Practical SQL, 2nd Edition
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Shortly after joining the staff of USA Today, I received a dataset that I would analyze almost every week for the next decade. It was the weekly Best-Selling Books list, which ranked the nation’s top-selling titles based on confidential sales data. Not only did the list produce an endless stream of story ideas to pitch, it also captured the zeitgeist of America in a singular way.
Did you know that cookbooks sell a bit more during the week of Mother’s Day or that Oprah Winfrey turned many obscure writers into number-one best-selling authors just by having them on her show? Every week, the book list editor and I pored over the sales figures and book genres, ranking the data in search of a new headline. Rarely did we come up empty: we chronicled everything from the rocket-rise of the blockbuster Harry Potter series to the fact that Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss had become a perennial gift for new graduates.
My technical companion in that time was the database programming language SQL (for Structured Query Language). Early on, I convinced USA Today’s IT department to grant me access to the SQL-based database system that powered our book list application. Using SQL, I was able to discover the stories hidden in the database, which contained sales data related to titles, authors, genres, and the codes that defined the publishing world.
SQL has been useful to me ever since, whether my role was in product development, in content strategy, or, lately, as a data editor for the Wall Street Journal. In each case, SQL has helped me find interesting stories in data—and that’s exactly what you’ll learn to do using this book.