If you want to learn Python or programming in general, you are in the right place. This article covers the best python books available in the market and provides guidance to help you select the right book.
Over the last few days, we have reviewed many Python books and shortlisted the top books. Some of these books are good for absolute beginners and the others are more suited for experienced programmers.
- Best Python Books for Beginners
- Best Python Books for Intermediate and Advanced Level
- Best Python Books for Machine Learning
- Best Python Books for Kids
To make it easy, each book is labeled with the complexity of programming concepts covered and is categorized as fit for beginners, intermediate or advanced level developers. Also, some books focus on specific skills like data science, AI, machine learning, data visualization, games development, and web development rather than being general purposes programming books.
For example, Python Crash Course by Eric Mathews is a fantastic option for beginners to understand the depths of computer programming. Introduction to Machine learning with Python by Sarah Guido is focused more on machine learning and data science with Python.
Similarly, Django for Python on the other hand focuses specifically on web development with Python, you would not want to pick this book to learn the basics of Python. It is also worth noting that ease of Python has made programming possible for kids too, and there are a couple of good books specifically designed for kids – like Coding for Kids.
Python has climbed the ladder to become one of the most popular programming languages. And you will find hundreds of books and other learning resources in the market.
I would emphasize that selecting the right resource for learning is key to save time and understand the depths of any programming language.
So do spend 10 minutes and go through the details of various books mentioned below –
Best Python Books for Beginners
This first section of the article focuses on the books one should pick to learn the core concepts of Python and depths of programming in general. Most of the books in this section are beginners friendly and do not demand any prior knowledge of programming.
For advanced programmers and for specific areas like Machine learning etc. you can jump straight to the advanced books section.
Eric Matthes (May 2019)
True to the name, this is a fast-paced book and a good reference for beginners looking to master core Python concepts.
It is a 544-page book and starts off by covering the basic concepts of programming, including variables, data structures, lists, python tuples, loops, and conditional statements. The first half also covers concepts of object-oriented as well as functional programming.
The sequence of chapters and coverage of concepts is well organized and keeping beginners in mind. What works well for most students is the illustrative examples along with trying it yourself exercises. Since the book is logically structured, so, skipping chapters can break the learning link, unless you have prior Python knowledge.
The author brings in hands-on learning towards the second half of the book and teaches best practices to apply Python knowledge into practice by creating three projects.
In the first project, you write python code to create a “space invaders” like arcade game using core Python and Pygame library – a popular python package. In the second project, you learn to make data visualizations using libraries like Matplotlib and Plotly. Finally, you would learn to create a web app using the Django framework of Python.
While you work on the projects, Eric keeps on providing tips on how you can spot, and debug errors and adds explanation around some of the most common errors that beginners make.
The book is available as a hard book as well as e-book.
Paul Barry (O’Reilly December 2016)
Head First Python is another book written in simple language and ranks among the most recommended books for Python beginners. What I love the most about this book is the visually rich format and many illustrations that keep readers engaged. Equally, a good thing is a large number of examples in each section along with the code snippets.
It is worth noting that, the Head First series has books published for several other programming languages as well. The entire series is popular among high school students and beginners who are new to programming.
Like a typically beginner-friendly book, this book also starts off by covering the most basic concepts of python programming. You get the basic tour of python, understand the pre-requisites for python programming, learn to do system setup, and then move on to write a basic python application.
As you read on, you get to understand file handling, built-in data structures, error handling, functions, design patterns, and a lot more. The core theme of the book revolves around a web application that interacts with the database. Step by step you keep building part of the web app with every new topic you learn.
The book covers every minute detail beginners should take care of, like indentation, files organization, naming conventions, and many other best practices used in programming.
It is to note that, this book would not cover advanced topics like Machine learning, statistics, or data science, etc., the book’s primary focus is to make sure you learn the specifications of python programming.
The book is available as a hard copy paperback as well as e-book.
