Monday, August 8, 2011

The Python Standard Library by Example: A Review

Paperback: 1344 pages
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1st edition (June 11, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0321767349
ISBN-13: 978-0321767349

Stop! If you are just beginning to learn the Python programming language, do not buy this book! This book was written for intermediate to advanced Python programmers who want to be able to put their hands on the Python standard library of modules (which is why I'd recommend buying the hard copy if you meet the qualifications). This is not a book that will teach you the first steps in programming in Python.

Another thing. Although the transition to Python 3 is coming along nicely, like the transition from IPv4 to IPv6, the future isn't here yet. This book was written showcasing the Python 2.7 library and this version of Python will likely be with us for some time. If you're looking for a Python 3 library resource, this book isn't for you.

I'm sure other books have been spawned from blogs before, but I can't recall any right off the top of my head. The book you're reading about has its origins in Doug Hellmann's Python Module of the Week series, so you can always visit his blog to get an idea of how his book reads.

Like many other programming and technical books, it's not as if this information doesn't live elsewhere, but the information isn't particularly accessible in a single location. While every copy of Python ships with hundreds of modules that span a wide field of developers, tasks, and years, the documentation for these modules isn't particularly consistent. That's where Hellmann comes in. He provides one resource for Python module documentation in a consistent "voice", and demonstrates the how and the why of these modules in a straightforward, understandable way. If you've read Hellmann's blog (and if you're an experienced Python programmer, you probably have), you'll more than appreciate his book.

The vast arena of examples are clear but the sheer volume may be a little intimidating. Hellmann's book weighs in at a robust 1344 pages, but then it is "one-stop shopping" at its finest. Programming Python "from scratch" is fine and well when you're first learning the language, but the real power of Python is in the ease of use of its library. Having all that collected in one container is a terrific advantage and, not having to search the web for specific modules, you might just come across a few that you've never heard of before, inspiring you to take a different direction to solve a problem. If you're an experienced programmer, but not in Python, you could get by with going through this book to learn the language, but as I've already said, it's really written for people who already know Python.

This is another fine addition to the Addison-Wesley Developer's Library. If you're a Python programmer, you know you want this book. Go ahead and pick up a copy of Doug Hellmann's The Python Standard Library by Example. You can't go wrong.

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