7 Best Python Books for Beginners in 2020

Did you know? Python’s name originated from Monty Python.

Did you know? Python’s name originated from Monty Python.

If you are thinking of picking a language as a beginner, Python is not just a fine language to choose. It’s practically undeniable.

Why? Python’s popularity has absolutely exploded in recent years. A 2019 InfoWorld article says, “At the current pace of growth, Tiobe estimates Python could surpass Java and C in popularity in three to four years.

To put this in perspective, Java and C has dominated our world for decades. The languages have, until recently, been widespread in computer science classrooms and software companies.

But we are in a new age. Unlike a more complex language like Go, Python is now often taught at top universities of computer science instead of the more traditional languages.

One top computer science university, Rice University, teaches a full computer science curriculum through Coursera with Python. According to their course description, this is the reasoning they give:

Our language of choice, Python, is an easy-to learn, high-level computer language that is used in many of the computational courses offered on Coursera.

Python offers a ease-of-use and modern comfort that other languages can’t compete with. Python is also the choice for learning tools like Raspberry Pi and to teach kids programming.

Python is everywhere.

And it gets better. Due to Python’s popularity and accessibility, Python has an abundance of learning resources that is unparalleled in charm and style.

The book publisher No Starch Press (which will appear many times in this article) pioneers engaging and creative books on Python.

The best books on Python provide you the ability to learn at your own time even if you are on the go. In order to attain better employment opportunities in the software industry, you can learn to master Python programming skills through books, courses, and projects.

The best books about Python will help you craft interesting projects with new, innovative ideas. Fortunately, there are many books I would deem the best Python books for beginners. Unlike other categories of books, it’s hard to narrow them down.

In this article, we have put the spotlight on the best books for learning Python through a collection of book reviews.

Each book review will highlight the taste of the book, contents covered, and how it can benefit you. Depending upon your background and book’s style and content, different books may resonate with you.

An Overview of Python

Did I already mention that Python is a popular programming language?

Created by Guido van Rossum and released in 1991, this general-purpose language can be used for a variety of applications. Python includes capabilities such as web development, software development, artificial intelligence (AI), OS, prototyping, GUI-apps, image processing, and scientific computing. It's also a popular language for machine learning, data analysis, and visualization.

Many tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and Mozilla are using Python. Even many financial firms also recruit Python developers. This is also the primary language used for the massive cloud computing project OpenStack.

Best Books on Python for Beginners

Although there are many online courses and resources, learning from books is still the best way to improve Python programming. Not all Python programming books are made equal. Best Python books must meet the following criteria:

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

  • Thoroughly teach and explain the most important Python concepts

  • Contain practice problems and questions for you to work on your own

  • Engaging able to hold the attention of readers

  • Structured and friendly toward self-taught programmers

Here are the best Python books for beginners:

 

Book 1: Learn Python 3 the Hard Way

Learn Python 3 the Hard Way by Zed A. Shaw helps the reader learn the basics of programming with Python 3. Readers will learn Python through 52 outstandingly crafted exercises. Each exercise is building on the previous, and each one teaches the reader about some new features of the language. You just have to do all these exercises and find your own solutions to problems you run into.

The book starts with Exercise 0 which is about getting Python set up on your computer. As you go through the book, you will learn about the following:

  • Install a complete Python environment

  • Organize and write code

  • Fix and break code

  • Basic mathematics

  • Variables

  • Strings and text

  • Interact with users

  • Work with files

  • Looping and logic

  • Data structures using lists and dictionaries

  • Program design

  • Object-oriented programming

  • Inheritance and composition

  • Modules, classes, and objects

  • Python packaging

  • Automated testing

  • Basic game development

  • Basic web development

The contents of this book are concise and well-constructed. It is suitable for both beginners and professionals. This classic book will help you to learn how the software works; what good programs look like; how to read, write, and think about Python code; and how to find and fix your mistakes. The ‘hard way’ from the title turns out to be the easy way to learn and master Python!

You can access Learn Python 3 the Hard Way free for 10 days with O’Reilly Learning.

 

Book 2: Head First Python, 2nd Edition

Head First Python by Paul Barry is a brain-friendly guide for Python programming. It is not as comprehensive as some of the other books, it still covers a wide range of Python tasks in a user-friendly way. This book is designed to guide you through Python programming challenges in a fun way. It has a visually rich format to engage your mind, rather than a text-heavy approach that puts you to sleep. 

There are 12 chapters in this book and the contents covered in the book are:

  • Chapter 1 covers the basics

  • Chapter 2 covers List Data

  • Chapter 3 covers Structured Data

  • Chapter 4 covers Code Reuse

  • Chapter 5 covers Building a Webapp

  • Chapter 6 covers Storing and Manipulating Data

  • Chapter 8 covers a little bit of class

  • Chapter 7 gives the concept of using a Database

  • Chapter 9 covers the context management protocol

  • Chapter 10 covers function decorators

  • Chapter 11 covers exception handling and a little bit about threading

  • Chapter 12 covers advanced iteration

Each chapter is organized around a unifying project “building a dynamic website for a school athletic coach using Python through a Common Gateway Interface (CGI)”. If you are looking for a fun and approachable book for Python, then this one is for you. The contents will make you stay focused and you will not be bored!

