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Keywords: Database, SQL, relational theory, computer science
Title: The Relational Database Dictionary
Author: C.J. Date
Verdict: A valuable reference.
A working knowledge of relational databases is pretty much essential for every active developer, regardless of platform, programming language or business domain. For most developers a basic knowledge of SQL and some understanding of database structure is usually enough. However, for the database professional working with enterprise applications, there's a completely different level of understanding required. CJ Date, author of one of the standard textbooks on database theory (An Introduction to Database Systems), and one of the founders of the relational model, has put together this 'Relational Database Dictionary'.
It's a relatively slim little volume but it contains over 600 entries covering all aspects of relational theory and practice. Many of the definitions include illustrative examples and commentary where appropriate. The language is often terse and mathematical precise, though it falls short of the strict mathematical notation you'd find in an academic journal. However, for many readers the concision and the formality might be something of a barrier.
For database professionals, researchers, designers of RDBMS systems and academics the rigour of the definitions and the formality of the treatment is likely to be the major attraction of the book. Note that as with Date's other book for O'Reilly (Database In Depth), his strong views on certain aspects of database theory and its relationship to SQL and RDBMS implementations injects a certain ideological note into some of his definitions.
Whatever else this book is, it's not really designed for the casual programmer who wants to string together some SQL to join a couple of tables. For those seeking precise and unambiguous definitions of relational database terms and concepts, this book is definitely the place to look.