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Database in Depth: Relational Theory for Practitioners: The Relational Model for Practitioners Paperback – 15 May 2005
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If you work with databases, you need to know how they work. Understanding is an enabler, and Date provides understanding. -- Peter Salus - unixreview.com, August 2005
This book sheds light on the principles behind the relational model, which is fundamental to all database-backed applications--and, consequently, most of the work that goes on in the computing world today. Database in Depth: The Relational Model for Practitioners goes beyond the hype and gets to the heart of how relational databases actually work. Ideal for experienced database developers and designers, this concise guide gives you a clear view of the technology--a view that's not influenced by any vendor or product. Featuring an extensive set of exercises, it will help you: understand why and how the relational model is still directly relevant to modern database technology (and will remain so for the foreseeable future); see why and how the SQL standard is seriously deficient; use the best current theoretical knowledge in the design of their databases and database applications; make informed decisions in their daily database professional activities; Database in Depth will appeal not only to database developers and designers, but also to a diverse field of professionals and academics, including database administrators (DBAs), information modelers, database consultants, and more.Virtually everyone who deals with relational databases should have at least a passing understanding of the fundamentals of working with relational models. Author C.J. Date has been involved with the relational model from its earliest days. An exceptionally clear-thinking writer, Date lays out principle and theory in a manner that is easily understood. Few others can speak as authoritatively the topic of relational databases as Date can.
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It's foreword and back cover are accurate: In essence promising to provide an in-depth view of what the Relational Vision is, how it is intended to be used, where SQL meets this relational vision, where it falls short and discusses work arounds where they are available.
To write such a book C.J. DATE has clearly mastered not only first-order logic and the relational model, but also SQL to a standard (no pun intended) where he is justifyably able to act as an authority on it.
Consequently I find his comments unbiased, logically correct and of great interest. Of course to acknowledge yet challenge SQL (the world's dominant database language) he is necessarily opinionated, but I get the impression he would agree with the foreword when it says 'You may not agree with everything Chris says, and you don't need to, but you do need to understand it'.
As a result I want to back the comment of another reviewer that Chris's style 'does not basically serve as propaganda on why he is great and all other commentators are wrong', but simply 'that commentators who don't follow the relational model are HIGHLY flawed.'
On a separate note, I did find a background in formal and pure mathematics helpful in getting the most out of this book, but agree such a background isn't a necessity - This is the most concise book I have seen that gets at the heart of the relational model and where SQL differs from it. With thought the information in its 200 pages will allow you to become a master of SQL on your chosen DBMS more efficiently (my goal in reading the book, at least for now) and ensure you appreciate where SQL falls genuinely short of the relational vision and we might ultimately be better starting again.
Additionally there is a very useful appendix with references to further material for those wishing to become true experts in database theory.