Select Star SQL
Front Matter


When I was a data scientist at Quora, I used to have people ask me for resources for learning SQL. I struggled to find something I could stand behind because I felt that a good resource had to be free, not require registration, and care about pedagogy—it had to genuinely care about its users and there was nothing like that around.

By overcoming some minor technical hurdles, I believe that Select Star SQL has met this standard. My hope is that like Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! and Beautiful Racket have done for Haskell and Racket, Select Star SQL will become the best place on the internet for learning SQL.


These principles have guided the design of this project:


Our dataset documents Texas death row inmates executed from 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, to the present. It was extracted from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website using automatic means where possible. However, much of the pre-1995 data is only available as images of physical documents and these required painstaking manual extraction.

The raw data is available as a csv for download. Because of the manual extraction and cleaning that was done, it is probably the most complete set of Texas death row data on the internet. You can also explore a subset of it that I’ve prepared for this book:

On one level, the data is simply a part of a mundane programming book. On another, each row represents immense suffering, lives lost, and in some cases amazing redemption and acceptance. In preparing for this dataset, I was deeply moved by a number of the statements and found myself re-evaluating my position on capital punishment. I hope that as we examine the data, you too will contemplate the deeper issues at play.


Credits and Contact

For corrections and suggestions, please write me (Kao) at You can find out more about me at Kaomorphism.

Noam Castel and Jowan Vogel did an amazing job on the Hebrew and Dutch translations. Please reach out to them for kudos and suggestions, or if you are interested translating it into other languages.

Much thanks to Sonja Lea Heinze, Quinn Batten, and Nicholas Retallack for providing valuable feedback.