Top 12 Python Books for Beginners & Experienced Programmers

Anyone interested in coding would do well to learn Python. Originally named after the hit sketch comedy troupe Monty Python, this programming language is at the heart of many important algorithms and software across the globe.

That’s why we’ve compiled the best books for learning Python, from first-time beginners to the more experienced computer scientists looking to learn Python tricks. Keep reading for a Python crash course and get ready to start programming Python with the tools and guidance you need to succeed.

What is Python and why do we use it?

Python is an extremely popular open-source programming language that was launched to the computer science world in 1992— and many software developers use it as a support language in their work. Python programming language is object-oriented, which means it organizes software design around data.

For programmers, Python is versatile and can be used for a broad range of applications, including:

  • Creating websites
  • Developing software
  • Supporting data analysis
  • Building data visualization
  • Writing data structures
  • Machine learning
  • Automating tasks
  • Spearheading design

The basic framework of Python makes it more accessible for beginners, as well as customizable for many different needs. Because this programming language wasn’t developed for one sole purpose, any data scientist or computer science professional — and anyone interested in learning to use it — has a large amount of freedom in rapid development when using Python.

Best Python programming books for beginners

Learning Python is extremely beneficial for computer programming newcomers — and it’s easy to learn with the right book. The simple syntax of Python code is similar to the English language, so determining what each line of code means is common sense for English language speakers. It’s also an in-demand skill inside and outside of the computer science world.

What is the best Python book for you? Below are our top picks to help you learn Python and become a skilled programmer:

A Concise Introduction to Programming in Python by Mark J. Johnson. Whether for classroom or self-study purposes, this book is written to provide readers with a hands-on introduction to Python code. Designed for those with no prior programming experience, this text breaks down the core principles and key concepts to understanding Python language. It also offers accessible examples, Python exercises and Python projects to show how Python can be used for finance, biology, image processing and textual analysis. For those who want to dive deeper into this programming language, the book also includes optional additional related topics to explore.

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A Functional Start to Computing with Python by Ted Herman. This book is a Python essential reference for new students. It enables readers to learn computing without the use of “loops, variables, and object abstractions at the start.” Get started almost immediately by defining new functions and learning the most important concepts of computing, from software engineering to advanced functional programming ideas. The book then builds on this knowledge to introduce more complex ideas to help students build their knowledge and understand assignment syntax and iteration. It also comes with access to a supplementary website with chapter-by-chapter guides and tools.

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Discovering Computer Science by Jessen Havill. Written for computer science newcomers, this introductory book is a great resource for computational problem-solving and programming in Python. Each section of this book presents a key authentic problem from the natural and social sciences and digital humanities to show students how to find effective Python solutions. As the book progresses, the problems become more complex and require more computer science principles, such as abstraction, efficiency, testing and algorithmic techniques.

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Making Music with Computers by Bill Manaris and Andrew R. Brown. Learning Python isn’t limited to engineering and computer scientists — it can also be a key tool for many music creators. As computers have evolved, music students can now use Python code to show their audio creativity through computer science. Each section of this book uses music-creation activities to showcase fundamental Python programming concepts. This includes data types, algorithms, operators, iterations, lists, functions and classes.

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Python Programming for Beginners Chapter Sampler

Python Programming for Beginners Chapter Sampler

Culled from some of our new and best-selling titles, this free guide provides an introduction to programming in Python. These chapters will benefit anyone who is interested in getting their feet wet with Python and learning some key programming concepts and examples.


Best Python books for intermediate students

Have you already learned the basics of the Python program and want to start becoming fluent? Or are you excited to see how Python can be applied to more complex applications? Look no further!

We’ve carefully selected a list of intermediate Python books to challenge your knowledge and build new skill sets within this flexible, effective programming language:

Programming Language Explorations by Ray Toal, Rachel Rivera, Alexander Schneider and Eileen Choe. This book not only builds reader knowledge of Python but also of 11 other modern programming languages that are popularly used today. It contextualizes how these programming languages exist with one another conceptually, as well as how they can be used for different coding applications. Each programming language section offers readers example programs and an overview of basic elements, type systems, functional forms, scoping rules and concurrency patterns. They also include open-source projects, more materials and exercises to hone practical computer science skills.

