nutshell Python in a Nutshell, by Alex Martelli, 2003 O'Reilly, 636 pages.

Perhaps the best book about Python ever written, this book is the perfect capstone to anyone's library of Pythonic books, and also the perfect introduction to Python for anyone well versed in other programming languages. For newbies to programming, this would still be a good second book after a good introductory book on Python, such as Learning Python by Mark Lutz.

Written by my favorite author and Pythonista, Alex Martelli, this book manages to fill three roles in extremely pleasing fashion. First and foremost to me, it is a great read, straight through. Mr. Martelli's prose is always sparkling and always keeps the reader interested. No matter how many Python books you have read, you will learn some nuances from this book, and it is about the best review of the whole Pythonic subject matter that I can imagine. While there is absolutely no fluff whatsoever in these 636 pages, it still makes for rather easy reading because the explanations are so clearly thought out and explored as to lead one gently to understanding, without in any way being verbose. It is obvious that Alex Martelli took his time and put in sufficient thought, effort, and intellectual elbow-grease to make this work a classic for all time.

Secondly, this book is the ultimate Pythonic reference book, the best fit to this role I have yet seen. You will keep this book in the most cherished spot on your book shelf, or else right at your side on your computer desk, because you can almost instantly find any topic on which you need to brush up, in the midst of a programminng project.

Third, Python in a Nutshell is the most up-to-date book on Python (as of April 2003) and includes the best and most complete expositions yet on the new features introduced in Python 2.2 and 2.3. These topics are not only covered in depth, they are integrated into the text in their proper positions and relationships to the language as a whole. They are explained better here than I have seen anywhere else, so much so as to make them not only understandable to me (a duffer), but indeed so that they appear seamlessly Pythonic, as if they had been a part of the language since version 1.0. Topics explored in depth include new style classes, static methods, class methods, nested scopes, iterators, generators, and new style division. List comprehensions are made not only comprehesible but indeed intuitive.

The book is surprisingly complete. It covers the core language as well as the most popular libraries and extension modules. It is difficult to choose any one portion of the book to highlight for extra praise, as all topics are treated so well. It is a complete book, the new definitive book about Python.

Everything about this book speaks of quality. In addition to the top notch writing and editing, O'Reilly really did the right thing and published this book printed on the highest quality paper, paper so thin that the 636 pages are encompassed in a book much thinner than one would expect for such a size, but strong enough to resist wear and tear. The text is most pleasing to the eye. Holding the book, and turning its pages, gives one a feeling of satisfaction.

Any job worth doing is worth doing well. Alex Martelli and O'Reilly have done justice to a topic dear to our hearts, the Python programming language. Perhaps, in years to come, the passing time may make this book be no longer the most up-to-date reference on the newest features added to Python. But time can not erase the quality craftsmanship and the shear joy of reading such a well thought out masterpiece of Pythonic literature.

Ron Stephens