Ramya Shankar | 08 Aug, 2023

10 Best SQL Books for beginners and Advanced Programmers


Whether you are a full-stack developer or a data science aspirant, you will have to shake hands with SQL at some point in your career. SQL will help you quickly analyze data, write queries to prepare, filter, sort, organize data efficiently, and much more.

The best way to learn SQL is by practice and what better way to practice than to read a book and work alongside! That is why we have picked the top 10 SQL books that will help you learn SQL from scratch to advanced. We have included a good mix of books for beginners, intermediate and advanced level SQL users, as well as books that specifically cater to data science requirements.

Best SQL Books

You may see lots of best SQL books that claim to help you learn SQL in 10 minutes or ten days – but if you want to get the concepts for life – there is no shortcut!

1. SQL Cookbook

SQL CookbookThis book is a great reference if you just started working with SQL and have a basic understanding of select, update and insert queries – but don't have the time to go deeply through all the concepts. The book covers basic select, update and insert queries but like a crash course. The author assumes you already have some background of SQL (that's the purpose of the cookbook). It focuses more on writing complex queries, fine-tuning your queries, data preparation, manipulation, grouping, and reporting. This book is good for both beginners and intermediate learners. The author presents lots of queries as examples of what you would face in a real-life situation. Use it as a quick reference to find a query that is similar to the problem you are facing in your project. Start by reading the preface, and if you want to get into the basics, go through the appendix before you start exploring the book.

You can buy the book here.

2. SQL Beginner's Guide & 7-Day Crash Course

SQL Beginner's Guide & 7-Day Crash CourseThis book will teach everything you want to know about SQL from scratch – not just writing queries but also appreciating the importance of SQL and how it can help with end-to-end project execution and reporting. It is a good reference for data analysts and data scientists as it covers important statistical analysis topics. The complexity of topics slowly increases as you get to chapter 5 and above. The author gives enough examples for you to sink-in the concepts well. Throughout the book, you will be able to picturise how the entire RDBMS works, the role of SQL in a client-server-based system, and keeping data secure. If you have the time and curiosity to learn A to Z of SQL, this is the right book to start with.

You can buy the book here.

3. SQL QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's Guide

SQL QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's GuideThe author of this book presents a great writing style – very friendly and easy to understand tone. The author also encourages you to try new things and practice a lot as you learn. Learning SQL will become a breeze with this book. The book caters to beginners as well as those in the data analysis field and solves many problems related to data manipulation and analysis. If you have a working knowledge of SQL, this book can act as a handy guide for enhancing your knowledge. Wherever required, the author explains technical terms and starts with fundamental terminologies in the first few chapters. This builds a solid foundation for further learning of SQL. The flow of concepts from basic to advanced is seamless.

You can buy the book here.

Suggested Course

The Complete SQL Bootcamp 2024: Go from Zero to Hero

4. Head First SQL

Head First SQLIf you have ever read Head First books, you will know how witty, interactive, and informative they are. There are a lot of quick tips and pictures on all sides that help you remember important tit-bits. You will particularly enjoy the way authors have explained joins – neat and simple. The book follows a unique approach where you will be taught a method to solve a problem – which could lead to another problem that can be solved with another approach. This helps in remembering the concepts well, but you will need to dedicate time to learn each approach. It is as if you are exploring various parts of SQL but with supervision. The book is fast-paced, so sometimes you might think you have got the concept, but it may not be so. Take time to absorb each concept and practice more before you move on to the next chapters.

You can buy the book here.

5. Microsoft SQL Server 2016: A Beginner's Guide

microsoft-sql-server-2016-a-beginner-s-guide-sixth-editionYou can think of this book as suitable for beginner to intermediate SQL learners. The book introduces you to RDBMS and takes you through the installation, set-up, and basic troubleshooting step-by-step. It is a purely technical book, and you shouldn't use it as a quick reference, rather it is for detailed learning purposes. The last part of the book also introduces you to concepts of spatial data, XML, and JSON and how they fit in the database system. This is a great book for developers, technical analysts, database administrators alike. It also has in-depth information about data security, performance tuning, reporting services, and various optimization techniques. A must-have book for the technical geeks.

You can buy the book here.

6. SQL Practice Problems

SQL Practice ProblemsThis book is good for developers and business professionals who can write basic select, insert, update, and delete queries. It is like a refresher course of what you already know, plus some more advanced problems to challenge you further. If you are looking for a proper step-by-step tutorial, this is not the right book. It serves right if you want to quickly get into working mode for solving real-world problems. The book helps you get the right answers by revealing the expected answers for each given problem. That way, you can knock your brain till you get things right – at your own pace. This book will not spoon-feed you. You will need other online resources like online courses and read about concepts from other sources as you practice the problems of this book. With this book, you will gain a good understanding of how SQL is used for solving real business problems while going through the concepts in a natural flow.

You can buy the book here.

