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.
Python Essential Reference
- David Beazley
ISBN: 0735710910, New Riders, 416 pages (June 2001)
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
- Alex Martelli
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]
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