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The Best Python Books to Get You Coding Like a Pro
Data Science

The Best Python Books to Get You Coding Like a Pro

7 minute read | August 1, 2019
Andrew Zola

Written by:
Andrew Zola

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Python can be applied to a variety of programming tasks, like software development, website development, general server scripting, database management, debugging, and much more. So it’s no surprise that Python programmers are highly sought after. 

According to Peter Norvig, director of search quality at Google, “Python has been an important part of Google since the beginning and remains so as the system grows and evolves. Today dozens of Google engineers use Python, and we’re looking for more people with skills in this language.” 

To get started in the fast lane, you’ll need some good Python books to learn Python. There’s no shortage of good Python books, but like learning any new skill, it’s essential to start with the right resources. It’s important here to figure out which is the best book for Python beginners, and which book you should read to learn Python vs. more advanced books.

So we did our homework and identified the best Python books to set you off on the right path. The list below features some of the best books to learn Python and can be a valuable resource for beginners or seasoned veterans alike.

Best Python Books: Introductory 

Which book should I read to learn Python?

Head First Python: A Brain-Friendly Guide

Head First Python: A Brain-Friendly Guide (2nd Edition): Paul Barry provides a shortcut to the fundamentals and quickly gets you working with built-in data functions and structures. That’s one of the reasons why it’s among the best books for learning Python programming and probably the best Python book for you if you have very little to no background in Python. 

You can start building your own web app, engage in database management, and take on other tasks before you even finish reading the book. The book is also loaded with vibrant visuals and delivers a multi-sensory learning experience, unlike old-school textbooks. Read the reviews.

Which is the best book for Python beginners?

Learning Python (5th Edition)Mark Lutz has more than two decades of experience teaching Python programming to beginners. He is also one of the primary reasons why Python grew into a popular coding language. Several exercises, illustrations, and quizzes in the book are designed to deliver an in-depth introduction to core Python principles. This is the best Python book to get you started if you have just a little bit of background in the Python programming language and want to learn more. 

The self-paced tutorials are also fashioned to get you started on Python 2.7 and 3.3, and other popular advanced features in everyday use today. Read the reviews

Think Python: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist

Think Python: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist (2nd Edition): Allen B. Downey takes a serious approach to Python programming with his offering. As alluded to in the title, the primary goal of this book is to get you to think about code like a professional software engineer. While it isn’t as fun to read as some of the other books on this list, it’s clear, comprehensive, and straightforward. 

This book doesn’t dive as deeply into the subject as other books, but it does cover a wide range of topics, from analysis of algorithms to polymorphism. The second edition is filled with exercises and includes four in-depth projects. 

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However, you won’t find as may exercises as in similar books in the marketplace. Having said that, it’s important to note that it’s still one of the best python programming books available today. When you’re done reading it, you’ll be ready to start thinking like a seasoned coder. Read the reviews.

Learn Python the Hard Way

Learn Python the Hard Way – A Very Simple Introduction to the Terrifyingly Beautiful World of Computers and Code (3rd Edition):  Zed A. Shaw’s book may not have the most appealing title, but it can certainly equip you with the skills you need to be an excellent Python developer. 

The book is made up of 52 collated exercises that you can read and type. Once typed, you’ll have to go back and fix the mistakes in the code to better understand how it works. This approach to Python programming will help you better understand the structure of well-written software while limiting technical debt. It is one of the best Python programming books to both learn and practice Python at the same time. 

You’ll also learn about the common mistakes often found inside the code and the tricks and tools used by the experts to identify and fix them. Read the reviews.

Best Python Books: Intermediate 

Python Cookbook

Python Cookbook (3rd Edition): David Beazley and Brian K. Jones’ offering is one of the best books on Python for those who want to update older Python 2 code to Python 3. However, it’s all-encompassing and covers tasks that are common to a wide variety of application domains, including concurrency, metaprogramming, utility scripting, and system administration. It’s also loaded with instructive examples and code samples that can be used in your projects. Read the reviews.

