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9 SQL Books To Upgrade Your Resume and Expand Your Skills Today

For many people, the idea of “learning to code” can be daunting. Programming languages are just that: languages. And just like learning a spoken language, once you become fluent, your new language can open doors.

Let’s not mince words; coding experience is a huge benefit to have on a resume. But for many job seekers or professionals looking to increase their earning power the biggest question is where do I begin?

Ideally, the best starting point would a programming language that is used across numerous industries, has broad application, is easy to learn, and won’t fall out of favor any time soon, right?

There is exactly one programming language that fits the bill—SQL. SQL stands for Structured Query Language and while that might sound confusing at first pass, SQL is a programming language that is easy to learn and widely applicable.

SQL is sometimes referred to by the letters in its acronym (as in S-Q-L) but it can also be referred to as “sequel” or the abbreviation being read out. SQL is the workhorse programming language that forms the backbone of modern data management and interpretation.

With the wealth of raw data that is being created every second, there has never been a greater need for individuals who can manage, analyze, and manipulate data with SQL.

What follows is a list of the nine best books to start learning SQL and take steps toward increasing your earning power today!

1. SQL QuickStart Guide by Walter Shields author of this title is an SQL expert, mentor, and database entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience in the field. In this book, his instincts as a teacher and mentor shine through. The content of the book isn’t packed with jargon or stuffy at all. Concepts are well-illustrated with copious graphics and each of the main points is easy to follow. SQL QuickStart Guide was published late in 2019 as well, which is always a nice touch – it never hurts to have a very current book when learning tech concepts.

Plus, this book comes with access to supplemental digital material including practice databases and other hands-on resources. In short, this book is built for learning.

One other minor point, this book is the product of a smaller publisher. I am a reader who prefers to shop small when I can and when the quality of the product warrants it. In this case, absolutely worth it.

  • Price: Average
  • Difficulty: Low – for beginners

2. Learning SQL: Master SQL Fundamentals by Alan Beaulieu

This book is a second edition printing which, when it comes to tech titles, is worth keeping an eye out for. When the book was published, when it was last updated, and so on can be the differentiator between a helpful resource and an outdated guide.

Back to “Learning SQL,” this book delivers on its tag line; this book will position you to master SQL fundamentals. Unlike some other titles on this list, this book is a little drier in content but it does do a great job of bridging the gap between beginner and more advanced SQL concepts. Be aware, this book is basically a textbook and the list price reflects that.

  • Price: Above average
  • Difficulty: Medium – from beginner to advanced

3. SQL for Data Analytics: Perform fast and efficient data analysis with the power of SQL by Various Authors

Despite being a collaborative effort by numerous authors this book isn’t as expensive as you might expect. This book is a little bit of a departure from some of the other titles on this list. It really revolves around the practical application of SQL and the ways SQL can be integrated into statistical analysis.

That all sounds a little advanced but rest assured this book does a great job translating data analysis into cut and dried practical information. It isn’t strictly a book about SQL, but SQL is the connective tissue that brings all of the analysis and data concepts together.

The authors do a good job tying together basic SQL concepts and offering practical, useful information but this does mean that the beginner stuff doesn’t get as thorough a treatment as in other beginner-level books.

  • Price: Average
  • Difficulty: Medium – for dedicated beginners or readers with some experience

4. SQL All-In-One For Dummies by Allen G. Taylor

The iconic For Dummies brand predictably has an offering for the topic of SQL. The book is in its third edition and as a result has been rolled into other For Dummies manuscripts. As a result, the front cover loudly proclaims “8 Books in One!”

While it is true that this book is hefty and easy to read, the eight books in one claim is dubious to say the least. It seems more like a marketing ploy than a feature of the book though I will say the book is comprehensive.

The author is a clear veteran of the field, both in the scope of his writing and in the credentials he provides. While this book is comprehensive, I found the content slightly unwieldy (an endemic problem in the thicker For Dummies books I have noticed). All in all, this is a For Dummies book, what you see is what you get.

