Monday, February 12, 2024

Review: PostgreSQL 16 Administration Cookbook

This book, published in December 2023 by packt, is the latest incarnation of a book originally principally authored by Simon Riggs, and brought up to date for PostgreSQL 16 by my EDB colleagues Gianni Ciolli,  Boriss Mej√≠as, Jimmy Angelakos and Vibhor Kumar. It's available in both hard copy and electronic format. For review purposes, the publisher provided me with one of each. DBAs will probably find the electronic format more useful because of the ability to cut and paste from it. And in these days of devops, where just about every developer is their own DBA to some extent, the book should appeal to a wide audience of PostgreSQL users.

Books like this don't necessarily aim to be comprehensive guides, but rather to provide a toolbox full of useful tips and recipes. And this book is chock full of them. They cover topics relating to pretty much every aspect of PostgreSQL administration, from installation to maintenance to troubleshooting. And the book is pretty reliable. That's not surprising to me, as I know these authors to be fairly meticulous in their attention to detail.  When I'm given a book to review I usually start by looking at areas where I have pretty good knowledge already. All too often I find errors that are egregious or just plain careless. I can report that I didn't find any errors beyond an insignificant typo or two. This book is pretty solid, and I'm happy to recommend it.

I do have a few relatively minor criticisms. First, the layout could be improved. A horizontal bar between recipes would be useful. Simply using a slightly larger font for recipe headings doesn't make it easy enough to see where one topic ends and another starts. Better visual clues would be good. If that increases the book's length, maybe they could also save some by removing the repetitious "Learn more on Discord" Section at the end of each chapter.

More substantially, some topics are covered in such little detail as to be not very useful. For example, the section of Foreign Data Wrappers is very sparse, as is the section that mentions Prometheus and Grafana. It might be better to have less recipes but with more useful information.

Finally, it is odd to read things stated in the first person singular in a book with multiple authors. I imagine this is a holdover from earlier incarnations of the book, but it still feels strange. If it's going to be kept then the reader should be told whose voice this is.  But in general I think it would be better to use "we" and "our" instead of "I" and "my".

None of this should deter you from buying the book. If you're a PostgreSQL developer or administrator you are highly likely to find useful gems of information in this book.