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Research Software Engineering with Python by Damien Irving, Kate Hertweck, Luke Johnston, Joel Ostblom, Charlotte Wickham and Greg Wilson. Python is an essential tool for research in science. Specifically understanding intermediate Python concepts, such as how to use code for data analysis, is an in-demand skill set for many researchers. Each author dissects a practical experience where scientists needed software skills to create trustworthy research. Although designed for graduate-level research, this book is written for students looking to build from a basic knowledge of programming language.

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A Tour of Data Science: Learn R and Python in Parallel by Nailong Zhang. There are two popular programming languages in computer science: Python and R. If you’re a student of data science, this is the perfect resource to learn about both. This book explores each type of code and contextualizes them for programming, statistics, optimization and machine learning applications. Written specifically from a data science perspective, this book provides a concentrated exploration of the two languages to build on the reader’s prior knowledge.

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Data Science and Analytics with Python by Jesus Rogel-Salazar. Ready to transition from student to practitioner in data science and data analytics? This is the ideal textbook for you. It analyzes important tools that were developed using Python, such as SciKit-learn, Pandas and Numpy. Every chapter can be studied and applied independently, so the book can be used as reference material in practice. The first half of the book covers important Python features, such as defining a Python primer, pattern recognition and artificial intelligence. From there the book delves into regression analysis, clustering techniques, classification algorithms and more.

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Modeling and Simulation in Python by Jason M. Kinser. Students with a working knowledge of Python code can use this book to take their coding skills to the next level. It explores how creating tools and data structure with Python can sometimes lead to mistakes, which require problem-solving algorithmic thinking skills. This book introduces readers to different computational environments that can use Python languages, such as movie databases, Chess games and even Shakespeare.

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Best books for advanced Python programmers

Although Python is a simple programming language, complex applications require professionals who can code in fluent Python. So, how do you become fluent in advanced Python? The key is practice and access to essential reference materials — and we’ve got books that can cover both!

To help you become an even better Python programmer, here’s a list of our top advanced Python books:

Exercises in Programming Style by Cristina Videira Lopes. No one — not even a computer scientist — can become a Python programmer overnight. Coding in fluent Python takes practice. This book, honored as an ACM Notable Book, shows programmers the various ways you can write programs and design data systems using Python. Specifically, it demonstrates 40 different styles for writing the term frequency tasks based on ten categories (historical, basic, function composition, objects and object interactions, reflection and metaprogramming, adversity, data-centric, concurrency, interactivity and neural networks). It’s the perfect practice book for advanced students in computer science and software engineering programs.

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Advanced Data Science and Analytics with Python by Jesus Rogel-Salazar. Even practicing data scientists need to regularly develop and apply their skills to stay on top of current computer programming expectations. This advanced Python reference book covers important data science tools developed in Python, such as SciKit-learn, Pandas, Numpy, Beautiful Soup, NLTK, NetworkX and more. It breaks down the practical use of each tool so any programmer can use the book when needed for a practical perspective rather than as a sequential learning guide. Other in-depth topics included in this book are time series analysis, natural language processing, topic modeling, social network analysis, neural networks and deep learning.

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Statistics and Data Visualisation with Python by Jesus Rogel-Salazar. While it revamps foundational statistics for those who've stepped away from the field, this book also serves as an introductory guide for those meeting statistics and Python for the first time. Its core mission is to furnish you with the building blocks of inferential statistics, arming you with the skills to craft impactful hypotheses. These skills are indispensable in today's fields like statistical analysis, business analytics and machine learning. The book starts with Python programming basics and data analysis, laying down a robust framework to prepare you for statistical methods and hypothesis testing — skills you'll find invaluable across a multitude of modern applications.

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Quick Python 3 by David Matuszek. Highlighting select library functions that offer immediate utility, this book is your fast track to Python proficiency — but only if you’re already an experienced programmer. The book dives straight into Python essentials — loops, if statements and functions — without dwelling on their generic uses, which you likely already understand. It does, however, allocate time for Python-specific features such as iterators and list comprehensions that might be new to you.

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Python for Scientific Computing and Artificial Intelligence by Stephen Lynch. A comprehensive guide split into three crucial parts. The first section acquaints you with the Python language through the lens of advanced high school math, making it an entry point even for those new to programming. Section two demonstrates Python's versatility in solving real-world scientific problems, extending across diverse fields like biology, chemistry and economics. The final section introduces the reader to the fascinating world of artificial intelligence, particularly through TensorFlow, and explores its wide array of applications.