  • Price: Average
  • Difficulty: Low – for beginners

5. Query Store for SQL Server 2019: Identify and Fix Poorly Performing Queries by Various Authors

This title is another one of the more advanced, laser-focused SQL titles out there. It might not be the best for an absolute beginner but if you have already gotten some SQL learning under your belt diving into this specialization can set you apart from the pack.

Query Store takes a closer look at the nuts and bolts that make SQL work, specifically the flavor known as SQL Server. When it comes time to peek under the hood, this book can be a valuable resource, but skip it if you need the basics first.

  • Price: Above average
  • Difficulty: High – for experienced SQL learners

6. Practical SQL: A Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling with Data by Anthony DeBarros

Right off the bat, I have to say I am always a fan of the work that comes out of smaller publishers. Like Walter Shields’ SQL QuickStart Guide also on this list, this book is from a smaller press. If the publisher can pull it off, I would rather spend money with them over larger, corporate publishing houses.

In this case, the author brings a beginner-level SQL book together in a good way. Looking into his credentials, DeBarros got his start journalism and works in that field to this day. It is neither here nor there, but that journalistic flourish comes through in the text.

The book is well laid out and it is easy to follow. For those who are paying attention, this book focuses on the PostgreSQL flavor of SQL which is flexible and practical but I am a bigger fan of books that focus on a full spectrum approach to SQL.

  • Price: Average
  • Difficulty: Low – for beginners

7. SQL Cookbook: Query Solutions and Techniques for Database Developers by Anthony Molinaro

This title is in the same series and style as “Learning SQL: Master SQL Fundamentals by Alan Beaulieu” also on this list. This “cookbook” is a fair successor to the fundamentals presented by “Learning SQL.”

The book isn’t quite the beginner-friendly text as some of the other titles on this list, but this book will help you level up your existing SQL knowledge and mastery. This title builds on the fundamentals and hones your experience but if you are a first-time learner, don’t start here.

  • Price: Above average
  • Difficulty: Medium – for those with SQL experience

8. Getting Started with SQL: A Hands-On Approach for Beginners by Thomas Nield

This is a first edition book with a publish date in 2016. SQL is a venerable programming language and as such, having a super up to date reference guide isn’t as essential.

“Getting Started” is an O’Reilly title and that generally means a higher price point. As far as the other O’Reilly titles I have seen in the tech and programming space this one is a little more modestly priced—on the high end of average—and as such is your best bet if you are a fan of the O’Reilly brand.

  • Price: Average
  • Difficulty: Low – for beginners

9. Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes a Day by Ben Forta

When it comes to a topic that is frankly as easy to learn as SQL, the allure of teaching it to yourself in 10 minute daily chunks is a bit lackluster. That is a minor criticism of the book’s marketing, however, and not really a point about the contents.

So, what about the contents?

Unlike the other books on this list, this one is divided into “lessons.” As promised, each lesson is brief and focuses on a specific aspect of the SQL language. Two big things jumped out at me.

One, at the time of writing, the paperback version of the book is only available for pre-order. That means if you want the book it’s Kindle only from Amazon. That’s not a problem per se, but it is restrictive for the people who would prefer to have a physical book they can hold.

Two, the newness of this book is likely the reason it doesn’t have any reviews on Amazon. In some of the more niche topics it is common to see low review counts but zero reviews one way or another is genuinely rare.

  • Price: Average
  • Difficulty: Low – for beginners

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that data management and coding skills are the fastest and easiest way to upgrade your resume in 2020 and beyond. Of the myriad programming languages out there that come and go, SQL has stood the test of time and shows no signs of going anywhere.

In fact, if anything, it is growing in demand.

SQL is easy to learn, easy to apply, and an absolutely valuable skill in today’s interconnected world—you owe it to yourself to grow your skillset and increase your earning power.

And who knows? As you explore the world of coding and programming you might just find that you really like it!

Author Byline:

Benjamin Sweeny is a writer and author who lives in Albany, NY. He maintains a focus on the business sphere that draws from scholarly research and practical experience from time spent as an entrepreneur and consultant. He is currently the Senior Business Writer for ClydeBank Media.



This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from and other Amazon websites.

Written by Benjamin Sweeny

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