Resources for Learning Python

I’ve been thinking about taking up a new programming language as a hobby for a little while. There’s a vibrant software community here in Portland, and working in more languages than TSQL opens up lots more opportunities for fun. I have no intention of becoming a full-time Python programmer, I just believe it’s fun to code and good to challenge your brain in new ways.

Python the friendly snake

I picked Python to learn. It has a reputation for being approachable, it’s pretty widely used, and there’s lots of people in town who use it and have code camps, hackathons, and group coding sessions with Python.

I quickly discovered that there’s a ton of great ways to learn Python.

Learning Python the Hard Way

by Zed Shaw

This is an online book with exercises and videos. I’m about halfway through it already and it’s tons of fun! I really enjoy the writing and style of teaching. Each lesson has:

  • Example code for you to retype, study, and run
  • Study drills for you to question and extend what you’ve seen (these are really great)
  • Common student questions and answers (super-helpful for troubleshooting)
  • A video at the end (optional)

You can try the book for free online. It’s $29.95 for the paid version. I happily shelled that out after trying it and quickly becoming engaged.

Coursera - “Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)” from the University of Michigan

by Charles Severance

One great thing about this class is that the instructor has also posted slide decks and YouTube videos for the class outside of it to support it. Charles Severance has posted a free textbook, and this class walks through Chapters 1-5 of it. You can the free textbook, videos, and exercises directly from

If you want the guided class, you can take it alone or as part of the 4 course “Python for Everybody” specialization. One course in this series focuses specifically on using databases with Python, which speaks to my data-loving little heart.

If you want the full certificate, it’s $415, but you can purchase it course-by-course. If you don’t want the certificate you can take the courses for free.

Coursera - “An Interactive Introduction to Programming in Python” from Rice University

by Joe Warren, Scott Rixner, John Greiner, and Stephen Wong

Rice has a two-part “Introduction to Python” course as part of their 6 course “Fundamentals of Computing Specialization” series. The cool thing with this one is that it takes you past the introduction. The series also contains classes on the Principles of Computing and Algorithmic Thinking, so you can work over 26 weeks not to just learn the basics of Python, but to become a better programmer and strategic thinker.

If you want the full certificate for this one, it’s $343. But again, you can take courses individually (and for free).

I learned about this one when Chris Harrison recommended it on Twitter. Thanks, Chris!

A Meetup Group Near You

Turns out that my local PyLadies chapter is giving an Intro to Python course!

There’s meetups for Python programmers in lots of different areas. is a really great spot to check what’s around you.