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Introduction to Python for Humanists by William Mattingly. Written as a unique guide tailored for digital humanists, this book addresses the specific needs and gaps in education for undergraduates, graduates and faculty in the humanities sector. Starting from zero, it provides a gradual learning curve for Python, eliminating the barrier to entry often felt in this field. Its scope extends beyond just programming to encompass a whole spectrum of applications including data analysis, natural language processing and even app development.

What sets this book apart is its dual focus. On one hand, it serves as an excellent resource for educators experienced in Python, offering a structured teaching approach. On the other, it’s designed for self-learners, providing a comprehensive roadmap for anyone wanting to dive into Python independently.

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Learning Professional Python, Volume 1: The Basics by Usharani Bhimavarapu and Jude D. Hemanth.The book covers everything from classes and objects to exception handling and GUI development. It's designed as a practical roadmap for students eyeing the IT industry and educators seeking an in-depth Python curriculum. Dives deep into object-oriented programming and follows a step-by-step approach that makes complex topics like multithreading and exception handling digestible. Additionally, Volume 2 is coming out soon — in January 2024. It’s also geared towards students and teachers who are seeking to expand their Python knowledge in an easy, understandable manner.

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Learning Advanced Python by Studying Open Source Projects by Rongpeng Li.This book is one of its own kind. It delivers a unique blend of theory, application and insightful teaching methods. The book leverages well-known open-source projects as learning platforms, aiming to turn daily challenges into skill-building opportunities. With a focus on crafting efficient, readable and maintainable code, it explains data structures, algorithms and object-oriented programming thoroughly. The author's evident passion for Python makes this a captivating read that benefits both new and seasoned coders.

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Python Packages by Tomas Beuzen and Tiffany Timbers. This book is designed for readers who want to learn comprehensively about Python packaging. Although written for experienced Python users, this resource begins at an introductory level and then leads into advanced Python programming topics. Through the chapters, the authors showcase the full Python packaging life cycle, from creation to maintenance. Read in-depth examples of automated testing, creating documentation, versioning and updating a package and implementing continuous integration and deployment.

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The Chapman & Hall/ CRC Python Series

We’ve put together a comprehensive collection designed for everyone from newcomers to experts. With a range of titles that cover both basic and advanced topics, the series offers an exhaustive repository of Python knowledge. As a bonus, many of the titles can be accompanied by Jupyter notebooks to enhance the learning experience, making this series a one-stop-shop for Python enthusiasts across educational and professional domains.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Python

Is Python a good programming language for beginners?

Python is an excellent programming language for beginners. Its simple and readable syntax, akin to the English language, makes it accessible to newcomers. This readability facilitates understanding, making it an ideal choice for those new to programming.

How long does it typically take to learn Python?

The time it takes to learn Python varies from person to person, but one can grasp the basics fairly quickly. With dedication, a few months of consistent learning can provide a solid foundation. However, continuous practice and real-world projects are essential for mastery.

What kind of applications can I build after learning Python?

Python's versatility shines in the variety of applications you can build. From web development and software creation to data analysis, visualization and even machine learning, Python empowers you to tackle a wide range of projects. Its adaptability is a key reason why it's so popular among developers.

How does Python compare to other programming languages?

Python strikes a balance between performance and ease of use. Languages like C++ might offer higher execution speeds, but they come with a steeper learning curve. On the flip side, JavaScript excels in client-side web development but doesn't venture far beyond that. Python serves as a middle ground — powerful, yet accessible.

Do I need to have a strong math background to learn Python or use these books?

Python is approachable for learners with varying levels of mathematical background. More importantly, you need to have critical thinking and problem-solving skills. While Python is commonly used in mathematics and data science, it can be learned and applied effectively without advanced math skills. These recommended books cater to different skill levels, ensuring accessibility for a wide audience.

Additional Python resources from Routledge

Whether you’re an aspiring Python developer or an experienced data scientist, Routledge is proud to carry a comprehensive collection of books and resources to help you on your path to mastering Python.

For those looking for further Python books and resources, check out our free guide below and chapter sampler for beginners to find the right fit for you.

Python for Data Science Free Guide

Python for Data Science Free Guide

With chapters taken from some of our best-selling books, this free guide introduces Python programming and how it can be used for data manipulation and computation. This guide explains essential data science topics such as neural networks, deep learning, decision trees and how to build a Python package.