Al Sweigart (No Starch Press, 12 November 2019)
The new edition of this book is absolutely fun for everyone including computer science students, finance graduates as well as someone from an arts background.
The book uses Python 3 and teaches fundamentals of Python by writing programs to automate real life repetitive tasks like renaming hundreds of files, updating excel cells, text search, and a lot more.
The author also covers many Python libraries that can be used to write automation scripts for web scraping, automated typing, reading PDFs, automating clicking tasks, etc.
The book starts off by covering basic concepts of Python and then scales to more advanced concepts of automation.
Zed Shaw (Addison-Wesley, 1 January 2019)
The book series started with Python 2, and later in 2016 published Learn Python 3 the hard way. Written by Zed Shaw, the book prompts you to think about coding while writing Python code.
While the title mentions the hard way, the book is simple to read and brings in a more informal style of explanation. The term “hard way” comes from the fact that the author wants you to type the sample code by hand without doing any copy/paste.
It is worth noting that Zed Shaw has quite a different style and sounds authoritative and abrasive at times in his way of writing. If you can live with that, you would understand the practical aspects of programming from this book more than any other book.
The book starts off with python installation and environment setup, talks about basic mathematics, moves on to strings, variables, working with files, logic, loops, modules, objects, classes, etc. in the first half. All in all, the book has 52 coding exercises that cover all aspects of Python.
The second half of the book focuses more on program design, data structures, python packaging, few basics on how to build games with python, and how to create web apps with python.
Towards the end of the book, you would also find some practice applications. The author will make you think about how to debug the code and fix issues as professional developers do.
The book is available as a paperback as well as e-book.
Allen B. Downey (O’Reilly January 2016)
This is a good book for beginners who are looking for a more in-depth theory behind every aspect of Python programming. A perfect book for computer science students who are not only learning Python but core concepts of programming in general.
Think Python from O’Reilly, written by Allen Downey deep dives into several basic features of Python. As the name suggests, it teaches us to think in a coder’s style. The book has a good set of examples and practice exercises, but the count of practice exercises is lesser than other beginner-friendly books.
The book is available as a hard book as well as e-book.
You may like to read: Best Python Compilers
Al Sweigart (No Starch Press January 2017)
Learning is easy when it is fun too. This book takes a completely different approach to teach Python programming. The book will guide you through to create games like Hangman, Tic-Tac-Toe, Guess the Number and many more.
Students typically grasp core concepts of programming when they are forced to do a complete project end to end. To make sure the games are complete in all respects, the author takes you to the next level to include game animations, sound effects, etc. and much more.
You also get to understand the effective use of data structures and other python features for graphics, collision detection, handling mouse inputs, special effects, and much more. Go a step further and the author includes artificial intelligence as well into the whole mix to build games where you can play against the computer.
It is worth noting that Python is not the programming language to create high-end games, but it is still used by many to make basic games. So, the key takeaway from the book would be to learn the depths of python programming and understand game creation concepts along with that.
I would not recommend this book to every beginner or the studious kind, not even to the who want specialization in game creation. This book is more suited to the curious types and folks who like fun in learning anything and everything.
Kids of age group 10-15 would love this book to learn to code, given that it includes a new game in every chapter.
Best Python Books for Intermediate and Advanced Level
This section lists down books suitable more to master intermediate to advanced level concepts. It is worth noting that many of the advanced concepts are never used by many Python developers. Many Python users have limited and specific programming needs in their profession and basic programming typically suffices.
But hard-core programming and professional application development required pythonic thinking and understanding. Below books go a step further and cover python concepts. We have also listed a few books that deal with machine learning, data science, and data visualization with Python in this section.
Luciano Ramalho (O′Reilly August 2015)
Fluent Python from O’Reilly, written by Luciano Ramalho also takes you through the complete Python learning journey. It covers the core concepts of Python that can be used to write efficient, reusable, and readable code.
