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Keywords: Linux, GNU, command-line, system admin
Title: Linux In A Nutshell
Author: Ellen Siever, Aaron Weber, Stephen Figgins, Robert Love and Arnold Robbins
Verdict: A handy single-volume reference
Now into its fifth edition, O'Reilly's 'Linux In A Nutshell' is a single volume reference manual that covers system admin, editors, shells, booting, regular expressions and more. It provides, in essence, all the key ingredients required to run Linux, whether that be as a user, an administrator or a developer. It's also pretty much independent as regards Linux distribution, thought the material has been tested extensively on Red Hat/Fedora, SuSE and Debian.
The core of the book is an extensive listing of Linux commands. At a little over 400 pages, this alphabetically ordered reference gives the reader the low-down on hundreds of commands and options. While most of this material is available using man pages, having it in a single place is makes a lot of sense. It's often easier to scroll through printed pages or flip backwards and forwards through a book than to swap back and forth between terminal sessions or pages in a browser.
In addition to the command reference there are chapters on booting (GRUB and LILO), editing (Emacs, vi and vim), regular expressions, shells (bash and ksh), version control (CVS and Subversion), package management (RPM and apt), gawk, sed and even a chapter devoted to the system and network management. In terms of range that covers an awful lot of bases, and is certainly more than enough for most daily use.
All of that comes in at a little over 900 pages, which makes for a chunky, but not unmanageable, volume. As a reference manual it's obviously terse, but in places it's surprisingly readable, particularly the introductory couple of chapters. Note also that like the other books in the Nutshell series, this is not a tutorial or how-to book, it's designed as to be a concise but approachable reference, and in this it succeeds admirably.