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The following books aim to be definitive references, either by publishing the Python documentation or by writing new reference-style material, and therefore should be useful throughout your Python programming career.
Most of these books will contain short, highly condensed introductions to Python, and if you're an experienced programmer these titles may be all you need. See the list of IntroductoryBooks if you'd prefer a book with more examples and a slower pace.
The Python Language Reference Manual
- Guido van Rossum, and Fred L. Drake, Jr. (Editor)
ISBN 0954161785, Network Theory Ltd, 120 pages (September 2003)
This is a printed edition of the official Python language reference manual by Guido van Rossum. For each copy sold $1 will be donated to the Python Software Foundation.
[http://www.network-theory.co.uk/python/language/ Home Page] (includes electronic version)
Python Essential Reference
- David Beazley
ISBN: 0672328623, Sams, 626 pages (February, 2006)
Just released in a third edition that covers Python 2.4 language features and a variety of new modules added to the standard library. The comments below apply to the 1st and 2nd editions.
A concise reference for Python 2.1, about as close as you can get to the K&R for Python. The first hundred pages are a complete but very compressed introduction to the language; the rest of the book is reference material on all of the standard library modules.
Some of the reviews below are for the first edition of this book. The second edition updated it without losing any of the first edition's virtues.
[http://www.lwn.net/Reviews/PythonEssentialReference.phtml Review by Jonathan Corbet] [http://www2.linuxjournal.com/lj-issues/issue73/3851.html Review by Phil Hughes] [http://www.amk.ca/python/books/ess-ref.html Review by AMK] [http://dannyreviews.com/h/Python_Reference.html Review by Danny Yee]
Python in a Nutshell
ISBN: 0596001886 O'Reilly, 654 pages (March 2003)
A concise desktop reference for Python 2.2. Covers the language itself, built-in types and functions, the standard library, and crucial third-party extensions such as Numeric, Tkinter, twisted.internet, Cheetah. Also covers Extending and Embedding Python, with C, Java, and other languages and tools.
Includes information on what parts were new in Python 2.2 (doesn't cover 2.3, as it was not yet finalized when the book was published, but does mention a few 2.3 additions that were already known at the time).
[http://www.unixreview.com/documents/s=7781/ur0303j/ Review by Cameron Laird] [http://dannyreviews.com/h/Python_Nutshell.html Review by Danny Yee] [http://tinyurl.com/c3vp Reader reviews at amazon.com] [http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/pythonian/ Publisher's page, with links to sample chapter &c] [http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/pythonian2/ Publisher's page for the second edition, with links to sample chapter &c] [http://books.slashdot.org/books/03/04/13/2227208.shtml?tid=192&tid=156 Slashdot discussion]
Python: Library Reference
- Prime Time Freeware, 462 pages
A printed version of the Python 2.1.1 Library Reference. Also available as a set, together with the Miscellanea (below).
- Prime Time Freeware, 365 pages
A printed version of the rest of the Python 2.1.1 documentation. This contains the tutorial, language reference, extending/embedding guide, and other documents that come with Python -- everything except the Library Reference, in short.
[http://ptf.com/dossier/sets/Pyth.shtml Publisher's purchasing page]
Python 2.1 Bible
- Dave Brueck and Stephen Tanner
Contains detailed descriptions with examples on a number of advanced topics such as networking, threading, XML, Tkinter, wxPython, image processing, embedding, NumPy, win32all, and others. Has a section for introducing Python, but really this is ideal for more advanced users.
Recommended by: MichaelChermside, Todd Mitchell