Understanding database design is no easy task. It requires a deeper knowledge of the SQL language along with how to structure data.
Thankfully some very smart programmers have written countless books on this topic to help beginners dive into database management for websites.
The Best Database Design Books
I’ve curated the best picks here in this list and they range from absolute beginner-level books up to more advanced concepts & DB engines. Take a look over these titles and see if any jump out.
I’ve seen a lot of beginner SQL books and most are fantastic. But some people just want a plain English guide to SQL which is surprisingly hard to find.
Yet that’s exactly what Easy SQL Programming & Database Management For Beginners offers in its 194-page tome of information. It is one of the most detailed books on this subject yet it’s written in a way that pertains directly to beginners.
Learning SQL is usually the first step of mastering database management. From there you’ll pick up different engines and toy around to build real projects.
This is crucial for anyone who wants to build their own framework or use an existing one like WordPress.
If you’re just getting into IT/tech with server management then I highly recommend a copy of this book. It won’t teach you everything but it’ll help you understand the basics without getting too frustrated.
Another alternative to learning SQL for web development is Sams Teach Yourself SQL. This book is specifically designed for beginners so it’s written in a way that should be easy to follow.
It totals just shy of 300 pages and it’s full of code snippets that are easy to use, easy to customize, and plenty of great reference materials.
Although for exercise content this does not feel strictly like a web development book. It teaches SQL for any purpose whether this is for building mobile applications, enterprise software, or a custom website.
Every major relational database engine supports SQL so it’s well worth learning. And if you’re not sure how to go from novice to expert this book has you covered.
Before you pick up SQL you may want to learn more about database management and how data storage works as a whole. That’s where Databases: A Beginner’s Guide can really help.
This book features very clear examples of Microsoft Access DB’s along with more detailed engines like Oracle and MySQL. You’ll learn through examples and made-up projects to see how database storage works in the real world.
Later chapters even include small Q&A sections with professional database administrators. They share their thoughts about the process and how it all works.
Throughout the entire book you will find plenty of exercises you can do on your own but they aren’t mandatory. However they will radically improve your knowledge as a developer so I really recommend trying them.
Either way this book is a godsend for anyone trying to understand databases in the real world. It certainly won’t make you an expert but it’ll take you out of that dreaded newbie stage.
If you do start with the beginner’s guide above you may want a smaller intro to SQL to go along with it.
SQL QuickStart Guide is not a very detailed book with only 76 pages. It does not cover SQL in extreme depth nor will it make you an expert.
What it will do is teach you SQL fast and get you comfortable with the language quickly. It’s by far one of the best intro guides because the writing is simple and easy to follow. You do not need any prior SQL or coding experience.
Really I recommend this for absolute beginners who don’t understand the value or purpose of SQL queries. You can run through these lessons quickly and even reference them as you get confused. It’s not the perfect guide to database SQL design but it will get you moving in the right direction.
And if you pair this with the previous intro guide to databases you’ll have a much easier time moving into an advanced book or a more technical web project.
Most web developers start with MySQL engines and Murach’s MySQL is the best way to learn this.
Currently in its 2nd edition this book totals 600+ pages and tons of lessons for beginners, intermediates, and even some experts who need to fill in the gaps.
I’ve found a lot of value from many different Murach books and this one is no different. It’s the best primer on MySQL that you’ll find anywhere and it’s easily one of the most detailed reference guides on practical real-world workflows.
Need to understand how to run custom queries or how to setup different datatypes? This book has you covered with more information than you’ll know what to do with.
If you’re daring enough to try this book then you probably have a great career ahead of you. Seven Databases in Seven Weeks touches upon 7 specific database engines:
Throughout each chapter you’ll learn more about the engine and how it works. You’ll figure out practice problems to help advance your skills and how to move forward with database management.
Granted this book is not perfect so it doesn’t really get into great detail. It’s more like a primer on various database engines, what makes them so great, and which types of projects work best for them.
All the best database admins are willing to learn new technology and push forward in that direction. If you’re ready to dive into tons of databases at once this book will undeniably improve your skillset.
Not to mention these lessons can push you towards practice projects that’ll look great on any resume.
Two of the easiest places to start with web development is PHP and MySQL. The backend language PHP dates back to the 90s and has cemented itself in modern web development as the most popular web programming language.
It works hand-in-hand with MySQL since many web hosts come with a PHP/MySQL setup. If you’re hoping to learn both and starting developing websites the grab a copy of PHP & MySQL: Novice to Ninja.
It’ll walk you through all the fundamentals of this pairing and how you should structure your code. It reads much like an intro guide to both engines so as you’re learning to code PHP you’ll learn how to connect it into MySQL.
This will prove undeniably valuable over time because modern PHP developers are in high demand. If you can manage a database and write great code you’ll be that much more valuable to a team.
