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Book Recommendations

When I used to teach Oracle courses, one of the most common questions from attendees was 'What books about Oracle would you recommend?' As part of my preparation for teaching, I make it my business to buy and to read most books that look interesting and find that most have been a waste of time. There are one or two books which are excellent, though, and if you can make the effort to read one or more of these, you'll be rewarded with genuine insights and accurate information from true database experts. This is a very personal selection, so another attribute that all of these books share is that the writing quality is high which makes them all very readable.

Please note that the links take you to the relevant Amazon UK pages, but I don't get any commission, it's purely for your information!

The first book that I always recommend used to be the Oracle Server Concepts manual, but I think I've found an even better starting point that isn't Oracle-specific - Chris Date's "Database In Depth" from O'Reilly. Although I've read a number of Chris' articles on dbdebunk and I had the pleasure of attending a one day seminar that Chris gave in Edinburgh last year, I've found this book more digestable. It's still rigorous, but I love the way that he's taken what some feel is a slightly irrelevant academic subject and made it sing (in my ears at least). There's still a little bit of :-

"Let relations r and s have attributes X1, X2 ...."
but I've found that the surrounding text makes it more bearable (for me).

I think this is a first class book and thoroughly relevant to real-world database systems. Even if you don't agree with all of it's content you will be in a better position to state *why* you disagree! If you already have some of Chris' lengthier and more academic texts, maybe this book won't add anything to your knowledge, but if you've never read one this would be a good place to start.

The next recommendation is the Oracle Server Concepts manual. Yes, the one that comes free with Oracle. If everyone who worked on Oracle systems took the time to sit down and read this book, then the quality of Oracle systems would improve substantially. It's detailed, usually accurate, and concentrates on how Oracle works. It's not a detailed hacker's trawl through tuning parameters or the intricacies of which version of the database contains which bugs, but imho, all of that information is next to useless if you don't even have a proper grasp of the basics. It costs nothing to buy, is available online and should be the first Oracle-specific book that you read.

In under a year, 'Expert One-on One: Oracle' has become established as the best book of it's kind. Written by Tom Kyte, host of, it is ostensibly aimed at developers but has a wealth of information for DBAs too. Although it's monstrous in size, the solid structure makes it an easier read than you might think at first sight. Tom's angle is that you shouldn't treat Oracle as a 'black-box'. Amen!!!

Along with Tom Kyte and Steve Adams, Jonathan Lewis seemed to answer the vast majority of questions posted to at one point. He's also written some of the best technical papers and user conference presentations. This is a pretty good book all round, but I absolutely love 'Chapter 1 - What is Oracle?' for the first class discussion of redo and rollback it contains.

Oracle Insights: Tales of the Oak Table is a compendium of chapters by different members of the Oak Table network containing a wealth of experience. You can read a full review on my blog here.

Any book that combines a distillation of the information that you might acquire by working with Oracle for many years with an index entry for 'Chocolate Teapots' has to be recommended. Oracle Design is that book, co-authored by Dave Ensor and Ian Stevenson. It's a little difficult to categorise because although the title indicates it's for Database Designers, it contains the sort of real-world knowledge that every DBA and developer should have. There is also an Oracle 8 supplemental publication, both from O'Reilly.

The first decent Oracle book that I read was O'Reilly's Oracle Performance Tuning - otherwise known as 'the Bee book', because of the Bees on the front cover. It's on the second edition now and has become a little bloated in the process but is still over five years old, which means that it doesn't cover any new features and has some old-fashioned views on some subjects (eg, Segment-level Fragmentation)

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