You can access Head First Python free for 10 days with O’Reilly Learning.

 

Book 3: Python Crash Course, 2nd Edition

Python Crash Course by Eric Matthews is one of the bestselling Python books in the world. This book is well written and nicely organized. This is a fast-paced and comprehensive introduction to Python language for beginners who wish to learn Python programming. This book has a patient and experienced pedagogical style, along with a combination of thorough language instruction and a lot of illustrative sample codes. 

The contents of the book are divided into two parts. The first part of the book discusses the basics of Python programming. It has the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1 covers the basics on how to get started

  • Chapter 2 covers the variables and Simple Data Types

  • Chapter 3 introduces Lists

  • Chapter 4 covers the contents on how to work with Lists

  • Chapter 5 covers the basics of ‘if Statements’

  • Chapter 6 covers the basics of Dictionaries

  • Chapter 7  covers the user input and while loops

  • Chapter 8 introduces Functions

  • Chapter 9 introduces Classes

  • Chapter 10 introduces Files and Exceptions

  • Chapter 11 covers the topic of how to test your code before you add it to a project

The second part of this book follows a practical approach and includes three challenging and entertaining projects. This helps you test your knowledge by presenting three different projects, an arcade game ‘Alien Invasion’, data visualizations, a web application using Python’s libraries.

As you go through the book, you will learn how to:

  •  Use powerful Python libraries and tools, including Pygame, Matplotlib, Plotly, and Django

  •  Make 2D games that respond to keypresses and mouse clicks, and that increase in difficulty

  •  Use data to generate interactive visualizations

  •  Create and customize Web apps and deploy them safely online

  •  Deal with mistakes and errors so you can solve your own programming problems

The book is recommended not just for beginners but for anyone who has a vague understanding of the language and wants to polish his/her Python programming. As you go through the book, you learn the use of libraries, tools. and amazing visualizations. I love this book!

You can access this book free for 10 days with O’Reilly Learning.

 

Book 4: Serious Python

Serious Python by Julien Danjou is an outstanding book for those who already have gone through beginner’s guides and tutorials or already have experience of other programming languages. This book teaches you how to write Python code in an expert way. The chapters are not just covering the mere syntax but take your Python skills to a new level. 

This book is will let you learn how to make and use effective decorators and methods. The wonderful book will help you to employ Python for functional programming using generators, pure functions, and functional functions. It also helps you to extend flake8 to work with the AST to introduce more sophisticated automatic checks into your programs. The book aids you to apply dynamic performance analysis and managing relational databases and stream data with PostgreSQL.

The book is divided into thirteen of the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1 covers laying out the files and folders for your Python project. 

  • Chapter 2 covers modules, libraries, frameworks, and importing. This is especially helpful from other languages that have similar, but distinct, ways of importing code.

  • Chapter 3 covers Python-specific documentation and Good API Practice

  • Chapter 4 covers the handling of timestamps and time zones as it is important programming information. This chapter brings to light easy-to-miss Python modules that make working with dates and timezones manageable.

  • Chapter 5 covers packaging and distributing Python code Distributing Your Software

  • Chapter 6 covers unit testing, fixtures, and mocks. It also covers code coverage.py tool for measuring the effectiveness of your unit tests.

  • Chapter 7 covers decorators and static/class/abstract methods. 

  • Chapter 8 covers functional programming concepts. This chapter is a must-read for anyone who does not know about functional programming. 

  • Chapter 9 covers the abstract syntax tree, Hy, and lisp-like attributes.

  • Chapter 10 covers performance and optimization, explaining not just the cProfile module but also the dis module for disassembling Python bytecode for analysis.

  • Chapter 11 covers scaling and architecture and provides a good introduction to several concepts that many programmers are unaware of.

  • Chapter 12 covers concepts of managing relational databases

  • Chapter 13 covers a few miscellaneous topics that don't quite fit in any other chapter. 

This book is filled with practical information and compiled the contents in a well-organized way. Serious Python will simply polish your Python skills from good to outstanding!\

You can access this book free for 10 days with O’Reilly Learning.

 

Book 5: Real-World Python

Real-World Python by Lee Vaughan is a project-based approach to learning Python programming. This is my favorite book for advanced Python programmers as you will explore some of Python’s more powerful tools and learn how to tackle challenging problems with code.

Real-World Python is a collection of worked projects for those who already readers who know some basic Python and want to do something with their knowledge. The book will teach you how to investigate and solve real-world problems using sophisticated computer vision, machine learning, data analysis, and language processing tools. The book's projects teach thought processes, problem-solving, and coding syntax. 

