Ask any Perl coder what the best book available on Perl is, and nine times out of ten they’ll tell you, “the Camel book.” The Camel book, also occasionally referred to by its actual title, Programming Perl, is considered by most everyone to be the quintessential guide to Perl.
Perl’s motto is “There’s more than one way to do it,” and it really shows in the third edition of Programming Perl. The book has been seriously revamped since the second edition, with new sections covering Unicode, threading, and additions to Perl 5.6. The new material has caused the book to put on some weight, going from 660 pages to well over 1,000.
Hard Made Easy
For someone new to programming in general, and Perl in particular, Chapter 1 alone is worth the price of the book. Most texts on programming do not explain concepts such as functions, arrays, or variables as clearly as Programming Perl. Since topics such as these are the foundation of all programming languages, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of them. The authors of Programming Perl do a great job of explaining these cornerstones.
For the fledgling Perl coder, now armed with this tome, wading into the most complex of .pl files is no longer an onerous task; some of the beauty of a language with a workable and functional, if not entirely elegant design, is brought to light. There really are more ways than just one to do Perl, and this book allows you to determine why something works and, more important, why it doesn’t!
However, the book is not designed exclusively for beginners. There’s enough meat on this camel for everyone. Programming Perl tackles some fairly heavy topics, but examples are clearly explained and walked through in a step-by-step fashion that makes Programming Perl more like light reading than a heavy-duty technical manual. In reality, it’s both. The writing is so conversational and friendly that it’s easy to forget you’re actually learning hard stuff.
The only downside to Programming Perl is that, despite the number of wonderful examples outlined in the book, there is no CD-ROM containing code examples. A copy of the Perl language and the Perl modules included with the book would also be a nice addition. These days, it’s almost expected that every computer book include a CD-ROM and a bunch of extra goodies. Still, this is a relatively minor issue.
A Different Book
If you’re the proud owner of the second edition of Programming Perl and you’re wondering if you should “upgrade” your copy, the answer is probably yes. The third edition has essentially evolved into a different book. If Perl is your thing, you’ll want a copy. If you’re thinking of purchasing your first Perl book (or even your first programming book) Programming Perl is a safe bet. The build-up from simple concepts to more complex topics is gradual enough that even novice programmers can easily follow along.
In case you have any lingering doubts about this book, you should know that Larry Wall, one of its authors, is also the author of Perl itself.
All in all, the third edition of Programming Perl is a book that’s more than worth its price.