Customer Reviews: Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 T-SQL Fundamentals (Developer Reference)
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on December 15, 2008
I'm half way through this book and I am totally impressed. The author not only explains T-SQL syntax very systematically, but also explains enough of the theory behind it to help you understand why. This makes it much easier to optimize your syntax and avoid logical bugs in your code. This is not an introductory level SQL book, but it's not a book for experts either. I have been writing SQL for years and I have learned a great deal from this book already. I highly recommend this book if you are looking to take your SQL skills from basic/intermediate to a more advanced level.
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on December 4, 2008
I have worked with T-SQL for about 11 years, but nevertheless immediately pre-ordered this "Fundamentals" book when I saw a blog post about it - for three reasons: (a) I wanted to fill in any missing gaps in my understanding of the language, (b) I wanted to learn what was new with the 2008 offering, and (c) I have heard Itzik Ben-gan speak and read his blog for sometime and always find his presentations to be excellent. I was not disappointed.

For me, this has been one of those rare reads, where I can see where the topic is going but it is never dull because I either learn something new about the subject or the presentation clarifies what I already knew. I especially like how the book continually reinforces how T-SQL is built on set theory and predicate logic.

Great read and reference. I highly recommend it.

Kudos to the author.
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on February 9, 2009
Film director Stanley Kubrick would make a film in a specific genre, after which there was almost no point in making movies in that genre any more. War movie - Paths of Glory, political satire - Dr Strangelove , historical film - Spartacus, science fiction - 2001 A Space Odyssey, horror - The Shining. Itzik Ben-Gan managed to do with his book what Kubrick did with his films. There just is no point in writing another book on T-SQL after his.

The first thing I looked for when I picked the book at the post office was the section on Outer Joins. A common question when using outer joins that is the source of lot of confusion is whether to specify a predicate in the ON or WHERE clause of the query. Itzik explains it definitively: " You can see that with respect to rows from the preserved side of an outer join, the filter based on the ON predicate is not final. In other words, the ON predicate does not detremine whether the row will show up in the output, only whether it will be matched with rows from the other side. So when you need to express a predicate that is not final - meaning a predicate that determines which rows to match from the nonpreserved side - specify the predicate in the ON clause. When you need a filter to be applied after outer rows are produced, and you want the filter to be final, specify the predicate in the WHERE clause. "

If only I this book existed ten years ago I would have avoided some of the mistakes I made through the years, only because some fundamental things were never clearly explained. Itzik fills the gaps for an exprienced DBA and gives a perfect basis for a novice. The fundamentals become crystal clear so that building on top of it is easy. Perhaps this can be best illustrated by the following example:

"Can you figure out how to write an UPDATE statement that swaps the values in col1 and col2? In most programming languages where expressions and assigments are evaluated in some order (typically left to write) , you need a temporary variable. However, because in SQL all assignments take place as if at the same point in time, the solution is very simple:

set col1= col2, col2 = col1;

In both assigments the source column values used are those prior to the update, so you don't need a temporary variable."

Now why did no other book I read ever give this simple example?

Common Table Expressions are explained really well, especially updating and deleting data using CTEs. Actually, the book covers all the 2005 and 2008 related enhacements ROW_NUMBER, RANK, DENSE_RANK and NTILE, Recursive Queries, APPLY,CROSS APPLY, OUTER APPLY,EXCEPT and INTERSECT, TRY...CATCH, TOP Enhancements, PIVOT UNPIVOT, DDL Triggers, MERGE. But it covers it in such a way that nothing seems complicated. We should give it to all out C++ programmers as well.

It was a pleasure reading the book
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on June 16, 2009
This book is excellent. I began reading this book with a limited knowledge of SQL picked up from basic trial and error coding. Most of the time I did not know why or how something worked, only that it did work or in many cases did not work without hours of revision. After reading this book I now have a very good understanding of how code should work and why.

Itzik Ben-Gan is a wonderful author, who really understands how to teach a subject. Instead of just throwing code out there at you for a specific result, he often goes through it line by line letting you know exactly what each step is accomplishing. One of the greatest things about this book is the time taken to emphasize the order in which things are processed in SQL Server. This may seem trivial, but after knowing this I can honestly say 90% of the coding errors I ever suffered where due to not knowing the processing order.