It is worth noting that, developers over the period establish set patterns and ways of writing code, irrespective of the programming language they are using. This book gives specific emphasis on breaking those pre-established patterns and attempts to teach the right way of coding in Python by using features of Python that typically get ignored.
There are six sections in the book, as below –
- The data model in Python: Modelling of Python objects to ensure that behavior remains consistent, puts emphasis on special methods.
- Data structures: How to use built-in data types effectively and efficiently. Example: gets to the depths to uncover the difference between text and bytes usage.
- The functional programming paradigm: Elaborates the functional programming paradigm in Python and explains how functions are used as first-class objects.
- Object-Oriented programming paradigm: Get to the depths of object-oriented programming and teaches best practices around interface, mutability, inheritance, polymorphism, overloading, persistence, and much more.
- Control Flow: Use of coroutines to control the code execution flow, context managers, concurrency management futures, asyncio packages, and much more.
- Metaprogramming: Last sections focus more on metaprogramming and talks about decorators, descriptors, and properties usage and function, in detail.
Buy this book if are the kinds who like perfection in everything. One can write code in multiple ways but this book would make sure that you pick the right feature of python to complete a given programming task.
Dan Bader (October 2017)
Python Tricks is another book that focuses more on the beauty of Python and goes beyond teaching just the standard Python reference specifications. As the name suggests, the book provides some unusual tips and tricks for writing efficient code using the depth and breadth of Python.
There are 301 pages organized in multiple independent subsections. Every section picks up a related set of Python features and explains the best practices and core concepts organized as tips/tricks.
Some of the key topics covered are as below:
- Python patterns for clean and efficient code
- Tips and Tricks for Python functions
- Objects, classes, and OOP concepts
- Built-in data types and data structures
- Iterations using loops
- Use of dictionary and best practices
- Efficient and fast code.
The book is available as a hard book as well as e-book. The e-book carries some additional learning videos too that are a good add-on to the overall learning experience.
Best Python Books for Machine Learning
Sarah Guido (O’Reilly Media, October 2016)
Introduction to Machine Learning with Python from O’Reilly, written by Sarah Guido is all about machine learning. Reading this book, you will get to know what exactly is expected from a data scientist, effective ways to handle large amounts of data, various algorithms used to play around with data, data visualization, and more.
The best part is you learn how to derive useful insights from the given set of data by focusing on practical aspects of machine learning applications rather than the math behind algorithms. As you read through, you will use the core scikit-learn library of Python as well as get to learn about the NumPy and matplotlib libraries.
This book covers below topics in detail –
- Most widely used machine learning algorithms
- Data representation and visualization techniques
- Data modeling, evaluation, and parameters tuning
- Encapsulating workflow, chaining models, and much more
- Techniques to work with both structured as well as unstructured data
- Tips and Tricks to be a better data scientist
The book expects readers to be aware of basic Python coding, though it covers almost every basic functionality involved in machine learning. Also, it is worth noting that while many resources available out there in the wild that claim to teach machine learning, most of those take a complicated approach. This book on the other hand takes a simplistic approach and teaches various concepts of machine learning with python, with ease.
The book is available as a hard book as well as e-book.
Sebastian Raschka (Packt Publishing, 12 December 2019)
This is another book for understanding machine learning and deep learning using Python. The book gets into details of scikit-learn, tensor flow, reinforcement learning, and generative adversarial network models to teach concepts of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The book also covers NLP for sentiments analysis and to do document classification.
What would you learn:
- Use of machine learning to image classification, document classification, sentiment analysis, scraping, and more
- Learn about neural networks and GANs
- Evaluation and tuning of models
- Regression analysis in data science
- Social media data analysis for meaningful insights, and a lot more
Note that this book is meant for experienced python developers who already know the basics of programming and data science. One can also pick up this book to train others on the concepts of algorithms and machine learning.
