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Review of Expert Python Programming, Part One

As I mentioned, I got started with the PyAtl Book Club at the May meeting. The first book I received was Expert Python Programming, by Tarek Ziadé. Part of the deal with the book club is posting a review of the book, so I will be posting about the book as I work my way through it.

Chapter 1

This is basic setup info (though the vim section has a nice selection of config settings for those new to it), so I won’t really cover it; I already have multiple versions of Python running on my dev box.

Chapter 2

This chapter is entitled “Syntax Best Practices—Below the Class Level”, and that’s a pretty accurate description. There’s a short section on List Comprehensions followed by a longer section on Iterators and Generators. This is a fast but detailed look at the subject, including the use of send and coroutines (via the mechanisms defined in PEP 342). The treatment is rather brief, so I recommend David Beazley’s A Curious Course on Coroutines and Concurrency for more detail. Up next are genexps (defined in PEP 289). These were added in Python 2.4. This section is short and to the point: use genexps wherever you would use a list comprehension unless you need some feature of lists that a generator lacks. The next section is a brief glimpse at itertools. It is hardly complete, but it does highlight one of the (IMO) most interesting pieces of the module: tee. This function makes it practical to use genexps even when you need to make multiple passes across the data. Up next is the section on decorators (defined in PEP 318), which were introduced with Python 2.4. The author addresses decorators in much more detail than the previous topics, with extended examples of using them for various things such as caching, proxies, and context providers. That last provides a nice segue into the next session, where he shows us how to replace context provider decorators by using the with statement (defined in PEP 343) introduced in Python 2.5. The author does a pretty thorough job of explaining what with is doing and how you can use it to good effect, including how to use the contextlib module (introduced at the same time as the with statement) to use context managers with code that doesn’t provide them out of the box.


Although it was a bit whirlwind at times, the author does a good job of covering the modern language constructs that Python has picked up in the last few versions. Although you may want to read a more detailed tutorial on a given feature, this chapter does a good job of getting you up to speed with modern Python.

Back to flipping out…