But it’s just as useful for personal projects too whether you’re coding from scratch or editing some WordPress content. Either way a fantastic book to dive into the PHP/MySQL environment.
Never designed a database before & feeling a bit anxious? The process can be very technical but with the right learning materials you’ll have no trouble moving forward.
My recommendation is the book Beginning Database Design: From Novice to Professional for its clear writing style and tutorial-style teaching method.
It’s a fairly older book and it totals about 250 pages so it’s not the most detailed either. But it does cover how database design works and how you should think about data structures for your own applications.
There is no perfect way to create a database so you need to be open to try a lot of things. That’s what makes this book so awesome and so valuable for beginners.
Anyone who’s looking to get into database design needs a copy of this on their desk. It’ll prove invaluable for years to come and it’s one of the best books on this subject with tutorials to guide you along the learning path.
So far I’ve mostly talked about relational databases that use SQL code. But there are many databases called NoSQL DBs which do not use that structure.
If you’re looking to get into that side of database management I recommend a copy of NoSQL Distilled.
It is by far one of the most detailed books you can get for NoSQL designs, structures, and data management. Yet it reads just like an introductory book so you don’t need any prior experience here to get started.
Early chapters talk about schemaless data models and how these fit into a modern workflow. Then you’ll slowly move away from theory into more practical examples of database design techniques.
These can include practice projects and simple tutorials using many different database engines like MongoDB and Cassandra.
If you’re looking at DB management as a career then definitely consider a copy of this book. It’s the best way to pick up NoSQL from scratch without struggling through all the foreign concepts.
Speaking on NoSQL DBs it makes sense to dive into some books covering NoSQL setups.
PostgreSQL: Up and Running teaches the Postgres environment which uses a combo of NoSQL and relational data.
It’s one of the more popular choices for enterprise projects but it certainly isn’t a perfect database. Postgres has a large learning curve so you’ll spend a lot of time practicing different ideas till they make sense.
The publisher O’Reilly has many DB books and this is perhaps one of their best. It covers Postgres from a beginner’s mindset so you’re not diving into this confused and annoyed.
Instead the writing style is super clear and you’ll work through basic step-by-step examples of installing, customizing, and learning the overall Postgres environment.
An excellent choice for anyone serious about DB management with Postgres.
Another really popular choice is the SQLite database engine. This has grown a lot in the past few years and it’s currently one of the most popular NoSQL DBs you can get.
Using SQLite again comes from O’Reilly and it’s a brilliant book for beginners or intermediates to get started. Even if you already know your way through MySQL or another similar engine, this book can throw you for a loop.
You’ll learn about typical database configurations and how to organize data properly. This does include a primer on the SQL language but also covers a lot of simple fundamental topics quickly.
So this isn’t really useful for absolute beginners since it glosses over the fundamentals fast.
Instead I recommend this for users who already know a good amount on DB management and want to dive into the NoSQL side of things.
Microsoft’s infamous SQL Server is always expanding with new features. Keeping up can be a real pain since you’re constantly on the lookout for tutorials and guides, not to mention the hottest new patches from Redmond.
If you’re not sure where to start I recommend Murach’s SQL Server 2016 for Developers.
This book is very detailed and it comes from the Murach library so the writing is thorough.
In this massive 670-page guide you’ll learn how to install, configure, customize and deploy massive SQL Server environments. This includes a good amount on web development but it’s really a generalist’s book at heart.
Anyone brand new to the SQL Server environment should grab a copy of this book. It probably won’t make you an expert but it’ll help you take quite a few steps in that direction.
There’s no hotter DB engine right now than Mongo. It has grown wildly popular since its release in 2009.
If you’re looking to hop onto the Mongo train then the best place to start is with MongoDB in Action. It’s a very detailed guide to the Mongo environment with full revisions for the newest Mongo 3.x release.
But it still reads just like a beginners guide so you don’t need to know anything about prior versions of Mongo to get started.
If you’re familiar with NoSQL this is a huge plus since Mongo doesn’t follow the relational database structure. Yet it works phenomenally well on the web for webapps or even native mobile app design.
I highly recommend this book for any serious web developer looking to move into Mongo. It won’t be an easy read but you’ll learn so much in the process.
Last but certainly not least is the SitePoint guide Build Your Own Database Driven Web Site Using PHP & MySQL.
This huge 360-page reference book is the perfect way to truly master web development over databases. Anyone getting started really should use PHP for its simplicity and massive support base, and that’s exactly why this book is so great.
You can start with zero experience and work through these lessons fast.
You’ll probably get stuck along the way but with helpful coding sites like Stack Overflow you should be able to solve your problems fast.
And by the end you’ll not only understand how to install PHP/MySQL but you’ll also know how to customize it and configure it to run in any environment. Plus the practice projects are sure to radically improve your web development skills & overall knowledge of database management.