[AstroPy] Python Books for Beginners?

Rick White rlw@stsci....
Fri Feb 5 13:52:23 CST 2010

You might want to look at "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist",  
which is written specifically for teaching Python as a first  
programming language.  It was originally written for high school  
students.  I have not actually used it for teaching, but I think it  
might be usable for a college-level introductory course too.

It is 270 pages, which is a much more reasonable size.  And it has the  
advantage of being available both in a published version and for free  
download (in PDF) or online reading (HTML):


There are versions available for other programming languages too, but  
why would you start anywhere except Python?

- Rick

On Feb 5, 2010, at 2:15 PM, Eric Jensen wrote:

> Hi Kelle et al.,
> I'm just in the position of starting to learn Python myself and have
> wondered the same thing, on behalf of my students, so I'm glad to see
> this thread.  I realize that my own needs are different from those of
> someone who has never programmed before (the first language is the
> hardest to learn!).
> One of the first books I ordered was "Learning Python", which Rick
> Wagner suggested in an earlier message.  I had had the first edition
> in my lab for a long time, but I thought it would be good to update to
> the new edition.
> Trying to take into account the difference between a new programmer
> learning Python, and me coming from having used Perl and IDL for a
> long time, I still wonder whether "Learning Python" is the best bet.
> One thing to note is that it's *huge* - 1200+ pages.  (In contrast,
> the first edition is about 300 pages.)  So in my view, it's unlikely a
> new programmer is going to work his/her way through a significant
> fraction of it.  And even given that size, it's still not really a
> reference book - as just one example of something I checked, regular
> expressions are given about two sentences of text (basically just to
> say "these exist, read more elsewhere").
> Thus, I wonder whether something more compact (though I don't know
> which book specifically) might be useful for someone to get started,
> and then something like "Python in a Nutshell" to have in the lab as a
> reference.
> Just my thoughts - I look forward to hearing what others think.
> Eric
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