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I am a student that is about to take an independent study class on SQL Server management. I would like some suggestions for textbooks that could guide me. I will be expected to install and configure SQL Server 2008 in a Windows Server 2008 environment and provide tools (scripts) to administer a database for future students.

I've reviewed the Murach book, and it doesn't seem to go into enough depth.

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The problem with textbooks in this context, is that most schools don't teach "SQL Server 2008 in Windows 2008" for the simple reason that, when you graduate, you'll need to know "SQL Server 2012, on Windows 12" and they'll have taught you nothing.

I've never read the Murach book, but I'll tell you right now, any book that says you'll learn: "How to create complex inner and outer joins, summary queries, and subqueries..." has nothing that a professional would find useful in it...that doesn't even fall in the scope of a MSSQL server book, imho...That's DBA territory.

You're going to need to go out and hit the "MSSQL 2008 for Dummies" section of your local bookstore. That's the sort of place you'll find tech manuals that deal with software-specific configuration issues. I'd recommend "Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Internals"; it's not a bad book. Don't buy a book on Windows Server 2008: unless you're setting up AD on it, you won't need it.

What you will find, very quickly, is that it is very easy to do very easy things, and very difficult to do everything else. The online documentation is horrible; they hired savants who know the exact example that would help you understand their cryptic instructions, and they ruthlessly expunge all those examples from their site, choosing instead to use ones that are so simple, so wholly idiotic, you'd never have needed them, or so esoteric you don't know why ANYONE would have needed them.

The visual studio tools (which damn well BETTER come with the software) are very nice. If you don't know a lot of VB scripting, you're going to need to learn to love the "Business Intelligence Development Studio": it's ornery and picky, but it's better than nothing.

There is no substitute for just installing it and playing with it. You can't even have good questions until you've seen it running. It's very easy to set up: just stick the disks in and go.

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Thanks for the reply, I'll look into your book suggestions. Looks like my poor home system is going to be a tri-boot. –  user38946 Mar 27 '10 at 16:34

T-SQL Fundamentals by Itzik Ben-Gan is an excellent resource. Being familiar with T-SQL really helps leverage any other book, as you want to understand what is happening with example scripts and maintenance scripts without getting lost in the weeds, and feel comfortable creating your own scripts for testing.

If you are interested in a book that focuses on system administration, you may like the following:

SQL Server 2008 Administration In Action
http://www.amazon.com/dp/193398872X

The Microsoft site has very good resources for deep dives on SQL. Here are a few good ones:

Disk Partition Alignment Best Practices for SQL Server
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd758814.aspx

Understanding and Using PowerShell Support in SQL Server 2008
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd938892.aspx

(That one is a bit tedious, but given the role of PowerShell integration in SQL, it is useful)

SQL Server 2008 Upgrade Technical Reference Guide
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=66d3e6f5-6902-4fdd-af75-9975aea5bea7

(You're probably not upgrading but there is a wealth of information in that last document).

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