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Keywords: Python 2.4, programming language reference
Title: Python Essential Reference
Author: David Beazley
Publisher: SAMS Publishing
Verdict: Contains core reference material for the active Pythonista
A long time fixture on the Python scene, David Beazley's 'Python Essential Reference' is now updated for version 2.4 in this new third edition. The update to 2.4 is very thorough, not only has the book gained in bulk since the last edition (an additional 144 pages), but the text has been updated so that it's seamless. Don't expect to see icons announcing the odd paragraph of new material here.
As with previous editions the emphasis is providing fast access to core material for active developers rather than as a tutorial or learning guide. That said, the book does open with a fast-paced tutorial that's pitched at an experienced programmer wanting to get into Python quickly. It's concise but readable but those who've not got another programming language under their belt will struggled. One thing it's not is a book for those learning to program using Python - but then there are plenty of other books for that, including Learning Python and Dive Into Python.
Aside from that first chapter, the rest of the book is solid reference material. The first section of the book is a language reference (everything from syntax to functional programming), this is followed by a huge section on the Python library and then finally a short single chapter section on extending and embedding.
While it's true that much of the material in the book is available online, having it all on paper, in one place can still be a real bonus. What more can you say that it does what it says on the cover - it provides the Python essential reference in a compact and user-friendly form.