, and you don’t know where to begin? Do you struggle with to-do lists and project management software? Tired of struggling to keep your dayplanner up-to-date? Feel like you’re never going to catch up? Jealous of those folks on Twitter who keep shouting “Inbox Zero!”?

David Allen’s book Getting Things Done has been the answer for me and for a few of the folks I work with. It’s a simple, no-nonsense approach to managing daily tasks. Knowledge workers these days have an unending stream of incoming “stuff”, and the GTD philosophy is about rapidly handling as much as you can, as fast as you can, and feeling absolutely comfortable knowing that you can’t handle everything.

I showed my current manager into the GTD philosophy, and he caught on right away. He went from hundreds of emails in his in-box down to less than half a dozen in a couple of weeks. He responds faster to requests, and clearly feels confident in managing his day-to-day inflow of tasks.

You can buy the paperback on Amazon, and there’s also a Kindle version.

Time Management for Systems Administrators by Thomas Limoncelli

If you’re not quite ready for the GTD strategy, check out this lighter version of the philosophy that’s tailored specifically for IT workers.  It’s a much smaller book, and breaks down just what you need to know in order to get your work done faster. One of my former managers gave this out as a Christmas present a few years ago to all of his staff after I converted him to GTD.

You can buy the paperback on Amazon, and there’s also a Kindle version.

The Whuffie Factor by Tara Hunt

Whuffie is slang for social capital: your reputation, your credibility, your personal bankability.  It’s not as simple as the number of followers you have on Twitter, because that doesn’t necessarily indicate your trustworthiness – there’s plenty of spammers who’ve mastered the art of the followback.  It’s not as simple as the number of posts you’ve made on a forum somewhere, because that just indicates you’re really good at clicking the Submit button.

This concept isn’t just for marketing people – it matters to IT professionals.  As we go through more and more layoffs, the concept of a lifelong career at the same company is nearly gone.  You need to find out how to market yourself to find a job before it’s too late – and when you’ve been laid off, it’s already too late.

You can read my review of the Whuffie Factor, buy the paperback on Amazon, and there’s also a Kindle version.

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  1. Is it appropriate to share our SQL Server book recommendations here?

    My first SQL book was “Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes” by Ben Forta. Ben is one of the best technical writers around and this book is an excellent introduction to SQL language. It introduces topics and then shows how the syntax differs for MS SQL, Oracle, and others.

    I still refer to this book for quick answers, and in my opinion is a great first book for aspiring DBA’s such as myself.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Link Post 55 « Rhonda Tipton’s WebLog

  3. what does DBA stand for?

  4. DataBase Administrator.

  5. I wish I had a photo of your face when you answered that question.

  6. Hey Brent,

    Have you ever read Oreilly’s book? I found it to be quite a good read on the fundamentals of relational database theory.

    Daniel

  7. Wow, how did I manage to screw up that HTML tag? That is embarrassing!

  8. Daniel – no, I haven’t read that, but I did save you from that awkward comment booboo by editing it, hahaha.

  9. I want to become better at SSIS. What book do you suggest is good to get started?

  10. Hi, Fran. I’ve never done SSIS work, so I wouldn’t be able to recommend a good book myself. I do know a few of the authors of this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Server-Integration-Services-Programmer/dp/0764584359/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245073594&sr=8-1

    And they’re really smart folks.

  11. Thanks Brent…

  12. Hi Brent,
    Do you have any recommendations for T-SQL books for administrators? I am looking at SQL 2005 and 2008 if that makes much difference.

    Thanks!

    JamieK

  13. Jamie – good question. As crazy as this sounds, I like recommending SQL for Dummies – it’s good because it teaches proper ANSI syntax. If you write T-SQL with the ANSI syntax, your skills are more portable across different RDBMS’s.

  14. Hi, Brent. I accidently found your website today and enjoyed reading about you and your career.

    I’ved worked with DB2 on z/OS. But our recent major project will shift me to SQL Server. Which book would you recommend to read as a beginner?

  15. Basically everything, I believe.

    There is no SQL DBA right now, only contractors in our agency. We are a DB2 shop on z/OS. There is one person who does a SQL DBA role, but he doesn’t have a SQL dba background. His position now is a help desk. Two of DBAs on z/OS (including me) will be shifting to SQL Server soon or later. I believe we will be doing all aspects of SQL server. I am interested in reading Administration since that’s what I have been doing.

