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Customer Review

on April 21, 2012
I have just completed reading the first 900 pages of this 1200 page book, which comprises a course covering all the basics of the Python programming language. (The remaining 300 pages covers numerous advanced topics and the appendices). At the end of these 900 pages the author states the following :-

'At this point, you've been exposed to the full subset of Python that most programmers use. In fact, if you have read this far, you should feel free to consider yourself an official Python programmer. Be sure to pick up a t-shirt the next time you're online.'

And I can certainly say that I feel I have just had a first class education in Python from this book. The author clearly knows his subject inside out, and he gives detailed explanations backed by concise code examples throughout, and often reiterates important points, making learning much faster.

I already have a knowledge of C++, PHP, Perl, and JavaScript, so I cannot really speak for the absolute beginner coming to this book with no prior programming experience. But for someone like me with programming experience, but no knowledge of Python, the book is excellent.

Some reviews of this book have been quite harsh, in particular complaining that it is verbose and wordy. There is no doubt the writing style is somewhat wordy, but on the other hand the author doesn't miss important details. I think the latter is more important, particularly in a technical book. The worst technical books are those which leave the reader with too many unanswered questions in their heads.

The first 200 pages or so probably seem the most wordy, and after that you get more into the core aspects of the language. I think the problem might be the author is targeting both experienced programmers and complete newcomers alike. For the latter, basic concepts need to be explained, but the former will find this unnecessary.

If there was one area of the book where more explanation could have been provided I would say it was in relation to function closures. This can be a tricky concept. It is heavily used in JavaScript, so I already had a handle on it, but even then it can easily trip you up.

Throughout, the author describes both versions 2.6 and 3.0 of Python, though 3.0 is emphasised. Version 2.6 will still be widely used for many years to come, but for completely new projects 3.0+ will most likely be used.

This book is not perfect, but I am giving it 5 stars as I feel it has taught me adequetely all the core areas of the Python language.

Re the wordiness remember any author's time is limited, as illustrated in the following quote -
"I'm sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn't have time to write a short one."
¯ Blaise Pascal
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3.7 out of 5 stars