Top 5 Perl Books for Beginners in 2023

The camel is a common animal paired with the perl programming language — on the Perl website and on book covers.

The camel is a common animal paired with the perl programming language — on the Perl website and on book covers.

Are you looking for the best Perl programming language book for beginners? Here's the thing. In this post, I will make some best recommendations on Perl books for beginners. And that applies even if you’re a self-learner looking for a hobby, rather than a career!

Perl is a programming language developed by Larry Wall, specially designed for text processing. It stands for Practical Extraction and Report Language.

If you’re looking to learn Perl, you’re in luck. In this article, I’ve compiled five of the most impactful Perl books for learning the language.


Why Learn Perl?

There are few considerations, particularly if you’re contemplating adopting Perl programming as a career or side hustle.

Here are benefits of learning the Perl programming language:

  • Beginner Friendly: Perl is very easy to learn, especially if you have a background in computer programming.

  • Simple: Perl is simple and easy to program and understand.

  • Stable: Perl is a stable, cross-platform programming language.

  • Widely-used: It is used for mission-critical projects in the public and private sectors.

  • Flexible: Perl is widely used for a variety of purposes including text editing, Linux system administration, network programming, web development, etc.

  • Portable: Perl is extremely portable and can run on any operating system.


What Makes Best Perl Books

The real question is, how do you choose the right book for your needs? Not all Perl programming books are made equal. Best Perl books must meet the following criteria:

  • Use clear, precise, and easy-to-understand language.

  • Engaging able to hold the attention of readers. Does not contain a lot of fluff.

  • Well-structured and organized toward self-taught programmers.

  • Includes multiple approaches to learning a topic, including hands-on exercises, source code, detailed explanations, and procedures.

Finally, use your best judgment and consider all the other factors.


Book Reviews for Perl Books for Beginners

There is no one book to rule them all. Here I will suggest the five best Perl programming books for beginners. Let's take the dive and get started.

Here are the best books for learning Perl:


1. Best Beginner Perl Book: Think Perl 6: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist

If you want a solid intro to Perl programming, Think Perl 6 is the best option for beginners. It’s the newest book on this topic covering the latest advancements in Perl. This book teaches the fundamentals along with practical modern-day uses for Perl scripting.

The book is divided into fifteen chapters. It starts with the basic concepts, then focuses on different programming paradigms and some more advanced Perl programming techniques. After reading the book, you will be able to:

  • Learn basic concepts including variables, expressions, statements, functions, conditionals, recursion, and loops

  • Understand commonly used basic data structures and the most useful algorithms

  • Dive into object-oriented programming, and learn how to construct your types and methods to extend the language

  • Use grammars and regular expressions to analyze textual content

  • Explore how functional programming can help you make your code simpler and more expressive

This hands-on book includes over 100 exercises with multiple solutions, and more than 1,000 code examples so you can quickly practice what you learn.


2. Best Book for Completionists: Learning Perl: Making Easy Things Easy and Hard Things Possible

Learning Perl by Randal L. Schwartz, brian d toy, and Tom Phoenix is updated with the newest version of Perl. It teaches you everything about Perl’s syntax and how it works. You’ll learn the fundamentals of the language and how to get tasks running on any platform.

The contents of the book are well-structured with easy to understand writing style. The book is divided into sixteen chapters and the topic covered are:

  • Perl data and variable types

  • Subroutines

  • File operations

  • Regular expressions

  • String manipulation (including Unicode)

  • Lists and sorting

  • Process management

  • Smart matching

  • Use of third party modules

Each chapter covers a different process and you’ll learn through practice exercises how Perl fits into a modern dev workflow. If you’re just getting started with Perl, this is the book you want.


Other books you may like:


3. Best Book for Serious Learners: Beginning Perl Programming: From Novice to Professional

Beginning Perl Programming: From Novice to Professional by William "Bo" Rothwell will help you get started with Perl 5 and learn the important core concepts of Perl programming.

