Python programming books have become a popular way for beginners to begin to build their Python skills and their understanding of the Python programming language at their own pace.
Because Python code and syntax resemble the English language, it is considered one of the most beginner-friendly programming languages to learn, and a strong Python book might be all that a newcomer needs to get started with Python.
At the same time, because there are countless applications for Python, including object-oriented programming, creating data visualizations, writing programs and simple Python scripts, scraping data, and running automated testing. There are many books exploring expert-level topics that would be educational even for the most advanced Python programmers.
From total outsiders trying to grasp the most core Python language concepts to advanced programmers looking to take their coding skills to the next level, there are good Python books that will help you develop your understanding of key Python concepts. But given the sheer number of books out there promising to help you learn Python programming, it can be difficult to know where to get started.
The 10 Best Python Books
- Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming
- Head First Python: A Brain-Friendly Guide
- Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners
- Learning Python: Powerful Object-Oriented Programming
- Learn Python 3 the Hard Way
- Think Python: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist
- Introduction to Machine Learning with Python: A Guide for Data Scientists
- Fluent Python: Clear, Concise, and Effective Programming
- Python Cookbook: Recipes for Mastering Python 3
- Elements of Programming Interviews in Python: The Insiders’ Guide
1. Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming
By: Eric Matthes
- Learn the theory behind strong Python code, then put it into practice with compelling examples
- A former high-school math and science teacher, the Alaska-based Matthes now focuses full-time on writing and programming-related projects
One of the most popular and best books to learn Python, Python Crash Course is a worldwide bestseller that promises to have beginners writing real Python programs and solving problems in no time.
The first half of Matthes’ book covers basic Python programming concepts, including lists, classes, dictionaries, functions, loops, and statements, as well as instruction around how to manage data, make an interactive Python program, and safely test your code. The second half of the book gives readers the opportunity to put their new Python skills into practice with three Python projects: an arcade game, data visualizations with Python libraries, and a simple web application.
What You’ll Learn from Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming
- To leverage Python tools and libraries including Plotly, Django, Matplotlib, Pygame, and more
- To create web apps and deploy them on the Internet
- To make simple 2D games that gradually increase in difficulty
2. Head First Python: A Brain-Friendly Guide
By: Paul Barry
- Starts with an overview of Python basics, then moves onto advanced materials such as data wrangling and database management
- Barry is an Ireland-based author with a background in computer science and 25 years of programming experience
Another one of the best books for Python beginners is Barry’s accessible guide, a visually engaging introduction to Python full of hands-on instruction meant to get you up and running working with Python.
Head First Python begins with an overview of Python basics such as data structures, functions, modules, the Python data model, and experimenting at the Python shell. You’ll eventually move onto learning more advanced materials, including database management, exception handling, data wrangling, SQL, the Google App Engine, and more.
What You’ll Learn from Head First Python: A Brain-Friendly Guide
- To write mobile apps for Android
- How to use context managers, decorators, comprehensions, and generators
3. Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners
By: Al Sweigart
- Python makes automation easy, and here you’ll pick up the basics of automating even the most mind-numbing of tasks
- Sweigart is a Software Developer and UI Designer who has written many books on coding and programming with Python
One of the reasons Python has become so widely used is that it can help you work more efficiently by automating the most tedious parts of your job. Rather than wasting hours manually updating spreadsheet cells, you can write Python programs to automate tasks and take care of your time-consuming work chores in mere minutes.
Sweigart’s bestselling book offers step-by-step instructions to create a Python program to accomplish a variety of otherwise mind-numbing tasks, with practice projects to improve your programs and put what you’ve learned to the test.
What You’ll Learn from Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners
- To work with huge collections of files en masse, as well as manipulating strings, pattern matching, input validation, debugging, and web scraping
- To split, merge, watermark, and encrypt PDFs
- To control the keyboard and mouse with graphical user interface (GUI) automation
4. Learning Python: Powerful Object-Oriented Programming
By: Mark Lutz
- An amazing interactive look into Python coupled with more general (and vital) programming expertise
- Lutz is a longtime software professional who spent decades running his own Python training company and teaching Python to beginners. He is also the author of Programming Python and Python Pocket Reference.
