Table of Content

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Each part of The Art of PostgreSQL can be read on its own, or you can read this book from the first to the last page in the order of the parts and chapters therein. A great deal of thinking have been put in the ordering of the parts, so that reading “The Art of PostgreSQL” in a linear fashion should provide the best experience.

The skill progression throughout the book is not linear. Each time a new SQL concept is introduced, it is presented with simple enough queries, in order to make it possible to focus on the new notion. Then, more queries are introduced to answer more interesting business questions.

Complexity of the queries usually advances over the course of a given part, chapter after chapter. Sometimes, when a new chapter introduces a new SQL concept, complexity is reset to very simple queries again. That’s because for most people, learning a new skill set does not happen in a linear way. Having this kind of difficulty organisation also makes it easier to dive into a given chapter out-of-order.

Here’s a breakdown of what each chapter contains:

Part 1, Preface

The preface is a presentation of the book and what to expect from it.

Part 2, Introduction

The introduction of this book intends to convince application developers such as you, dear reader, that there’s more to SQL than you might think. It begins with a very simple data set and simple enough queries, that we compare to their equivalent Python code. Then we expand from there with a very important trick that’s not well known, and a pretty advanced variation of it.

Part 3, Writing SQL Queries

The third part of the book covers how to write a SQL query as an application developer. We answer several important questions here:

  • Why using SQL rather than your usual programming language?
  • How to integrate SQL in your application source code?
  • How to work at the SQL prompt, the psql REPL?
  • What’s an indexing strategy and how to approach indexing?

A simple Python application is introduced as a practical example illustrating the different answers provided. In particular, this part insists on when to use SQL to implement business logic.

Part 3 concludes with an interview with Yohan Gabory, author of a French book that teaches how to write advanced web application with Python and Django.

Part 4, SQL Toolbox

The fourth part of The Art of PostgreSQL introduces most of the SQL concepts that you need to master as an application developer. It begins with the basics, because you need to build your knowledge and skill set on-top of those foundations.

Advanced SQL concepts are introduced with practical examples: every query refers to a data model that’s easy to understand, and is given in the context of a “business case”, or “user story”.

This part covers SQL clauses and features such as ORDER BY and k-NN sorts, the GROUP BY and HAVING clause and GROUPING SETS, along with classic and advanced aggregates, and then window functions. This part also covers the infamous NULL, and what’s a relation and a join.

Part 5 concludes with an interview with Markus Winand, author of “SQL Performance explained” and http://use-the-index-luke.com. Markus is a master of the SQL standard and he is a wizard on using SQL to enable fast application delivery and solid run-time performances!

Part 5, Data Types

The fifth part of this book covers the main PostgreSQL data types you can use and benefit from as an application developer. PostgreSQL is an ORDBMS: Object-Oriented Relation Database Manager. As a result, data types in PostgreSQL are not just the classics numbers, dates, and text. There’s more to it, and this part covers a lot of ground.

Part 5 concludes with an interview with Grégoire Hubert, author of the POMM project, which provides developers with unlimited access to SQL and database features while proposing a high-level API over low-level drivers.

Part 6, Data Modeling

The sixth part of The Art of PostgreSQL covers the basics of relational data modeling, which is the most important skill you need to master as an application developer. Given a good database model, every single SQL query is easy to write, things are kept logical, and data is kept clean. With a bad design… well my guess is that you’ve seen what happens with a not-great data model already, and in many cases that’s the root of developers’ dislike for the SQL language.

This part comes late in the book for a reason: without knowledge of some of the advanced SQL facilities, it’s hard to anticipate that a data model is going to be easy enough to work with, and developers then tend to apply early optimizations to the model to try to simplify writing the code. Well, most of those optimizations are detrimental to our ability to benefit from SQL.

Part 6 concludes with an interview with Álvaro Hernández Tortosa, who built the ToroDB project, a MongoDB replica solution based on PostgreSQL! His take on relational database modeling when compared to NoSQL and document based technologies and APIs is the perfect conclusion of the database modeling part.

Part 7, Data Manipulation and Concurrency Control

The seventh part of this book covers DML and concurrency, the heart of any live database. DML stands for “Data Manipulation Language”: it’s the part of SQL that includes INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE statements.

The main feature of any RDBMS is how it deals with concurrent access to a single data set, in both reading and writing. This part covers isolation and locking, computing and caching in SQL complete with cache invalidation techniques, and more.

Part 7 concludes with an interview with Kris Jenkins, a functional programmer and open-source enthusiast. He mostly works on building systems in Elm, Haskell & Clojure, improving the world one project at a time, and he’s the author of the YeSQL library.

Part 8, PostgreSQL Extensions

The eighth part of The Art of PostgreSQL covers a selection of very useful PostgreSQL Extensions and their impact on simplifying application development when using PostgreSQL.

We cover auditing changes with hstore, the pg_trgm extension to implement auto-suggestions and auto-correct in your application search forms, user-defined tags and how to efficiently use them in search queries, and then we use ip4r for implementing geolocation oriented features. Finally, hyperloglog is introduced to solve a classic problem with high cardinality estimates and how to combine them.

Part 8 concludes with an interview with Craig Kerstiens who heads the Cloud team at Citus Data (now part of Microsoft), after having been involved in PostgreSQL support at Heroku. Craig shares his opinion about using PostgreSQL extensions when deploying your application using a cloud-based PostgreSQL solution.

Closing Thoughts

I have written The Art Of PostgreSQL so that as a developer, you may think of SQL as a full-blown programming language. Some of the problems that we have to solve as developers are best addressed using SQL.

Not just any SQL will do: PostgreSQL is the world’s most advanced open source database. I like to say that PostgreSQL is YeSQL as a pun, which compares it favorably to many NoSQL solutions out there. PostgreSQL delivers the whole SQL experience with advanced data processing functionality and document-based approaches.

The Art Of PostgreSQL introduces many SQL features, so that you can replace thousands of lines of code with simple queries! For that to happen, all you have to do is buy the book, read the book, and then practice. Practice everyday.

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.

Anton Chekhov

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