Over recent years my skills with the Python language have grown. This has been down to self-learning, online courses and several excellent books. However, at times I get the feeling that my Python skills are lacking the finesse and finish that other programmers have. Is it because my skills are missing something? If you get a similar feeling then don’t worry, help is here as Al Sweigart and No Starch Press have created “Beyond The Basic Stuff With Python”.
In the interest of openness and fairness: No Starch Press have given me a copy of the book for free for review purposes. They don’t have any say in the editorial content of my site / blog post.
Al kick starts Beyond The Basic Stuff With Python discussing attending 2600 meet ups and imposter syndrome. Similarly I remember viewing several message boards (I’m a little less social than Al) and trying to read up on subjects before jumping in with a post, so the introduction of this book pulled me straight in. Then comes the desert of despair (as Al puts it) that I guess so many programmers (myself included) hit when the introduction/ foundation courses end and there is still a knowledge gap between being able to write code and being able to write code like other programmers do.
What may be considered the “basics” of asking for help (there are good ways and bad ways to ask, and even an etiquette) are dealt with chapter one. Then it’s onto environment setup, which I have to say Al covers really well as he shares knowledge about Windows, Linux and macOS. Setting up a good working environment is key to producing great code (Python or any language), I know I messed up environment variables and directory layouts when starting out.
With setup out of the way Al moves onto Python formatting, PEP 8, naming conventions and writing Pythonic code. I’ll hold my hands up here – my early Python programs work but could be improved massively with what Al writes about in these chapters. I’ve started using Black, a Python code formatter discussed in chapter 3. It can be daunting to see how much my formatting can be improved, however it is also amazing and gives me something to work towards. Al even writes about some of the arguments that formatting can sometimes cause.
Code smells (a new term to me, which perfectly describes what it discusses), oddities, jargon and gotchas all get their own chapters. Each of them a small goldmine of knowledge that beginners, intermediates and probably even advanced programmers will benefit from.
Beyond The Basic Stuff With Python also includes practise projects, a chapter on Git and several chapters on object oriented Python. Al includes pointers to other books and websites to expand on subjects if the reader wants to know more. A slight word of warning (in a good way), sometimes this creates a rabbit hole of information leading to more information – so make sure to have a bookmark (both physically for the book and for any websites) ready!
My copy of the book arrived at the beginning of the month and I’ve spent evenings diving into chapters, and even re-reading chapters just to take in as much knowledge as possible. I made the career move into a dev-ops role a while back and I feel this book would have helped me so much then, as it has helped me a lot now.
No Starch Press include several snap shots of the book, and a free download of chapter 2 (Environment Setup and The Command Line) at: https://nostarch.com/beyond-basic-stuff-python . Real Python talked to Al about the book on the Real Python podcast (episode 33) at: https://realpython.com/podcasts/rpp/33/ .