This book lets you learn and think through challenges like saving shipwrecked sailors, detecting asteroids, discovering planets, selecting landing sites for Mars, and many more. The book's practical projects introduce important Python modules, like NLTK and OpenCV, which are used extensively in data analysis and machine learning. Some of the projects of this book are:

  • Saving Shipwrecked Sailors with an algorithm ‘Bayes’ Rule’

  • Sending super-secret messages based on a book code

  • Finding Pluto

  • Winning the moon race with Apollo 8

  • Selecting landing sites for a Mars probe using real NASA maps

  • Detecting distant exoplanets and alien megastructures orbiting distant stars

  • Identifying friend or foe

  • Restricting access with face recognition

  • Surviving a zombie outbreak with data science

  • Test the hypothesis that we’re all living in a computer simulation

Overall, this book best suits those who are familiar with Python programming concepts and libraries. By the end of the book, readers will be able to create complete working programs by thinking through intriguing Python projects. If you’re someone who likes to learn by doing, then this book is for you!

You can access this book free for 10 days with O’Reilly Learning.

 

Book 6: Python One-Liners

Python One-Liners by Christian Mayer will show you how to perform useful tasks with a concise one line of Python code.  You will learn how to systematically unpack and understand any line of Python code, and write concise and eloquent Python like a professional!

Through this book, you will learn how to…

  • Leverage data structures to solve real-world problems

  • Use NumPy basics

  • Calculate basic statistics of multidimensional data arrays and the K-Means algorithms for unsupervised learning

  • Create more advanced regular expressions 

  • Understand a wide range of computer science topics, including anagrams, palindromes, supersets, permutations, factorials, algorithmic sorting and many more

The book covers essential advanced topics like slicing, regular expressions, list comprehension, broadcasting, lambda functions, algorithms, logistic regression, and more. Each chapter introduces a problem to solve, walks the reader through the skills necessary to solve that problem, then provides a concise one-liner Python solution with a detailed explanation. The chapters in the book cover the following:

  • Chapter 1 is a brief Python refresher

  • Chapter 2 covers the Python Tricks

  • Chapter 3 covers concepts of data science

  • Chapter 4 covers the concepts of machine learning (ML)

  • Chapter 5 covers regular expressions 

  • Chapter 6 covers useful algorithms

By the end of the book, you will know how to write refined and concise Python in merely a single line. The unique style of the book not only encourages you to read for a long time without getting bored but also makes you do stuff along the way.

You can access this book free for 10 days with O’Reilly Learning.

 

Book 7: Automate the Boring Stuff with Python, 2nd Edition

Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Sweigart is one of the best books for beginning programmers. To read this book, you do not need any prior Python programming experience. In this book, you will learn how to use Python to write programs that do in minutes what would take you hours to do. 

This book will help you to create programs that perform useful feats of automation to send e-mail responses, fill out online forms, search for text in one or multiple files, search the Web and download online content, update and format excel data, and edit PDFs. 

The book is well designed and clearly written. It has twenty chapters and is divided into two parts. The first part of the book covers the Python programming basics:

  • Chapter 1 covers the Python basics

  • Chapter 2 covers the flow control

  • Chapter 3 covers the functions

  • Chapter 4 covers the lists

  • Chapter 5 covers the dictionaries and structuring data

  • Chapter 6 covers the manipulating strings

The second part of the book covers automating tasks and introduces the use of python libraries for some common and useful tasks. This section includes a variety of projects including:

  • Pattern Matching with Regular Expressions

  • Input Validation

  • Reading and Writing Files

  • Organizing Files

  • Debugging

  • Web Scraping

  • Working with Excel Spreadsheets

  • Working with Google Sheets

  • Working with PDF and Word Documents

  • Working with CSV Files and JSON Data

  • Keeping Time, Scheduling Tasks, and Launching Programs

  • Sending Email and Text Messages

  • Manipulating Images

  • Controlling the Keyboard and Mouse with GUI Automation

This book walks you through each program with step-by-step instructions. At the end of each chapter, there are practice projects that challenge your newly gained skills and hands-on knowledge. Python is often said to be a fun language to learn. If you have given up learning Python half-way through a boring and tough book, try this one. This book is a fun read and valuable to have on your shelf!

You can access this book free for 10 days with O’Reilly Learning.

 

Final Thoughts

That wraps our article about some of the best books to learn Python. It is hard to say which is the best book as it depends upon your background and choice.

In this series, you may have noticed: you can access every single one of these books for free digitally with O’Reilly Media’s astoundingly massive library. This is my secret to being able to read and access so many books. O’Reilly is partnered with literally all of the major players. If you own any technical books at all, they are probably digitized on O’Reilly Learning.

With the great selection of the best books on Python covering almost all topics one can imagine, the learning opportunities are endless!

Have you read some of the books already? Which book did you find the most helpful?

If you find this article on the best books about Python valuable, please share it with your friends, and if you want to continue learning and growing through books, you can always sign up for the Books on Code free email course, Get the Most from Technical Books (for Programmers).

If you’re interested in more learning resource recommendations, check out these 72 free coding resources. I will see you 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.

http://booksoncode.com
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