Emil's Reviews > Database Systems: The Complete Book

Database Systems by Jeffrey D. Ullman
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liked it

I've read all kinds of negative reviews about this book.
Most of them refer to it as boring; poorly written; too teoretical, so
I was skeptical about reading the book, but I had to as it is the book used in my university course in database systems.

The way I see it here are the strong and weak sides of the book.
(I've only read it half through).

Strong sides:
1) The best thing in the book is that the information in structured in small sections and it is easy to find information on a certain subject. (That being said, though, the book is not good for a reference material - it's more of a textbook.)

2) My point of view is that the book is actually not poorly written. The explanations are clear and their only downside is they are too exhaustive and detailed sometimes.

3) There's a summary after every chapter which really helps in the learning process (and you don't have to read it if you don't need to).

4) Although examples are frequently kind of stupid, at least they are simple and you get the idea.

5) The book teaches you what are some different ways to model data in a very accessible fashion. It also teaches the design process, and there is a section on good design principles (which are mostly obvious, but not always) and the design process.

Weak sides:
1) References throughout the book - for example you are reading on a certain topic and then the author gives an example which involves a figure that is tens of pages back in the book; and the figure turns out to be a 4-line CREATE TABLE clause. I guess they really got into the idea that they need to avoid repeating themselves (but hey, this is a programming/design principle, plus this is the book that repeats all kinds of other stuff throught the book).

2) Some technical inaccuracies may occur. I'm not giving proof, beacause I am too lazy, but I have the feeling that the authors see most things as black and white - like there's no other option or opinion. Again, this is not a completely valid point of mine.

EDIT: an example: in the Datalog chapter, there's a recursive rule that searches for all pairs of cities that are reachable through airflights. But the author fails to point out that this would only work if the graph of reachability has no cycles. Otherwise, all the rules in the sections on recursion would go down in infinite recursion.

3) Other inaccuracies like for example in the diagram labeled "Components of the database system" contains buffer manager and storage manager as obviously two seperate components, but later in the same chapter, the author refers to the buffer manager as a component of the storage manager. Stuff like that.

4) Really too exhaustive explanations. Instead of reading them, try to figure out the examples on your own first.

5) Somewhat poor design of the pages and figure/boxes placement.

Although not a great book, I really feel I have learned a lot about databases.
But if you have choice I would recommend finding another book.
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Finished Reading
January 29, 2010 – Shelved

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