  16. James – okay, great, take the Administration book that’s on the top of this page.

  17. Thank you, Brent, for your valuable advice. I would regard your advice as highly valuable and buy a book and start reading before I am shifted.

  18. Hi how r u Brent Ozar ?
    I just want to no the book which will be easy read and follow for the sql dba so please same me a book which will be most use full for me .. please send me the link to my mail sarath_e_chandra@yahoo.co.in

  19. i have just finished college and looking at courses,books and online material for any introduction into DBA jobs i want to be a DBA and have all the qualifications such as SQL,MYSQL ect and i want to work on unix. is there any specific courses or type of job that is ?
    also is becoming certified that important or does it just boost your pay levek

    • hi lousi naylor
      how r u ? i also completed my course friend .. i am in search of a book for dba … so sorry that i cant help u in this one but one thing if ur going to do unix it is good but one thing .. just try on one thing .. it will be good ………………….

    • Louis – if you click on the Becoming a DBA tab at the top of my site, I’ve got several articles about this. Hope that helps!

  20. Hi how r u Brent Ozar ?
    I just want to no the book which will be easy read and follow for the sql dba so please same me a book which will be most use full for me .. please send me the link to my mail sarath_e_chandra@yahoo.co.in

  21. Hi Brent thanks for ur information

  22. Brent,

    I’ve been reading Itzik Ben-Gan’s book SQL Server 2008 T-SQL Fundamentals and it’s a great book on T-SQL. He starts with set theory and shows lots of examples. Choose this book because Itzik is supposed to be the T-SQL guru. I’m a sys admin and also a accidental DBA .

  23. Thanks Brent and Dave S, both of your suggestions are very helpful!

    JamieK

  24. hi Brent. i am very much impressed with your answers.i m gerate fan of u Brent.i started reading sql server dba in online.but i want one hardcopy book.so please suggest me which book is good for starter of sql server dba 2005 and 2008. please suggest me book name and author. thank you.

  25. hi brent thanks for your responce. i am getting training in sql server production dba. my kind of work is backup and restore, logshipping,replication,miroring..etc. i am strong in sql and plsql and i worked as a plsql devolper. now i am going to place as a sql server production dba according to my client requirement. pease think that i am starter to sql server dba and suggest me good book with author name for 2005 and 2008 editions. thank you.

  26. hi,i wanted to know dba role and responsibility.and also wanted what is best for dba oracle or sql in currnt it field.
    i wanted to make our carrier as dba.pls tell me how it is
    better to make our carrier as a dba.and how we got fresher salary as a dba role.

  27. thank you brent.

  28. helo brent one more suggetion plz.
    i heares that “70-431 sql sever 2005 maintanence and implemenation” by microsoft book also good for sql server dba starters. is it?

  29. Brent, not sure if you would be able to answer this or not. Our company uses SQL Server 2005. Would “Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Management and Administration” apply to 2005 as well or would it be better to get the 2005 version of the book?

    • If you’re exclusively using 2005 and have no plans to go to 2008 in the next 12-18 months, then I’d get a book that focuses on 2005. The 2008 book does cover a lot of 2008-specific details.

  30. I’ve just picked up “Getting Things Done” last week. I’ve been reading it, well, on my free time. Here is where I first heard of the GTD book. It is really life changing, although, I should say that I am only at the beginning chapters of the book. Brent’s description is quite accurate. Just grab the book!

  31. Hi Brent,Just accidentaly got your Website while Googling.I want to shift my carrer to Sql server DBA.Currently working with Dell technical support.I thing you can be a Good Guide.What is the first step to enter the Field?

  32. hi brent,
    i have some questions.
    1.if i have to give MCTS exams on sql server 2008
    can i practice by installing evaluation version of 2008
    2.
    i m also keen to learn reporting and integration services.
    can i learn these services with help of evaluation version 2008.

  33. Hi Brent:

    1. I am brand spanking new to the IT field, I would like to know which book is the best for someone who knows nothing about SQL?
    2. I would like to become either a DBA or SQl admin one day, what should i do to accomplish this goal?
    3. I have been using SQL 2008 for dummies as my first “training book”, what book do you suggest for me to read once I finish THE DUMMIES?
    4. I plan to take 70-433 as my first microsoft certification, I know it might not help me to land a job as a DBA, but I would like it to be on my resume. Is there any other books or online videos that would help me prepare for the test?
    5. which book should i get first for the junior level? SQL 2008 admin in action or SQL 2008 fundametal?

