Inside the Data Reading Room

With today’s post I am beginning a recurring series on the books that I am reading and using as a data professional. The goal of these posts is to introduce you to new and classic books on data technology and database systems. Along the way, I will also touch upon other books that fall outside this realm, but might interest you anyway.

That said, the first book off the shelf in the Data Reading Room today is the third, and latest edition of the classic book Database Design for Mere Mortals by Michael J. Hernandez (ISBN 978-0-321-88449-7). Although there are quite a number of database design books on the market, this book by Hernandez is my current favorite. It does a very nice job of tackling the concepts and requirements of database design for the novice — and offering expert advice and organization for the more advanced reader.

The book consists of four broad parts, each one covering an essential component of the overall discipline of database design. This first part, Relational Database Design, kicks off with historical and introductory concepts and introduces the importance of a well thought out mehodology for designing databases.

The second part, The Design Process, digs into the actual process of  database design. The reader is introduced to key topics and terminology including concepts such as table structures, primary keys, relationships, views, and data integrity mechanisms.

The third part, Other Database Design Issues, is actually more interesting than its pedestrian title suggests. It clarifies and describes what bad database design looks like, how to avoid it, and when you might want to consider bending the rules (after all, every rule was designed to be broken, right?)

The fourth and final part and consists of Appendixes, including a summary of design guidelines, example forms, diagram symbols, checklists, and more.

If you are looking for a book to teach database design — or to be used as a research and reference guide — look no further…  Database Design for Mere Mortals by Michael J. Hernandez (published in 2013) is the book you should choose.

Another new book in the Data Reading Room this month is Ralph Hughes’ Agile Data Warehouse Project Management (ISBN: 978-0-12-396463-2). This book addresses the challenge of managing a data warehouse project and asserts that agile techniques can be used to successfully drive warehousing projects.

Data warehousing projects are different than other software development projects and, as such, should be approached using different development and management techniques and processes. The book is not another “what is data warehousing” book nor is it another “agile development” book. Instead, it marries the two together and shows the reader how data warehousing can succeed using agile project management techniques (such as Scrum).

The author explains how a project team using Scrum can help to achieve a quicker time to delivery and reduced costs — the holy grail of project management. Anyone who has worked on a data warehousing project knows that it can be a monumental undertaking. Agile Data Warehouse Project Management by Ralph Hughes (published in 2013) offers up an approach that can minimize challenges and improve the chance of successful delivery. And that is worth reading if you are currently, or about to start working on a warehouse project don’t you think?

The next book off the shelves in the Data Reading Room is Turning Numbers Into Knowledge 2nd ed by Jonathan G. Koomey Ph.D. Though not technically a book about data, this charming and easy-to-read book offers up problem-solving techniques that will benefit every data professional.

Such a book is desperately needed because it clarifies what it means to be literate regarding data and information. The author does a fine job of describing why the book is important in the “Why You Should Read This Book” blurb near the front of the book. In it, he states “Mastering the art of problem solving takes more than proficiency with basic calculations: it requires (among other things) understanding how people use information,recognizing the importance of ideology, learning the art of story telling and acknowledging the important distinction of facts and values.”

The book contains many tips and tricks for solving problems in the real world. It will improve your ability to judge the assertions of others and to develop reasoned assessments based upon your own analysis of information.

Indeed, Koomey’s Turning Numbers Into Knowledge (published in 2008) is well worth the time to seek out and read.

Finally, if you are a fan of Star Trek (The Original Series) you will be hard-pressed to find a book more fun than Star Trek: The Original Series 365 by Paula M. Block with Terry J. Erdmann.

The odd-sized book offers up comprehensive coverage of the entire series as it dissects each episode. The photos are stunning, the commentary is interesting and the presentation is beautiful. Even long-time fans of the show may learn new things from the behind-the-scenes stories and writer interviews that are collected in this tome.

And that concludes our first trip to the Data Reading Room. Hopefully you found the trip interesting and perhaps you will check out one or more of the books we’ve examined… Until next time, happy reading and high quality data to all!

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About craig@craigsmullins.com

I'm a strategist, researcher, and consultant with nearly three decades of experience in all facets of database systems development.
This entry was posted in books, business intelligence, data, database design, information. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Inside the Data Reading Room

  1. Brushwood says:

    NC404Y Hey, thanks for the blog article.

    Thanks Again. Cool.

  2. Rosanne I. Mccray says:

    I bought this book to learn some more formal concepts of database design; for work. It is an excellent book, definitely buy this.

  3. Erma M. Foley says:

    A similar tension exists in choosing examples to illustrate particular points. There are many rules about what constitutes good database design, but often following the rules serves to complicate the example and make it harder to understand. Within this book we will focus on examples that illustrate well the point under discussion, and trust the reader to understand that design choices in the examples that are incidental to the topic in question are not necessarily to be followed.

  4. Pingback: Inside the Data Reading Room: Summer 2013 Edition | Data and Technology Today

  5. Bernard says:

    Hi there everyone, it’s my first pay a visit at this web site, and paragraph is truly fruitful in support of me, keep up posting such articles or reviews.

  6. Pingback: Inside the Data Reading Room: Late Summer 2013 Edition | Data and Technology Today

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