François Chollet (Manning Publications, 2017)
This book is also meant for intermediate Python developers and teaches concepts of deep learning. It uses Keras and TensorFlow for teaching machine learning, though prior knowledge of machine learning is not required.
This book also includes practical examples and brings in many challenging concepts you can master in the field of machine learning, including natural language processing and computer vision techniques.
Key topics include:
Basics of deep learning
- Prerequisites and environment readiness
- Models preparation for image classification
- Text mining, analysis, and sequences
- Text generation, image generation, and neural style transfer
Note that you get a free eBook in PDF format, ePub format, and Kindle edition free when you buy the print book from Manning publications.
Svein Linge and Hans Petter Langtangen (Springer, July 2016)
This is one of the most popular books for engineering and science students to work with numerical methods and common mathematical problems. The best part of the book is that it includes many working examples and illustrations to explain the numerical methods and related concepts.
It is worth noting that while this book is for students and beginners, it is not meant to teach depths of Python but comes with a clear focus on mathematics, calculus, and other numerical problems.
William S. Vincent (Welcometocode , August 2020)
Django is among the most used web frameworks of all time. Django for beginners from William Vincent is a great read for web developers and teaches you how to build web apps end to end with the Python Django framework.
Web development gets more complex when it comes to set up, deployment, and involves many other moving and complicated parts like interaction with databases, web services, and a lot more. This book covers it all, starting from prerequisites and going up to deployment in the cloud.
Key topics covered –
- Guides to build around 5 websites absolutely from scratch. This includes one good blog and a Newspaper website.
- Website deployment including security best practices.
- Theming the site with custom preferences
- Testing the code with test scripts
- Authentication, user roles, and send email feature
- User permissions and authorization
- Debugging, error handling, and details around common mistakes.
With a good collection of examples, this is one of the best books to have if you know Python and want to start learning Django. The book covers web pages, form building, bootstrap, authentication along with several other web features.
Best Python Books for Kids
When it comes to kids, learning programming is like learning a new sport, specifically when learning is fun and involves plenty of games. Most of the books that are a target for kids learning include programs to create games and other fun activities.
These books typically target kids starting age 10 and above, however, it is worth noting that kids need help and support from an elderly one to start the coding journey. These are not self-learning books for kids 😊
This book easily ranks among the best python books for kids, and for that reason, we have it here in this list. Python book for Kids is specifically designed for kids and focuses more on expanding their thinking along with Python knowledge. And to do so, it includes many puzzles and very uniquely designed Python examples including secret agents, thieving ravens, and more.
Keeping kids engaged requires careful organization, and this book does that the best by taking care of even the minute details like using colors in code samples, graphical illustrations, defining every term in detail, and much more.
As you go through the book, kids would complete a piece of the game with every chapter. Towards completion, kids would create a clone of the popular pong game and create a platform game that includes jumps and animations etc.
Adrienne B. Tacke (Rockridge Press, March 2019)
This book contains around 50 innovative exercises including games and activities. Book influences kids to work on code, make modifications, and apply their thinking to produce a creative output.
Coding for Kids includes –
- Learning with Games: Kids understand the concepts by hands-on practice with innovative exercises around games and activities.
- Engaging Projects – Prompts kids to modify code, play around with code for creative output
- Guided exercises – Every exercise and piece of code is well elaborated with step by step instructions for ease of understanding.
Python has a moderate learning curve and most coders self-learn Python by choosing the right books and learning resources.
It is quite amazing that Python is the first language to enter the curriculum of kids and lowered the entry bar to learn to program.
Not only that, it goes beyond just the tech-savvy people to all other streams including finance and arts graduates. The easy to learn syntax has made it all possible for Python.
This was all about our review of various Python books, each book brings in different styles of learning and one can do not call a single book the best for everyone.
Hope the reviews were helpful, once you shortlist a couple of books from this article, also go and check the index and sample chapters online to figure out what fits best to your style of learning.