- Series: In a Nutshell (O'Reilly)
- Paperback: 600 pages
- Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1st edition (March 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0596001886
- ISBN-13: 978-0596001889
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,155,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Python in a Nutshell 1st Edition
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"Brave beginners will be well served by this title, which provides an intelligent, fast paced intro to core topics." - Martin Howse, LinuxUser & Developer, Issue 30 "I whole-heartedly recommend this book to all Python programmers. It is a very concise and informative book, and its small size belies its information content. I would also recommend and suggest this book to any experienced programmers wishing to begin programming in Python, who would enjoy a straight-to-the-point manual on the Python language." - Daire Stockdale, Cvu/ACCU
About the Author
Alex Martelli spent 8 years with IBM Research, winning three Outstanding Technical Achievement Awards. He then spent 13 as a Senior Software Consultant at think3 inc, developing libraries, network protocols, GUI engines, event frameworks, and web access frontends. He has also taught programming languages, development methods, and numerical computing at Ferrara University and other venues. He's a C++ MVP for Brainbench, and a member of the Python Software Foundation. He currently works for AB Strakt, a Python-centered software house in Gteborg, Sweden, mostly by telecommuting from his home in Bologna, Italy. Alex's proudest achievement is the articles that appeared in Bridge World (January/February 2000), which were hailed as giant steps towards solving issues that had haunted contract bridge theoreticians for decades.
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Doesn't sound like that much of an endorsement, does it?
Nevertheless, of my 6 or 7 Python books, (2 or 3 are generalist, rather than specialized), this is the only one I use regularly after 9 yrs of using Python.
What Python in a Nutshell is really good at is showing you exactly what Python is capable of doing, feature by feature, in a thoroughly Pythonic way for the feature. With code and exact implication. For example, I know Python well but I am kinda lacking in metaclass comprehension. If I were to write some non-trivial meta-classes I would surely have its 3 or 4 pages open on my desk as I write code and skim through other internet postings. Those 3-4 pages have kinda made my brain shrivel every time I've looked at them, but they are the clearest overview I've seen of what is probably one of the hardest Python features to understand.
For normal, easy-to-understand Python, Nutshell really dissects the languages with new insight. The information is dense, because each word has its place and there is very little filler. That's why skimming it does not work for me, I just don't have the requisite sustained attention span.
Online docs? Again, this aims to distill Python's deeper implications. You won't find that in the basic online docs. You may find some equivalent, or perhaps better, explanations of specific features, say Python meta-classes, online by looking around in blogs and articles. But you will have to look around for a long while and you will likely encounter a bunch of less informative, or perhaps erroneous, stuff along the way.
Python has a very easy learning curve, but it also has a whole lot of layers if you want to use it in the most efficient/natural manner. This is the book you want to help you dig. The surface, introductory aspects of Python are not well served by this book. Normal reference books are already not ideal for learning languages/systems, but its nature makes Nutshell an even worse choice. In fact, unlike some other reviewers, I would not at all recommend getting it to get acquainted with Python, unless you truly are a gifted programmer.
The index could be improved a bit. For example, built-in functions are not listed directly: even an experienced coder might not know to look for 'getattr' or 'zip' under builtins. 2nd edition: the logging module's coverage is a bit trivial/weak, as was that of decorators. Both are subjects that would have greatly benefited from more of Alex's insights.