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Python Essential Reference (Developer's Library) Paperback – 9 Jul 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 744 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 4 edition (9 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0672329786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0672329784
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

Python Essential Reference is the definitive reference guide to the Python programming language ― the one authoritative handbook that reliably untangles and explains both the core Python language and the most essential parts of the Python library.

Designed for the professional programmer, the book is concise, to the point, and highly accessible. It also includes detailed information on the Python library and many advanced subjects that is not available in either the official Python documentation or any other single reference source.


Thoroughly updated to reflect the significant new programming language features and library modules that have been introduced in Python 2.6 and Python 3, the fourth edition of Python Essential Reference is the definitive guide for programmers who need to modernize existing Python code or who are planning an eventual migration to Python 3. Programmers starting a new Python project will find detailed coverage of contemporary Python programming idioms.


This fourth edition of Python Essential Reference features numerous improvements, additions, and updates:

  • Coverage of new language features, libraries, and modules
  • Practical coverage of Python's more advanced features including generators, coroutines, closures, metaclasses, and decorators
  • Expanded coverage of library modules related to concurrent programming including threads, subprocesses, and the new multiprocessing module
  • Up-to-the-minute coverage of how to use Python 2.6’s forward compatibility mode to evaluate code for Python 3 compatibility
  • Improved organization for even faster answers and better usability
  • Updates to reflect modern Python programming style and idioms
  • Updated and improved example code
  • Deep coverage of low-level system and networking library modules ― including options not covered in the standard documentation


About the Author

David M. Beazley has been programming Python since 1996. While working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, he helped pioneer the use of Python with scientific computing software. Through his company, Dabeaz LLC, he provides software development, training, and consulting related to the practical use of dynamic programming languages such as Python, Ruby, and Perl, especially in systems programming. He is author of all previous editions of Python Essential Reference, and was contributing author of Steve Holden’s Python Web Programming.  He is a member of the Python Software Foundation.

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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Tom G. on 13 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author of Python Essential Reference is David Beazley, who among other occupations created the open-source SWIG tool and the WAD mixed-languages debugger. His background is pervading throughout the book, in which the reader gets a clear sense of what is happening behind the Python programming language and learns how to use it efficiently instead of considering it as a black box.

The first 20 pages give an overview of the language and although it is called a "tutorial introduction", it should be understood that its purpose is for a programmer to see what Python looks like, and not for a novice to get their first programming course.

The next 156 pages offer a thorough review of the language and its environment. This is a very interesting part and should not be skipped even by people who already know Python. I said "review" but an experienced programmer should be able to learn the language by reading those chapters and putting them into practice with extra exercises.

Instead of simply describing the language, the author also hands out tricks of the trade, showing how to acquire good coding habits while using an sensible approach regarding the performance, which is often essential in a dynamic language. The fourth edition is focusing on version 2.6 but offers some historical perspective by pointing out several elements that were recently improved, or which are about to change in upcoming versions.

The first part of the book concludes with useful recommendations on program debugging and profiling.

The second part contains 388 pages and goes through the Python library, presenting the essential modules together with examples, notes and advices. After all, this is a reference, so we shouldn't expect any less.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By JASA on 2 July 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This 4th edition is my 3rd acquisition of this title. I still own the 1st and 2nd editions. I have several other good books about Python (recently I got the two books from Langtangen (Python Scripting for Computational Science (Texts in Computational Science and Engineering) and A Primer on Scientific Programming with Python (Texts in Computational Science and Engineering), but there is a newer edition of this one), I also own one book from Martelli (Python in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference (In a Nutshell (O'Reilly))), which is a little dated but still is useful, and a few others (one from Mark Summerfeld, the Jython book from O'Reilly, etc). This said, the Beazley's book is the one that travels in my backpack whenever I have to code in Python, and often a few of its pages are read in bed, before I go to sleep. It is my only Python book which often has this privilege. This book stands for Python as a Japanese garden stands for gardening: it is elegantly written, has all the (reasonable) info, and all the "information fatness" is removed. It is not for the virgin programmer, but it is the most time-effective book for learning Python seriously.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mike rodent on 5 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
I rarely feel the need to praise excellence, coz there ain't much of it about.

This book is a lovely example of it. Python does not contain thousands of classes, like Java, so it seems more possible to put the whole thing, i.e. pretty much all you need to know, in a book of 600-odd pages.

I'm a new user of Python, but very experienced in Java. This book is exactly what I need: it's concise, it's well-ordered, and no doubt much of the satisfaction and beauty of using it is also due to the magnificence of the Python language. But the latter needed its prophet and guide, and Beazley is it. I even like the rather exciting smell of the pages... they're not flimsy, and the book has *weight*, literally and figuratively (although it's not a doorstopper of the Que variety - much more practical).

In fact I'm using Jython, which sort of is Python, but gives you almost magical access to everything you have learnt to use over the years in the way of Java functionality... as well as Python - result: amazing power and concision.

But in fact this brings me to one aspect of the book which I find slightly puzzling: the lack of GUI coverage. A Jython Java user accustomed to using javax.swing classes can simply continue to use the latter... and amazingly, use all the hidden "private", supposedly off-limit, inaccessible workings of these classes... it really is quite amazing to find out how strait-laced Java classes start to throw off their inhibitions and let it all hang out in a Jython context.

But what would you do for GUI if you were using non-Jython Python, or didn't know Swing? By its nature GUI is non-trivial: it involves multi-threading, which is touched on here ...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By cbeebie on 18 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have recently bought two Python books: "Core Python Programming" by Wesley Chun, and this one. I like this one better. It's stunningly crisp, clear, and to the point. As the author says in the introduction "it has been my goal to produce a reference containing everything I have needed to use Python and its large collection of modules" and that's exactly what he does.

If you're coming to Python as a programmer with experience in other languages you'll find this book very accessible (it has a HUGE index). If you're entirely new to programming it's probably not for you.

It was published in 2009 and inevitably is (slightly) showing signs of age, particularly in the comments about the status of Python 3. But I really, really wouldn't let that put you off buying it. Mr. Beazley, you did a good job!
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