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Career Book Reviews

By Andy Warren,

More book reviews! Only two SQL books in this batch, but I try to read a few things that aren't SQL to broaden my horizons from time to time and thought you might see something here that would open a door for you. Too far off topic? Let me know what you think.

The Cubicle Survival Guide by James Thompson ($11 at Amazon)

Billed as the book to teach you 'Keeping Your Cool in the Least Hospitable Environment on Earth', it's a humorous presentation of some tips for surviving life in a cube combined with a lot of general office etiquette suggestions. It has some common sense content which is useful, especially for those new to office life. Things I learned or thought more about based on the book:

  • Humor can be distracting. There were times I had to skip ahead because the humor was annoying me. I knew it was a humor approach going in of course, but it just didn't work for me. And yes, I'd like to think I have a sense of humor!
  • It's important to remember that visitors will assess you based on your wall hangings and other decorations, so while it's fun (and important I'd say) to personalize your environment you should temper that with a touch of political correctness just to avoid getting off on the wrong foot by accident.

Becoming a Technical Leader by Gerald Weinberg ($30 from Amazon)

This is an older book, published in 1986, that I read because it was listed in another book I read. Portions are dated, but it's an interesting book nonetheless. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading some other books from the author. It's going to be mainly of interest to experienced managers. Beginning managers and prospective managers will be better served by reading something with more straight forward how-to type stuff. It's worth reading. Interesting points from the book:

  • The author discusses that in order to make a leap in skill it's almost always necessary to step back from your current approach and try something new, and that initially the new approach will almost always be less efficient, but over time if you've done a good assessment you'll have taken a step forward. Zen?
  • The other one was the premise is that we tend to react to situations based on rules we've constructed for ourselves over a lifetime of experience. The author describes a event that led him to understand a rule he had formed early in life (age 10!) was overly broad. Rather than throw out the rule, he decided that he needed a supplement to the rule to make it more effective. I think this speaks to the challenge we all face as we grow and age. Do we stick to viewpoints we developed early in life, or do we evolve our view points as we grow and experience new things?

SQL Server 2005 DBA Street Smarts Joseph Jorden $22 from Amazon)

I bought this book based on a recommendation posted in reply to an earlier set of book reviews. It's a certification prep book that focuses on exam 70-431. It teaches you skills by having you step through about 60 different exercises. It's well written and I think the exercises are useful. Microsoft exams typically focus on very high level topics and new features, but they still expect that you've done the tasks and will often have obscure questions that you're only going to answer if you've done the work. I haven't taken this exam yet, but will use this book as part of my preparation if I decide to. I've always studied using more traditional exam books so it would be interesting to see how this approach works out.

  • If anyone has used this for exam prep I'd enjoy hearing some feedback (without breaking the NDA please!)

Murachs's SQL Server 2005 For Developers by Bryan Syverson and Joel Murach ($33 from Amazon)

This book tries to teach the SQL skills that developers need to survive. Not that this isn't an ADO/ADO.Net, it's about creating databases, managing permissions, creating stored procedures, etc. It's a large book (8-1/2x11 and 700 pages) that is easy to read and is well illustrated. Most developers will need a subset of the skills in the book, but I think it's a good reference book that would be useful for the developer who is at the beginner to intermediate level as far as SQL 2005. The interesting part about books is you never know what you'll or relearn, or realize based on something being presented a different way. Things I noted from my read:

  • I don't use the SOME and ANY portions of TSQL. Not sure that I should, but I can see that I've fallen into the rut of using a subset of the features available. Heck, might be time to read a Celko book!
  • On a similar note, I don't think I knew that the 'from' in 'delete from sometable' was optional. I've always specified the from and think it reads a little better. Doesn't matter in the end of course.
  • I was a little disappointed with the coverage of dynamic sql. It focuses on exec() and has no coverage of sp_executesql, the latter being important to getting reusable plans. It also doesn't cover the risks of sql injection or how to guard against it.






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