Python Tricks: A Buffet of Awesome Python Features

Python Tricks: A Buffet of Awesome Python Features: Dan Bader loves to help Python developers take their coding skills to the next level, and that’s precisely what he’s trying to do with this book. In fact, we are moving up from the cookbook into the buffet to explore lesser-known Python features and concepts. 

The examples and discussions are easy to digest and are complimented by 12 bonus videos (that accompany the ebook). It’s also the best python programming book for developers who work with other programming languages and need to get up to speed with Python, quickly. Read the reviews.

Effective Python

Effective Python: 59 Specific Ways to Write Better Python (1st Edition): Brett Slatkin, the principal software engineer and engineering director at Google, wrote this book to help Python developers write better code and avoid technical debt. It can even be listed as the best Python textbook as it plays a critical role in developing well-rounded Python developers.

Python is popular because the language is easy to learn. But when you jump right in and start coding, you risk missing out on its unique charm, strengths, and qualities that can lead to trouble down the road. So whoever gets through the whole book will be on their way to becoming a well-rounded Python programmer. 

According to Brandon Rhodes, a software engineer at Dropbox and chair of PyCon 2016-2017, “each item in Slatkin’s Effective Python teaches a self-contained lesson with its own source code. This makes the book random-access: Items are easy to browse and study in whatever order the reader needs. I will be recommending Effective Python to students as an admirably compact source of mainstream advice on a very broad range of topics for the intermediate Python programmer.” Read the reviews.

Best Python Books: Advanced

Fluent Python: Clear, Concise, and Effective Programming

Fluent Python: Clear, Concise, and Effective Programming: Luciano Ramalho’s book targets experienced Python 2 developers who want to move on to Python 3. So if you don’t have a solid foundation of the basics, this isn’t the best Python learning book to start your programming journey. 

As this book is well-referenced, experienced programmers can quickly find answers to their questions by skimming through the organized topics. When you start reading, you might find a lot of topics covered by introductory Python books, but don’t be fooled. Unlike introductory Python books, the author goes into detail and highlights several nuanced features of the language.

There are also detailed examples that complement the content on almost every page. The code examples are geared to provide a more practical approach to the Python concepts presented in the book. If you go to StackOverflow and don’t find comprehensive answers to your questions, this book is the best alternative. Read the reviews.

Python Testing with pytest: Simple, Rapid, Effective, and Scalable

Python Testing with pytest: Simple, Rapid, Effective, and Scalable (1st Edition): Brian Okken, who has a weekly podcast on Python testing and development, aims to help Python developers write tests quickly. When you’re done with this book, you should be able to write pytests that are readable and maintainable without any boilerplate code. 

If you’re going to work on Python-based projects, you have to be able to test your code. To do this properly, there’s no better option than pytest. The pytest framework is loaded with powerful features and plugin capability that helps minimize false test failures. This book provides a robust model that can be applied to both simple small tests and highly complex functional tests. 

Even if you’re well-versed in pytest, it’s still worth reading because there are some gems that will be useful on your next project. So if you’re making a list of the best Python books, it’s imperative to include Okken’s work. Read the reviews.

Introduction to Machine Learning with Python: A Guide for Data Scientists

Introduction to Machine Learning with Python: A Guide for Data Scientists: Andreas C. Müller and Sarah Guido’s guide for data scientists is the best python programming book to read if you’re interested in getting into artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML)

When you’re done reading this book, you’ll be ready to build your own rich ML applications and solutions that can be scaled (up or down) as needed. The book starts with the fundamental concepts of ML but rapidly dives right into advanced methods for the concept of pipelines, model evaluation, and much more. It’s one of the best Python books for taking your skills in Python into exciting artificial intelligence and data science applications. 

Throughout the book, you’ll also be provided with tips and tricks that can help you become a better data scientist/ML engineer. Read the reviews

Reading these Python books can help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the inner workings of Python programming. As the programming language can be leveraged across a variety of industry verticals, adding this skill can lead to a lucrative career. 

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About Andrew Zola

Andrew is a full-stack storyteller, copywriter, and blockchain enthusiast. He is a contributor to various publications with a focus on new technologies and marketing.