Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Best Python book for beginners

It's really surprisingly difficult for someone who has been programming for a long time to write about programming at a level appropriate for real beginners. The first time I taught a class full of beginners at Neumont, I tried to take things as slow as possible. Then I spent the next week covering the material from the first day even slower.
So when the UGIC asked me to recommend a book to get for the participants in the Introduction to Python, I looked at all the ones I could find, but they all either assumed too much existing knowledge or covered material that would just confuse a beginner. Often both. But then Michael Bernstein pointed me to Python for Dummies.
If you're looking to teach beginners, or you're a beginner yourself, Python for Dummies is by far the best option. There's a few sections that are strikingly inappropriate for a book at its level (new-style classes!?) but it's still much, much better than any of the other books on the market in this respect. As a bonus, it's also one of the few that covers Python 2.5.


Paul said...

I haven't read Python for Dummies, but wanted to suggest a favorite which converted me to Python: "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist, Learning Python"

It's free at, here:

Like ESR, I had rejected Python a couple of times in the past because of what I saw as a radically different syntax (the whole indentation thing mainly) but after I read the foreward of this online book, I was hooked. After finishing the book, I was convinced. Python is a keeper--I gave up Java and Perl and haven't looked back (ymmv, and to each his own, and all that)

What's your take on HTTLACS as compared to Python for Dummies?

Jonathan Ellis said...

HTTLACS may be the best option that is freely available. However, as the title says, it does try to approach the subject with some rigor. Recursion is covered early and in some detail, for instance, and I know from experience that this tends to blow beginners' minds.

It also never really covers anything really Python-specific. This is fine for its purpose, but for practical use you'd want something that (eventually) covers things like list comprehensions, generators, etc.

Steve Ferg said...

I second your recommendation of "Python for Dummies" as a good intro book. It is right up at the top of my books for Python beginners at Amazon.

CecilSunkure said...

I haven't read that particular book either, but I have started with this book that is free online, and is targeted more towards creating games in Python with the Pygame engine. Here it is:

I recently started up with this book, and am posting up my experiences with it in my own blog here:

I actually highly recommend this book, it's tiered in such a way that seems perfect. The example code and projects in the book are also exceptionally useful for working on yourself. Since the example code is documented so extremely well, I am able to gain a pretty good understanding of every aspect of the code presented in the book. A must read for anyone interested into coding games.

Casey said...

You can easily learn Python by reading the official tutorial and then working through the Python Koans.

Anonymous said...

My personal favourite Python book is

The Quick Python Book

It's great for beginners