My favourite books

As I mentioned in the blog post Speaking at SQL Server Days 2015, I’ll be giving a session at the Belgian SQL Server Days. There is a Speaker in the Spotlight section on the site, where a speaker can introduce him/her self by answering a simple survey. One of the questions is “Which SQL Server books do you recommend”? In this blog post I’ll explain which books I recommended and why.

  • Power Query for Power BI and Excel by Chris Webb. It’s only a year old, but since Power BI is moving so fast, some parts are already outdated (such as user interface screenshots). However, large parts of the book are still very relevant. I especially liked the chapter about M where Chris gives a very good introduction. I recently used this book as preparation for a Power BI training course and it helped me a lot.
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 High-Performance T-SQL Using Window Functions by Itzik Ben-Gan. OK, any book by Itzik is recommended (he is mentioned a lot amongst other speakers), but I especially like this one because it’s very focused on window functions (obviously). The book is quite concise (244 pages) and it reads quite well, so you can finish this book in no time. There is a chapter about ordered set functions which is not yet included in T-SQL, so you can skip that one if you are not interested. But the other chapters are high-class material. Itzik goes into great detail about performance and he also shows a lot of interesting use cases. This book really helped me with my understanding of window functions and I use this knowledge everyday. Must-read for every BI and ETL developer!
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Query Tuning & Optimization by Benjamin Nevarez. I have written a detailed review here. In short: Benjamin does a great job by bringing a complex and technical subject matter in such a comprehensible manner. This book is not only for DBA’s, even business intelligence guys like me can learn a lot from it. The chapter about statistics is pure gold.
  • Star Schema The Complete Reference by Christopher Adamson. I blogged about it and even reblogged it, but I can’t stress it enough: this book is the best book out there about dimensional modelling. Period. It doesn’t mean the Kimball books are bad though – I like their use case examples a lot – but I like this one a bit better.
  • Any book by Stephen Few. This doesn’t include Signal however, but only because I haven’t read it yet :). For more details: Overview of the data visualization books by Stephen Few. If you can only buy one, I recommend Information Dashboard Design. It’s about dashboards, but almost everything can be applied to normal reports and charts as well. Very easy to read, highly recommended. If you want more detail on how to format tables, you need Show Me The Numbers.
  • The Freakonomics books by Stephen D. Levitt. Very fun books, where statistics and “data science” are shown through some unusual examples. For instance: why do drug dealers still live with their mothers? It won’t teach you any statistics or data science, but it makes you think what you can do with data and the right mindset.

Those are currently my most favourite books. I might update this list in the future.
Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!

Koen Verbeeck

Koen Verbeeck is a Microsoft Business Intelligence consultant at AE, helping clients to get insight in their data. Koen has a comprehensive knowledge of the SQL Server BI stack, with a particular love for Integration Services. He's also a speaker at various conferences.

2 thoughts to “My favourite books”

  1. Currently reading “Star Schema The Complete Reference” based on your feedback and it is indeed a great book. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I really enjoyed reading The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by (a.o.) Gene Kim. It was recommended by Grant Fritchey at SQLSatHolland last year. A must read if you’re into DevOps!

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