Learning Perl revisited

booksreviews Tue 3 June 2014

I just finished reading Learning Perl, the 6th edition. I previously had read the first edition when it came out. Between roughly 2002 and 2010 I didn't do much Perl, and have only been finding out about the changes in Perl somewhat sporadically. I decided I really should be a bit more thorough, and started here.

First, it's only fair to note that I'm not in the target audience for this book.

I liked the first edition, and bought several copies of it: I'd lend it to people when encouraging them to try out Perl, then forget who last had it. My memory of it was that it was quite light, an easy read, and definitely a good starter book.

The sixth edition feels a lot denser. For a starter book it covers a lot of material. It also explains things that perhaps could have been left for Intermediate Perl. In the same vein, the authors also really like footnotes. I think it would be better if there was an appendix of "things we didn't tell you", so that the main body would flow better. I think it tries a little too hard to be funny as well.

There's a lot of prefatory material before you actually start learning Perl as well; I think that would be better moved to the back, so the reader starts learning Perl sooner.

All that said, it is a very impressive introduction to Perl. It not only covers a lot, it does a good job of getting across Perl style and idioms. A small number of them feel slightly dated (for example using & when invoking your own subs, which I've never seen in a modern CPAN module), but that's not surprising, given it was published in 2011.

What were the benefits to me, in reading this?

I found myself wishing there existed a Perl reference that explained features in each version of Perl. Something between the perldelta docs and Learning Perl.

Would I recommend this? If someone were fairly serious about learning Perl, then definitely: it's rigorous and thorough, and gives a very good grounding in Perl. If someone was just wanting to dabble in Perl, then I'm not sure. I haven't looked at Ovid's book, so I'd probably suggest they look at both, and see which one felt best to them.

Next: Intermediate Perl, which I haven't read before.

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