Recommended Books for SQL Server DBAs and Developers

Here’s my favorite SQL Server books for 2016-2014:

T-SQL Fundamentals – (updated for SQL 2016) – don’t be fooled by this “fundamentals” title, because everybody who writes T-SQL queries needs this book. It’s the manual we should have been given when we started, and everyone’s going to learn something about concurrency, performance, and updates here.

T-SQL Querying – (updated for SQL 2016) – if you need to make queries go faster, this is the book.

SQL Server Performance Tuning – (updated for 2014) – if you need to make servers go faster, this is the book. The title says query tuning, but it’s actually more server-oriented than the above book. It’s good even if you can’t tune the T-SQL queries.

Securing SQL Server – I know, security sounds like a boring topic, but Denny brings it to life.

Time Management for System Administrators – As a knowledge worker, you’re never going to catch up. You’re always going to feel behind. Tom teaches you how to manage a deluge of requests in a way that works – I’ve used these approaches for over a decade.

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93 Comments. Leave new

  • 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.

  • what does DBA stand for?

  • DataBase Administrator.

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

  • 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.


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

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

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

  • 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:

    And they’re really smart folks.

  • Thanks Brent…

  • 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.



  • 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.

  • 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?

    • James – it depends. What kind of work will you be doing on SQL Server? Writing T-SQL, administration, business intelligence, etc?

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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 Chandra Edupalli
    July 29, 2009 2:32 am

    Hi Brent thanks for ur information

  • 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 .

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


  • 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 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.

    • Ball – hi, thanks for the compliments. What kind of work would you like to do with SQL Server? Management, T-SQL development, business intelligence, etc?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • thank you brent.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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
    i m also keen to learn reporting and integration services.
    can i learn these services with help of evaluation version 2008.

  • 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


    • 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.

  • Brent:
    thank you very much for your help.


  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 – 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 – 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.

  • 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,

  • 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

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

  • 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.

  • 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 ?


  • Is there an update list for 2012 / 2014?

  • Ramesh Chirumamilla
    March 3, 2015 4:52 pm

    Brent, I have read the below two books. I loved both of them.

    — SQL Server 2008 Administration in Action
    — Inside SQL 2008 T-SQL Querying

    can you suggest similar for SQL 2012 ?


  • Hi Brent,
    I come by your site when I want answers. Right now, I am trying to understand the execution plans and fine tune the queries. Are there any free videos handy that can help me tune my skills. I am dealing with tables containing around 500 million rows, and the conventional tuning is not helping me.

    Thanks in advance,

  • Hi Brent,

    I am very excited by your great work and also I trust you very much.
    Would you please provide the new sql servers great books recommendations if it is possible

    Many thanks,
    Mina Marzouk

    • Mina – we haven’t posted any new reviews lately. Your best bet is probably reading the reviews on Amazon for books you’re interested in. Sorry!

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