    Thank you very much for your help

    Nick

    • Hi, Nick! Here’s some thoughts:

      1. It depends on what you want to accomplish. Since you mentioned you would like to become a DBA or SQL admin, I’d go with the books in the “Production DBA” section.
      2. Get a job in a shop with SQL Servers and an existing senior DBA that you can get mentoring from.
      3. The books in the Production DBA section.
      4. I haven’t taken that test, so I don’t have good answers for you there.
      5. I can see that you like asking the same question in many different ways. ;-) Look at both books and see which one you like best.

  34. Brent:
    thank you very much for your help.

    Nick

  35. I want to recommend a book for beginners.

    As a beginner for SQL Server Database administration, I found this book very helpful.

    The book title is ‘Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Step by Step’. The author is ‘Mike Hotek’. I downloaded a trial version of SQL Server 2008 from MSDN website and practiced following the book. You can use the pracitce files from the CD that comes with the book and copy and paste and run and understand the book.

  36. Hi Brent
    I am working as a DBA on mysql platform. But want ot shift to SQL Server. I am also doing Oracle dba certification. pls suggest me the books related to sql dba trak as well as developer trak so that I can learn writing SP’s in sql server.
    Thanks

  37. Thanks Brent for the sql 2008 book recommendations.

    I’ve started reading the “SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Distilled” – I really like the detail it goes into on troubleshooting query plans and how to understand the various activities shown within a query plan – I guess it is really understanding how the optimizer works.

    Many Thanks for specifying these pick of the best books for SQL 2008.

  38. Hi Brent,

    I’m just wondering if you could recommend something for the following:
    I was investigating an SP which had an execution time of 250.000 ms (over 4 minutes). After I’ve investigated the first, say, 100 lines of it, I discovered that the SP contains more than 6000 lines, including calling other SPs. At that point I gave up because I had no knowledge of the database design (over 400 tables).

    How would you begin investigate such an SP? Or what source (book, blog) would you recomment to solve such problems?

    I have to tell that I did not have the time (say, several days, at least) to dive deep into the problem.

    Thanks in advance,

    • Hi, Ervin. This work is called performance tuning, and there’s a lot of training involved with it. When I’m tuning, I first find out exactly which part of the code is taking the longest to run, and then find out how to make it run faster. Sounds easy, right? But as you’ve discovered, it can get overwhelming if you don’t have the right tools. If you don’t have experience with tuning, you can click on the Books link at the top of my site, and I’ve listed several books to help get you started.

      Some people choose to buy software rather than learn how to do this work. If you’re interested in taking that shortcut to get started faster, Quest Foglight Performance Analysis for SQL Server will point you to the exact SQL statements that are running the slowest and show you what they’re waiting on. You still do need tuning knowledge in order to make those statements faster, though.

      This is usually when people bring in an experienced performance tuning consultant to quickly narrow down the slowest statements and explain how to make them faster. I do a lot of this work on my weekends.

  39. Hi Brent,

    thanks for the reply, I’m surprised… :)

    I still have some experience in performance tuning, however, I was shocked when I discovered that the SP is more that 6k lines long. I do not have extra tools: I was investigating the SP itself and I used Profiler (loaded the result in a table), and the first thing I was looking after was the Duration column.
    I have experience with analyzing execution plans (however, I am sure I could be better in this).

    What makes the whole thing difficult is, for example, when I find a table scan, I say, hey, this is bad, get rid ot it! But later I find out that the table has 10 rows, fits on a single page, so table scan does not matter. This it the situation when I say that the first step is that I have to KNOW the data (and the data model) before doing anything. Creating an index for such a table is an overkill (or, at least, completely unnecessary).

    What I wish to find out is a methodology: how do you start such a work, what do you have to care of, etc. If you could recommend a book for such situations, that would be good (very good).

    Also, for the following problem: we have a very powerful dedicated server with SQL Server 2005 installed on it. The box has four six-core processors, each running at 3GHz. A dedicated storage is attached to it with 8 independent disks – log files are on separated spindles, etc. Physical RAM is 16 GB.
    Approximately 2000 users are connected to this SQL server with a client application. The only database is about 40GB in size.
    Users often complain that the system (the client program, which they actually interact with) is very slow. What I could find out is that the SQL server is waiting (the processor cores are almost sleeping, no heavy disk and network activity, free RAM is adequate).
    I wish I had more experience to resolve such problems. Can you recommend something (some books) for troubleshooting tasks like this?

