Become a SQL Programmer Overnight

Book Review: "Teach Yourself SQL in 24 Hours," by Ryan K. Stephens and Ron Plew, is an excellent primer for mastering the relational database model and all its intricacies.

The world of SQL (Structured Query Language) can be an intimidating place to the unfamiliar. Some of the older programmers who are still making the transition to newer technologies and "newbies" alike will face a similar challenge in mastering this technology. "Teach Yourself SQL in 24 Hours," by Ryan K. Stephens and Ron Plew, is an excellent primer for mastering the relational database model and all its intricacies.

The authors, who have excellent credentials, take the reader from the foundation and definition of the technology right through to the more complex queries that can be accomplished in SQL. Topics covered in the book include basic concepts, database design, building effective queries, building sophisticated queries, performance tuning, user and security management, data structures and advanced tips for real-world use.

Since SQL itself only has its manifestations in specific company products, the authors faced a challenge attempting to generalize the lessons in a way that could be useful to all readers on all computer platforms. To get around the fact that Oracle Corp., IBM, Sybase Inc., Computer Associates International Inc. and Microsoft (to name a few vendors) all have their own flavors of SQL, the lessons concentrate on the common denominator among the major vendor products: ANSI SQL. The book also includes frequent reminders and notes about the sometimes subtle differences between different vendors SQL implementations.

Also new in this edition, all the examples are now done in the open-source SQL tool called MySQL. This was done so that anyone who picks up the book can download MySQL and take part in the examples without having to shell out a lot of money on the proprietary versions of SQL.

The structure of the book, now in its third edition, was designed to allow readers to cover a particular subject in about an hour. Some of the sections, however, could be completed in half the allotted time.

In some cases there seemed to be a shortage of material and examples that could have given the reader a better handle on the topics covered. For example, some of the SELECT syntax examples did not cover some of the more powerful combinations that could be achieved with that SQL command. Addressing this would have given the SQL beginner a better taste for what SQL is capable of doing.

The summaries, questions, and quizzes at the end of each of the chapters were good review material in general, but it also seemed that there was a page count quota that was being considered as opposed to the total quality of the lesson material.

On the whole, however, "Teach Yourself SQL in 24 Hours" is a great little book that covers all the bases, offering suitable examples, chapter summaries and quizzes. It is an excellent vehicle to get started with, one on which a firm foundation in the world of SQL can be established.

Title: Teach Yourself SQL in 24 Hours, 3rd Edition
Authors: Ryan K. Stephens and Ron Plew
Publisher: Sams Publishing (
Length: 496 pages
Price: 24.99

Peter MacIntyre is involved in custom software development, design and architecture. He lives in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Other reviews by Peter can be found at