Recommended SQL Server Books, 2020 Edition

Book Reviews

If you’re the kind of person who likes to read books, here are some that I think would expand your horizons. These links are Amazon affiliate links, so I make a few cents when you buy through ’em. It’s your way of tipping me for the book recommendations, so thank you!

T-SQL Books:

  • Level 1: T-SQL Fundamentals by Itzik Ben-Gan: with a name like “Fundamentals”, you’re gonna think this book will be easy. It’s not. It’s 361 pages of the stuff I should have learned before I wrote my first query, but didn’t.
  • Level 2: T-SQL Querying (Developer Reference) by Itzik Ben-Gan: after you’ve finished Fundamentals, here’s 803 pages of pivoting, windowing, dates/times, BI, graphs, in-memory OLTP, and more.
  • Great Post, Erik by Erik Darling: if you’ve enjoyed Erik Darling’s blog posts here, then you’ll love a book full of ’em, lavishly illustrated in full color. (The first time I held this book, I was amazed at what a difference full color makes when viewing stuff like queries and plans.)
Learn T-SQL Querying by Lopes and Lahoud
Learn T-SQL Querying by Lopes and Lahoud

Performance Tuning Books:

These first two are both overviews of performance tuning, covering wide swaths of the tools built into SQL Server to assess its existing performance and make it go faster. I do have to caution you, though: they’re not step-by-step cookbooks that give you recipes to take an existing server, understand what’s wrong, and make it go right. They’re more of a collection of techniques, and it’s up to you to put things together in the right order. They’re still both good resources though:

  • Learn T-SQL Querying by Pedro Lopes and Pam Lahoud: probably the worst-named book out there, and the sales are probably being hurt even more by the publisher not allowing you to read the table of contents on Amazon. Trust me though, the authors cover a lot of ground in 450 pages of performance tuning tips.
  • SQL Server 2017 Query Performance Tuning by Grant Fritchey: don’t worry about the version number in the name. Some publishers just insist on putting version numbers in titles to make books seem new, which on the flip side, also makes them seem dated a few years later. This 823-page monster is mostly evergreen.

Then the below are a little more specialized, talking about specific features that you may wanna learn:

  • Query Store for SQL Server 2019 by Tracy Boggiano and Grant Fritchey: again, ignore the version number in the title and just focus on the topic. Query Store is like a flight data recorder for SQL Server 2016 & newer, and now that most of you are running 2016 in at least one of your servers, it’s probably time to dig in to learn how this works. This is one of those features that sure as hell isn’t self-managing, and I know a lot of clients who’ve turned it on without learning it – only to have their workloads stop workloading. Learn it first.
  • SQL Server 2019 Revealed by Bob Ward: go read the documentation page of What’s New in SQL Server 2019. If you want an entire book of that, that’s what this book is. In February 2020, I’m gonna be honest: most of you aren’t deploying SQL Server 2019, let alone using the new features like Always Encrypted with Enclaves, Kubernetes, and Polybase. However, if like me, you’re just generally curious about the investments Microsoft is making, this is an enjoyable read.

I don’t have current book recommendations for production database administrators: folks who specialize in installation, configuration, high availability, disaster recovery, and automation. If you’ve found current (and currently available) books on that topic that you enjoy, drop ’em in the comments for others to find.

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