[LUNI] Thumbs down on _Python 2.1 Bible_
maney at pobox.com
Thu Aug 8 18:41:13 CDT 2002
Well, that's the last time I'll trust *unknown* online reviewers for a book
A while ago I was thinking it was about time for a new Python reference to
have hanging about my desk. The obvious choice would have been the second
edition of _Python Essential Reference_, the first edition of whcih I still
have here. But as useful as PER has been, it has also been a trifle
annoying in small ways, so I thought I'd survey the field.
I don't remember what all I looked at (or looked at reviews of), but in the
end I was drawn to _Python 2.1 Bible_ from Hungry Minds. I had been
inclined to pass it by, largely becuase of the B-word, but it had gotten
favorable reviews, and I've been hearing good things about Hungry Mind's
line of references for some time, so I bought it.
Now, mind: it's not awful. It may even be pretty good for someone who wants
an introduction to the language. But as a reference book this thing sucks
rocks: it is incomplete and poorly organized for looking up language or
For example, the bit that set off this rant: I've just been reading Kuchling
and Zadka's fine "What's new in Python 2.0" <http://www.amk.ca/python/2.0/>,
and they say that the syntax that more or less makes apply() unnecessary was
introduced in 2.0. Well, this "2.1 Bible" doesn't seem to know that you can
write f(*arg_tuple, **arg_dict) in place of apply(f, arg_tuple, arg_dict).
In fact, in its "All About Parameters" section, it never even mentions the
optional dictionary arguemnt to apply, and that's been around since at least
1.5.2 - over two years ago.
In the libraries section I had at first thought the 2.1 Bible had an
advantage over PER in that it has somewhat more examples and explanations,
but when I went to actually use it I found that it omitted any mention at
all of some of the less "popular" parts of a couple packages. (No, I don't
recall specifics - this was a while ago.)
It's really a damned shame - Python 2.1 Bible has generally good examples,
and lots of them. But a prime reference needs to be complete above all
else, and this books lapses in that regard too often for me. Makes me
wonder if that reviewer at ibm's developer site who praised this book ever
tried to use it; its flaws show up only when you're relying on it to guide
you through murky waters.
An education that does not teach clear, coherent writing
cannot provide our world with thoughtful adults; it gives us instead,
at the best, clever children of all ages. -- Richard Mitchell
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