A classic Python training manual now in its fifth edition, Learning Python is a comprehensive, self-paced tutorial book that is a good place to start if you’re new to Python. It also covers general programming concepts like exception handling and development tools.
Filled with helpful visual aids, interactive exercises, and quizzes at the end of each chapter, Lutz’s book covers everything you need to know about programming with Python, including operators, statements, syntax, module, functions, data types, functions, system administration, databases, networking, and more.
What You’ll Learn from Learning Python: Powerful Object-Oriented Programming
- How to use Python functions to prevent code redundancy and package code so you can reuse it
- Explore classes (Python’s object-oriented programming tool for code structure)
- Get introduced to advanced Python tools, including descriptors, metaclasses, decorators, and Unicode processing
5. Learn Python 3 the Hard Way
By: Zed A. Shaw
- A perfect self-guided introduction to Python-based web and game development
- In addition to Python, Shaw has written books on learning other programming languages including Ruby, SQL, and C. He has also created several open-source software projects
For those who learn best from a project-based approach, Shaw’s classic book features more than 50 carefully crafted exercises that are geared toward people with no coding experience. Why is it the “hard way”? Because Shaw’s book encourages you to type all the code yourself and develop your own solutions for any problems you come across.
With clear and concise code examples and challenges that gradually progress in difficulty, Learn Python 3 the Hard Way was also published alongside a DVD with more than five hours of Python instruction.
What You’ll Learn from Learn Python 3 the Hard Way
- How to install a complete Python environment
- Basic game development and web development with Python
- Python packaging, debugging, and automated testing
6. Think Python: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist
By: Allen B. Downey
- Spanning beginner to more intermediate levels of Python programming, this is a great read for almost all levels of experience
- Downey is a Professor of Computer Science at Olin College of Engineering. Think Python is part of a series of books written by Downey that also includes Think Java, Think Julia, Think Bayes, Think Data Structures, Think Stats, Think Java, and more.
If you’re looking for a book that will cover beginner-level programming topics before eventually progressing into slightly more challenging material, Think Python could be a good choice. The hands-on book doesn’t rush through Python basics, with lessons on syntax, semantics, and a variety of introductory programming concepts such as values, variables, statements, functions, and data structures.
But Downey’s book also has something to offer Developers with some Python experience. For instance, few beginner-level Python books would tackle some of the topics covered here, like polymorphism, algorithm analysis or operator overloading. And the latest version of Think Python adds coverage of powerful Python features including list comprehensions and additional data structures.
What You’ll Learn from Think Python: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist
- How to fix syntax, runtime, and semantic errors using different debugging techniques
- Explore graphical user interface-based programs and interface design through case studies
7. Introduction to Machine Learning with Python: A Guide for Data Scientists
By: Andreas C. Muller, Sarah Guido
- A great way to bridge basic Python knowledge with machine learning expertise, featuring the steps needed to master the scikit-learn library
- Guido is a Data Scientist and expert on Python and machine learning, while Muller Principle Research SDE at Microsoft and one of the core Developers of the scikit-learn machine learning library
If you’re looking to develop your machine learning and data science skills, this book provides a practical and accessible introduction to using Python to build your own machine learning solutions and algorithms (in other words, you won’t need to understand the math that makes them work).
Introduction to Machine Learning with Python is intended to be somewhat beginner-friendly, exploring the foundational ideas and applications of machine learning before helping readers learn the essential steps to create a successful machine-learning application with Python and the scikit-learn library. That said, this book is likely most appropriate for readers who consider themselves somewhat experienced with Python, as familiarity with Python’s NumPy and matplotlib libraries will help you get more out of the text.