    Thanks in advance,
    Ervin

    • Ervin – it sounds like you need help with performance tuning. In the table at the top of this page, there’s a column for people who need to do performance tuning. If you’re going to be modifying the T-SQL code, then use the books in the row marked “T-SQL Development” in the “Performance Tuning” column. If you won’t be modifying the code, use the books in the “Production DBA” row in the “Performance Tuning” column. Those will help get you started. Hope that helps!

  40. What is a good book to learn the SQL statements and then get more into intermediate and advanced part of the statements? I would like it to be in one book instead of buying an intermediate and advanced book .Thanks.

    • Your career is worth the price of two books, isn’t it?

      You can’t go from 2 years experience to 7-8 years experience with the same book. It just doesn’t work that way. Sorry!

  41. Hi, Brent
    I’m a Super begginer for SQL and wishing to become a DBA.I was looking for your “Becoming a DBA tab at the top of my site” but I can’t find it… where can I find it?

    Thank you.

  42. Hi Brent

    I have started IT career as a trainee DBA at Public sector. in Totla I have got 18 months experience as a DBA . than I moved to do PhD. now i got 3.5 years gap in between. what do you think my experience still count as a DBA. I am going to be junior or intermediate dba?

    • Dr Patel – I’m not aware of an “intermediate DBA” term. Usually it’s only junior or senior, and you’d fall into the junior category. Your experience should still be applicable though. Good luck with your job search, and take care!

  43. hi ,

    iam kalpana,in chennai,india.i have decided to become an sql server dba.just i have started reading .can u help me out with how can i start and continue.what books i should start up with for sql server 2008.

  44. Kalpana,

    I’d recommend you to install SQL Server 2008 Enterprise 6 month trial version and buy ‘SQL Server 2008 Step by Step by Hotek’. It is easy to follow and you will learn a lot. I was a beginner and the book helped me to understand SQL Server.

  45. Sir,
    I really enjoy you website & your daily informational emails, Thank you!!
    I have been a SQLDBA for about 1 year. Have gone through a couple SQL Study guides but kept falling asleep!! Finally found a book that taught me “SQL” it is called “Head First SQL” by Lynn Beighley. It taught me quite a bit about SQL statements, commands. But most of all it was easy to read and it taught the concepts. Of the 2 books you recommend (SQL 2008:
    SQL Server 2008 Administration in Action and SQL 2008:
    SQL Server 2008 Management and Administration), which one teaches the concepts in an easy kinda way?

    Thank you so much!!
    Jim

    • Jim – thanks, glad you like the site! Both of those teach the concepts in good ways. I’m very happy with anything I’ve recommended here. Your best bet is to check out the sample chapters on Amazon and see which one you like more.

  46. Hello Brent,
    My company has decided that even though Im a SQL DBA, I need to get Security+ certified. So…I know this is a long shot because you and your team are SQL DBA’s but I have confidence in your advice…do you know of any good Security+ study guides for the latest exam (SYO-301)?

    Thank you,
    Jim

  47. hey brent, i am new to sql and have been using the mike hotek book sql server 2008 step by step, there seem to be some errors in here. as a newbie, how do i get around it or how can i learn sql effectively. i have read your blogs and hope to take the Exam 70-432 early next year

  48. Pingback: Am new to database programming - dBforums

  49. Hi Brent
    Do you have any video like SQL SERVER for Oracle DBA .
    Which covers all the concepts and day to day activities

  50. Hey Brent,

    Are you aware of any books that focus on tuning SQL Server 2012? I did see ‘Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Performance Tuning Cookbook’ on Amazon, but it was noted that it was written in extremely poor english. I’m a junior DBA that needs to brush up on tuning, as I’m hoping to get a job at a company you consulted for previously. Your blog has been massively helpful, I would appreciate any further advice and/or suggestions.

  51. Brent,

    I have a quick question regarding Prep Material for MCITP(SQL Server 2008).

    I see that you have recommended SQL Server 2008 Administration in Action.

    Do you have any other books you recommend ?

    Kul

  52. Pingback: Visual Structured Query Language (SQL) | Filter Funnel

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