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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

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.

[ Home Page] (includes electronic version)

Python Essential Reference

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.

[ Review by Jonathan Corbet] [ Review by Phil Hughes] [ Review by AMK] [ 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).

The second edition, published in 2006, covers features of the language introduced since the publication of the first edition.

[ Review by Cameron Laird] [ Review by Danny Yee] [ Reader reviews at] [ Publisher's page, with a link to the sample chapter &c] [ Publisher's page for the second edition, with a link to the sample chapter] [ Slashdot discussion]

Python: Library Reference

A printed version of the Python 2.1.1 Library Reference. Also available as a set, together with the Miscellanea (below).

Python: Miscellanea

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.

[ Publisher's purchasing page]

Python 2.1 Bible

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