What You’ll Learn from Introduction to Machine Learning with Python: A Guide for Data Scientists
- Advanced methods for parameter tuning and model evaluation
- Text-specific processing techniques and other approaches to working with text data
- How to use pipelines to chain models and encapsulate your workflow
8. Fluent Python: Clear, Concise, and Effective Programming
By: Luciano Ramalho
- A more advanced read, you’ll learn how to write shorter, more effective Python code and embrace the mindset of “clean”
- Ramalho is a longtime Web Developer who has used Python to work on some of Brazil’s biggest news portals since 1998. He is also the co-founder of the Garoa Hacker Cube and the author of Python vs. Go.
One of the biggest reasons for Python’s popularity is the simplicity of its syntax, which makes it arguably the most beginner-friendly programming language. But once you have gained some experience working with Python, you will want to dig into the more complex corners of the language to discover how to write more effective, efficient code. Ramalho’s popular book is a great starting point to discover the power of idiomatic Python code and ultimately make your code more readable, shorter, and faster.
An appealing feature of Fluent Python is that it focuses on language features that are unique to Python and not found in most other programming languages. It should be noted that Ramalho’s book certainly is for more advanced Python programmers and does not attempt to give even a brief introduction to basic Python concepts.
What You’ll Learn from Fluent Python: Clear, Concise, and Effective Programming
- Special methods, which Ramalho writes are the key to the consistent behavior of Python objects
- Object-oriented idioms, including composition, inheritance, mixins, interfaces, static typing, and more
- New class metaprogramming hooks that are more straightforward than metaclasses
- Control flow
9. Python Cookbook: Recipes for Mastering Python 3
By: David Beazley, Brian K. Jones
- A very advanced Python book, this touches on mastering modern programming idioms through a series of easily-ingested recipes
- Jones is a system administrator at Princeton University, while Beazley is a Software Developer and author of Python Essential Reference who has created several open-source Python packages and also has notable experience programming with C, C++, and assembly language.
Perhaps the most advanced Python book on this list, Python Cookbook is intended for advanced Python Developers who want to gain a deeper understanding of modern programming idioms and some of the advanced techniques used by Python libraries, frameworks, and applications. The book’s “recipes” are intended to help readers get started before doing further independent research to take them further.
If you are an experienced Python Developer who wants to focus on modern idioms, patterns, data structures, and tools, Python Cookbook features recipes for more than a dozen topics, including tasks common to a diverse variety of application domains. The recipes all feature extended code solutions, as well as several pages of analysis on why each solution works.
Python Cookbook also features illustrations of designs including accessor functions, decorator patterns, and more.
What You’ll Learn from Python Cookbook: Recipes for Mastering Python 3
- Advanced Python topics including C extensions, utility scripting and system administration, and concurrency
- Explore network and web programming
10. Elements of Programming Interviews in Python
By: Adnan Aziz, Tsung-Hsien Lee, Amit Prakash
- An in-depth look at what it takes to ace a programming interview, including technical coding test examples and advice on related soft skills
- Aziz, Lee, and Prakash collectively have worked at Google, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, Uber, Qualcomm, and a variety of startups. The algorithms and systems that they have co-developed are used by more than one billion people daily.
If you’re learning Python because you are looking for a new career in software engineering, web development, or data science, Elements of Programming Interviews in Python is a great resource. At its core, the book features more than 250 real-world computing problems — the kind you might see in a Python Developer job interview — with detailed solutions, along with illustrations of 200 figures, 300 tested programs, and 150 additional variants.
The coding challenges are presented in a series of chapters, each of which features an intro, a case study, tips, and information on the most important library methods. Even if you don’t anticipate needing to solve Python challenges as part of a job interview, working to solve the difficult coding problems included in the book will certainly build your skill with Python.
If you do have a professional focus and you want to become a Python Developer, the questions here are representative of what you could be asked in a job interview with a top software company. Further, Elements of Programming Interviews in Python also offers insight into some of the non-technical aspects of these job interviews, including common mistakes, advice on salary negotiation, and interview strategies.
What You’ll Learn from Elements of Programming Interviews in Python
- Secrets of programming interviews including examples of technical coding tests
- Non-technical interview tips including salary negotiation and best practices for personal questions
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