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Learning Python, 2nd Edition Mark Lutz and David Ascher
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
620 pages
£ 24.95
Published: 9th January 2004
reviewed by Sam Smith
   in the March 2004 issue (pdf), (html)

The second Edition of ``Learning Python'' has been updated to cover version 2.3 of Python, and weighs in at 591 pages. Quite helpfully, it arrived on the morning that I needed to start working with some Python code. As a perl programmer whose knowledge of Python could be summarised as ``it thinks whitespace is important'', the book proved extremely helpful.

It opens with a nice overview of where Python has come from, who uses it, and what for (the answers including Monty Python, lots of people, for lots of things). Chapters 2 and 3 cover running python code. This book is not focused on running solely on UNIX, and covers Win32 versions of Python as well. As a result, it does not assume that you are at a shell prompt, but all the examples work within the Python interpreter prompt. This allows for the book to mainly be platform independent.

What this book does provide is detail of Python's richness, depth, features and functionality in an informative environment rather than in the form of a reference guide. That is not to say that Learning Python can not be used as a reference guide, as its index is comprehensive and the chapters cover topics such as documenting python code, a (seemingly) comprehensive coverage of the advanced data types available in Python, advanced functions, modules, classes and Object Orientated Programming.

New programmers may find themselves thrown in at the deep end a little; but the exercises and questions at the end of each chapter should help somewhat. An overview chapter would help significantly here; although I suspect it is not a major omission.

As a book for programmers who want to learn Python, it does a very good job. The coverage is informative and well ordered; making it easy to find what you're looking for.

Overall, if you do some work with Python, you will benefit from owning this book. If you work with Python constantly, the chances are you already do.

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