7. SQL for Data Analytics

SQL for Data AnalyticsA nice book for both beginners and advanced level learners of SQL. The book is not too heavy but has plenty of practical examples. The tone chosen by the author is quite friendly and soothing, so it feels like an instructor is talking to you and explaining the concepts. You can learn a lot from this book if you are learning SQL for data science. The range of concepts covered is wide and starts from basic select to complex window functions. As a data scientist, you will find many useful tips to optimize queries to prepare, extract, and manipulate large data sets by referring to this book. Whether you need a quick guide or a structured learning book, this book fits both. The book also covers basics on how R and Python can be integrated with the database. The author has given much focus on using complex data types for analysis, fine-tuning queries for best performance and provided a nice case study to help you visualize the end-to-end data analytics process.

You can buy the book here.

8. Oracle PL/SQL Programming

SQL Performance ExplainedThis book is intensive and covers all PL/SQL topics in-depth. You should have a basic understanding of queries and scripting to use this book fully. Sometimes, there are examples provided for concepts that haven't been taught – but you will be able to look them up from other resources like blogs, tutorials, and short YouTube videos. Most of the time, however, the book is sufficient for learning basic and advanced concepts both. The writer of the book seems to have understood entirely how a developer thinks, and while reading whenever you tend to have a doubt – it will be cleared in the next line or page! Many concepts have been explained with real-world examples to create a practical mindset. A great book to learn PL/SQL programming for intermediate to advanced SQL developers.

You can buy the book here.

9. SQL All-In-One For Dummies

SQL All-In-One For DummiesThe ''for dummies'' books are always a good read because these require no prior knowledge of the topics you will learn from the book. The book starts with the importance of RDBMS, where SQL fits in and then goes to explaining queries, data security, performance tuning, and more about XML and JSON. The book touches upon all important SQL concepts but doesn't go too much in detail. If you are just starting your SQL journey or you use SQL once in a while at your job, this would be a good book to start. It will make you comfortable but won't scare or overwhelm you with too many concepts. Just the right amount of information and code makes this book an ideal start for SQL beginners. If you are curious enough, you can supplement the book with other, more in-depth books as well.

You can buy the book here.

10. Data Analysis Using SQL and Excel

Data Analysis Using SQLSQL and Excel have proven to be the most powerful tools for data analytics. This book is not just about learning basic queries like select, update, and more but more data-science-centric. In essence, it focuses on helping you write complex queries to manipulate data from huge datasets or databases. It might seem a little hard to follow in the beginning, but once you get along with the author's style of explanation, you will find the concepts falling into place. The chapter on data mining models is mind-blowing and extremely useful if you do much SQL in your analytics. The author has explained well the role of SQL and excels in creating various machine learning models. By the end of the book, you will be able to write complex queries that are also performant. The tips and warnings in between the chapters are quite insightful. Enjoy the full flavor of data extraction, data flow, and data visualization through SQL and excel with this book.

You can buy the book here.

Bonus SQL Books

While the above books are quite good and mostly sufficient for most SQL users – basic or advanced, here are two more bonus books that you might like to have for detailed learning and reference –

1. SQL: The Complete Reference

This is an extremely exhaustive and detailed book that teaches you SQL from scratch. You will find this book in every technical library – it is a much-valued resource. If you work with SQL extensively as a developer or a data scientist, you should read this book. It helps you understand why certain queries behave the way they do, how you can write complex queries that give good performance and in-depth information of transactions, locks, and the smallest of concepts that you might want to know about. The way this book is organized is very nice and structured, so it is easier to find what you are looking for as a quick reference. The book also talks about SQL APIs, PL/SQL, application servers, and networking. It helps you picturise how an entire web application works in a detailed fashion. It is a slow read, but worth it.

You can buy the book here.

2. SQL Performance Explained

This is a purely technical book that you would enjoy if you want to learn everything about how to improve the performance of your queries. You will discover that there is so much to SQL than just writing queries and stored procedures. The author is crisp and concise in explaining each solution. The book explains the difference between different databases Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server, PostgreSQL in a smooth way, and doesn't stick to any one of them. This book is essential if you want to be a master of indexing, scanning, joins, clustering, and other important performance-related concepts.

You can buy the book here.


If you are confused about which book to start first, just start with SQL beginner's guide or SQL for dummies for fundamental concepts. If you have a working knowledge of SQL and want to hone your skills or need books for quick reference, you might want to buy SQL Cookbook or SQL Practice Problems (or both). Oracle PL/SQL programming will help you write scripts and more advanced SQL queries. In contrast, SQL for data analytics and data analysis using SQL and Excel are meant for data analysts, although many experienced developers also find these books useful. Having SQL cheat-sheet alongside will help you quickly refer to commands while you are reading more advanced concepts.

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By Ramya Shankar

A cheerful, full of life and vibrant person, I hold a lot of dreams that I want to fulfill on my own. My passion for writing started with small diary entries and travel blogs, after which I have moved on to writing well-researched technical content. I find it fascinating to blend thoughts and research and shape them into something beautiful through my writing.

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