Hari's Reviews

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Python in a Nutshell by Alex Martelli

Created: Sat Mar 20 16:32:52 2010 | Last modified: Sat Mar 20 16:33:18 2010

Rating: ******----

Python in a Nutshell

This is one of those books that you use as a handy reference for day to day use rather than one you would read from cover to cover in one sitting. While this is a very useful book if you want a Python language and library reference for offline study, there is nothing in this book that is not found in the Python online manual. And for day to day reference, the online manual is far more up-to-date and easier to access than a book.

Having said that, a wide range of topics are covered in this book from networking to databases, text-parsing and debugging, but each topic receives limited coverage and considering the size and stated objective of the book, it's quite understandable. But I was disappointed that the examples are very limited and basic and the author keeps referring you to online sources or other books for more information. Although useful as a starting point on many topics, it doesn't add a lot of value to the content as such. It feels like a "skeleton book" rather than one with a lot of meat. However the section on code optimization is very useful for any programmer and provides some handy and useful tips for squeezing the maximum performance out of your python algorithms. The topic of extending Python through C-coded modules and embedding Python in your C programs is also discussed, but the author doesn't go beyond the basics and doesn't cover other programming languages.

The book is written in a no-nonsense approach with a spare and impersonal manner of addressing the reader. Each topic is organized logically and the index is quite comprehensive. My only complaint is that a book of this kind tends to get outdated rather quickly and some of the libraries discussed in this book are deprecated (my edition covers Python 2.2). As far as readability is concerned, it doesn't exactly entertain the reader with lively prose either.

If you want to learn Python as a beginner, the online tutorials or a book like "Beginning Python" seen to be a more suitable starting point. On the other hand, if you want a useful recipe-book of Python code, the "Python Cookbook" seems to be a far better option. Get this book only if you absolutely need a paper copy of a Python reference manual. Skip in favour of the online manual unless you're a student and you need this reference as part of your academic syllabus. I rate it 3.5/5.