Its not very often that I get a technical book to come across my desk that makes me smile just from the cover. A Manga Guide to Databases seems absurd, as a concept. Seems overly cute as a book and a cover graphic. But could the concept actually work? Kids these days have cartoons teaching them about absolutely everything so why not comics doing the same. Thinking about this book and this series from No Starch press as Schoolhouse Rock for Adults helps too. I have a couple other books by No Starch with my favorite being The Guide to Overclocking.
The author Mana Takahashi and Illustrator Shoko Azuma have structured this book in a very logical way, but managed to weave a lesson into the story as well. The concept, comic art as instruction takes a bit of getting used to if you are used to strict technical manuals.
Specifically if you enjoy a good graphic novel now and then you are used to the way text is portrayed in the panel, there are two different types of text usually. First you have Speech and thoughts, and secondly you have Onomatopoeia, ie the POW, BIFF and SPLATs of the world. With the Manga Guides you need to add a third category which encompasses instructions into that world. After you get over the fact that everything in the panel isn’t meant to be read as part of the story narrative the book goes down smooth.
Overall the story is engaging enough to keep people who fall asleep while reading normal technical guides from doing so. yet not so overly cutesy or irritating to stop anyone else from reading it.
We follow Princess Ruruna who with the king and queen away, has to manage the Kingdom of Kod’s fruit-selling business. Tico the fairy appears to teach the Princess how to simplify her life with some good old fashion data management. This book brings someone from a complete 0 up to perfect speed with what databases are and how they operate. It gives good lessons on crafting SQL statements to search through your databases, and troubleshoot problems that may arise.
Rent or Own:
I judge all books based on whether or not you should buy them or take them out of the library. This book has all the making of a great reference book especially for beginners because it doesn’t just have comic art throughout the book. The chapters are actually bookended with normal text and charts explaining some of the more detailed concepts in the larger narrative. Without these segments this book would have been a great way to bring someone up to speed, but the inclusion of these makes for a wonderful little reference guide to learning database structure. I have my copy marked yup with tabs indicating where these sections are.
So if you are a database novice this would easily fit into the own category, while if you are more of the technical wizard you might just want to read it for a fun refresher.
This is a fun book, there is no denying that. The entire series does have a very clear target for the audience it is aimed at, people who technical book usually bore or fail. Which is quite a lot of people. The dirty little secret about technical books is that they are not only supposed to be dry but that no one really enjoys reading them. All that changes with the Managa guide series, the author is an expert on the subject and somehow manages to slip a little learning into an otherwise engaging and silly managa. If you’re in the market to learn more about databases and you hate normal tech books this is a great pickup.
The Manga Guide to Databases
by Mana Takahashi, Shoko Azuma, and Trend-pro Co., Ltd.
January 2009, 224 pp
ISBN 9781593271909, $19.95 USD