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Ask HN: Help me find a good databases textbook
8 points by parenthesis on Nov 26, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 6 comments
I'm looking for an excellent academic textbook on databases. The following two seem to well thought of (by some, at least):

  Database Management Systems by Raghu Ramakrishnan  and Johannes Gehrke

  An Introduction to Data Base Systems by C.J. Date

Are either of these any good? (== accurate, clear, comprehensive, concise, rigourous) Are there any good alternatives?



Are you more interested in relational theory, or in implementation techniques for database systems? If the latter, the Ramakrishnan and Gehrke book (the "cow book") is really good: fairly broad coverage, but very well-written and precise. I haven't read the Date book.


Some hardcore / research-level books are:

The "red book": Readings in Database Systems, which is a collection of basic papers from the field. This is used by DB programs in top schools (eg. Berkeley).

The "Jim Gray book": Transaction Processing. Look up Jim Gray to see why this may be worth looking into.


Transaction Processing: Concepts and Techniques (Jim Gray & Andreas Reuter) isn't just one of the best database textbooks, it is one of the best computer science textbooks. It is an Important Work.

On the other books, it depends on what you want. Alternatives to Date include Jeffrey Ullman, "Principles of Database and knowledge-base Systems" and "Foundations of Databases" by Abiteboul, Hull and Vianu.

As an introductory book, I like Database: Principles, Programming, Performance by Patrick O'Neil.

For more on transaction processing, as well as Jim Gray there is Philip Bernstein, eg "Principles of Transaction Processing".

Following the references is a lot of fun; see where you end up.


In addition to whatever textbook you decide on you should read Bill Kent's "Data and Reality" to widen your awareness of the profound difficulties involved in stuffing messy reality into a collection of bits. See http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=... and http://www.bkent.net/Doc/darxrp.htm.


Here is a vote for "Database Management Systems" by Ramakrishnan and Gehrke

I learned from this book. I also know a few graduate students who studied databases (or some varient) and they continued to use this book throughout their studies.

(I know nothing of the other book though, so this is a one-sided view)


Thanks very much to everyone for their input.




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