The book is divided into fourteen chapters and the contents covered are:

  • Chapter 1 covers the Origin of Perl

  • Chapter 2 covers Scalar Variables

  • Chapter 3 covers Array Variables

  • Chapter 4 talks about Associative Array Variables

  • Chapter 5 covers Flow Control

  • Chapter 6 covers Conditional Expressions

  • Chapter 7 talks about Basic Input and Output

  • Chapter 8 covers Advanced Input and Output

  • Chapter 9 covers Pattern Matching

  • Chapter 10 covers Perl Utilities

  • Chapter 11 covers Filesystem and Process Control

  • Chapter 12 talks about Functions

  • Chapter 13 talks about Using Modules

  • Chapter 14 covers Debugging Perl

It covers basically all aspects of Perl programming in great detail. After reading this book, you will be able to:

  • Perform operations on scalar values

  • Use scalar, array, and associative array variables

  • Work with flow control statements such as if, unless, while, until, for, and for each

  • Read and write directly to files with filehandles 

  • Use conditional expressions such as numeric and string comparison, regular expressions, file testing, and Perl statements

  • Format output with format statements 

  • Search for and replace sub-strings within a string using regular expressions

  • Master Perl utilities such as split, join, index, and more

  • Control the file system and processes from within a Perl script

  • Build functions for tasks including handling the scope of variables

  • Import existing modules into your Perl script

This book will enable you to start writing your powerful scripts to solve many web and programming problems. 


4. Best Book for Step-by-step Learners: Perl 6 Fundamentals: A Primer with Examples, Projects, and Case Studies

Perl 6 Fundamentals by Moritz Lenz helps you to gain the skills to begin developing Perl 6 applications from the ground up. The book includes hands-on examples, case studies, and projects to help you get started building with Perl 6.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters and the contents include:

  • Chapter 1 introduces you to Perl 6

  • Chapter 2 talks about Running Rakudo Perl 6

  • Chapter 3 covers Formatting a Sudoku Puzzle

  • Chapter 4 talks about Datetime Conversion for the Command Line

  • Chapter 5 covers Testing say()

  • Chapter 6 talks about Silent-Cron, a Cron Wrapper

  • Chapter 7 covers Stateful Silent-Cron

  • Chapter 8 gives a review of the Perl 6 Basics

  • Chapter 9 talks about Parsing INI Files Using Regexes and Grammars

  • Chapter 10 covers the File and Directory Usage Graph

  • Chapter 11 talks about Unicode Search Tool

  • Chapter 12 talks about Plotting Using Inline: Python and Matplotlib

  • Chapter 13 guides you on further learning Perl

After reading the book, you will be able to:

  • Get coding with Perl 6

  • Work on several hands-on examples and projects

  • Integrate Python libraries into your Perl 6 programs

  • Parse INI files using regexes and grammars

  • Build a date-time converter 

  • Carry out refactoring and other automated tests

It’s easily consumable and structured as a sequence of lessons that help you with problem-solving and generally thinking like a Perl programmer.


5. Best Book for Hands-on Learners: Perl by Example

Perl by Example by Ellie Quigley is a complete guide to the language and its constructs. This book is more like talking with examples rather than with words.

The book is divided into sixteen chapters and the contents covered in them include:

  • Chapter 1 covers the introduction, the Practical Extraction, and Report Language

  • Chapter 2 covers Perl quick start 

  • Chapter 3 covers Perl scripts

  • Chapter 4 covers guided you on getting a handle on printing

  • Chapter 5 covers Scalars, Arrays, and Hashes

  • Chapter 6 covers operators

  • Chapter 7 covers If Only, Unconditionally, Forever

  • Chapter 8 covers Regular Expressions

  • Chapter 9 talks about getting control: Regular Expression Metacharacters

  • Chapter 10 guides you on getting a handle on files

  • Chapter 11 talks about how do subroutines function

  • Chapter 12 covers reference 

  • Chapter 13 covers how to Modularize It, Package It, and Send It to the Library!

  • Chapter 14 talks about object-oriented Perl

  • Chapter 15 covers Perl Connects with MySQL

  • Chapter 16 covers Interfacing with the System

The book strikes a balance between not being in-depth but not being superficial either. It targets beginners in Perl and programming in general with as much information necessary for such a level. It can also serve as a comprehensive reference for Perl programmers. 


More Ways to Learn

I always recommend pairing a quality programming book with an interactive or video course. Multiple forms of input help you learn quicker, and you can with little monetary investment.

Here one additional way to learn Perl other than books:

Udemy offers Perl Programming for Beginners, which offers nearly eight hours of video material walking through designing and building Perl applications.

If you are looking for free helpful resources, I’ve compiled a list of over 70 free coding resources to help beginners learn programming. I hope it is helpful and I look forward to seeing you over there. 👋 😁

Miranda Limonczenko

Miranda is the founder of Books on Code, with a mission to bring book-lover culture to programmers. Learn more by checking out Miranda on LinkedIn.

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