The bottom line is, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing T-SQL.
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on March 14, 2009
I'm primarily a C++ and Java developer who hasn't worked on SQL for a while. I needed a book to refresh my T-SQL but didn't want to invest in beginners book so I tried to borrow one. This is the one I got my hands onto.

In a pleasant surprise, the book turned out to be a lot more than a refresher. Years ago I learned SQL from books/tutorials that first list the syntax of SELECT query, with all its options, and then explain it. That approach could lead to a lot of misconceptions, such as I thought SELECT clause was processed before the GROUP BY clause. So I never understood why sometimes SQL server laughed at me. It was like I was taught how to translate from English to SQL; so my spoken SQL was more like English than native SQL.

This book teaches you how the SQL queries are logically processed in the head of SQL server. It's like it teaches you the grammar of SQL from the perspective of its native speaker. So ultimately you learn how to think in SQL; an essential step in mastering any language.

On the flip side, the book has a lot of repetition of concepts. He states the concept in the beginning of the section and then in every example he repeats the whole concept. Considering the book is targeted for beginners, I'm willing to ignore it.

I would recommend this book to beginners and struggling professionals.
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on April 6, 2012
It is obvious, from the very first paragraphs you read, that the author is deeply familiar with SQL. The in-depth knowledge that Ben-Gan displays is impressive and is very off the path of the traditional beginning SQL book. I look forward to grabbing other titles from him, but I will be sure to target them with the following general idea in mind.

This book is not a good one to use as a base to learn SQL. It should be looked at as a supplement for someone that has a basic understanding and wants a beginning look "under the hood". It covers sections very quickly, is very text bookish while reading and is short in length. Looking through the summary prior to purchase, I was excited to see so many different topics to be covered. Once I arrived, it was disappointing to find these topics condensed to a couple of pages, with much of that filled with SQL code examples. It's brilliant, but left me wanting more on each topic consistently.

I yearn for the author that can write a guide on SQL in the same manner that Wheelan wrote on economics in Naked Economics, clear, easy to understand and engaging.
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on April 15, 2009
There are tons of SQL books on the market; this author's books shine above the rest.

Itzik Ben-Gan has become a favourite author. Most books tell you how to write a query- Ben-Gan tells you WHY one method is more EFFICIENT than another.

Anyone who has written a compiler or parser knows which tokens get picked first. Ben-Gan explains how the SQL-engine in SQL Server parses your query so you can write better SQL scripts.

This book is great- so are his others.
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on May 4, 2010
DON'T buy this book if you're a T-SQL beginner. The name made me think the book would be geared toward basic/foundational concepts. This is absolutely not the case, however I'm very excited about having this as a terrific mid to advanced level reference down the road.

I've been a SQL System Administrator for many years, but never needed to understand the queries, just how to protect, backup and recover the databases. Thank goodness my husband was able to translate for me! For this reason I give it a 1.5 star rating for new users but a 4.5 rating for T-SQL administrators. Once I was able to understand what he was trying to say, and reference the […] website to break the queries into manageable bites, the lights came on.

I have now purchased a few other T-SQL books and without a doubt, this unique reference will become my master. However I couldn't do this without taking the first lessons in more introductory material. Can't wait to be a guru and actually understand this beast of a book!
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on September 13, 2009
I'm not a SQL programmer or DBA. I use SQL to query databases and write reports in SSRS (Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services). I was looking for a book that would explain SQL fundamentals in a user-friendly manner and this is it. Mr. Itzik Ben-Gan writes like a teacher, not a technician. He gives you the technical details followed by real life explanation, with code and results; that a non-tech can understand. This book gives you the foundation you need to expand your SQL knowledge.
Should you buy it if you are using SQL 2005? Yes, even though 2008 is in the title, Mr. Ben-Gan covers both SQL versions, explaining differences between the versions.
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on May 23, 2011
Amazing what you learn from Itzik Ben-Gan's fundamentals book. It broadens your T-SQL fundamentals foundation. Also contains the simplest and best explanation of GROUP clauses GROUPING SETS, CUBE and ROLLUP. Highly recommended for the professional and especially those taking teh 70-433 and 70-451 SQL Developer exams.
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