Reviews of two recent Django Books


When I started building sites in Django, I learned the basics from the excellent Django tutorial. But I had to learn by trial and error which approaches to using Django's building blocks worked well and which approaches tended to cause problems later on. I looked for more intermediate-level documentation, but beyond James Bennett's Practical Django Projects and our Karen Tracey's Django 1.1 Testing and Debugging, there wasn't much to be found.

Over the years, ever more interesting introductory material has been showing up, including recently our lead technical manager Mark Lavin's Lightweight Django.

But more experienced developers are also in luck. Some of the community's most experienced Django developers have recently taken the time to put down their experience in books so that we can all benefit. I've been reading two of those books and I can highly recommend both.

Two Scoops of Django

I guess Two Scoops of Django, by Daniel Roy Greenfeld and Audrey Roy Greenfeld, isn't that recent; its third edition just came out. It's been updated twice to keep up with changes in Django (the latest edition covers Django 1.8), improve the existing material, and add more information.

The subtitle of the most recent edition is Best Practices for Django 1.8, and that's what the book is. The authors go through most facets of Django development and share what has worked best for them and what to watch out for, so you don't have to learn it all the hard way.

For example, reading the Django documentation, you can learn what each setting does. Then you can read in chapter 5 of Two Scoops a battle-tested scheme for managing different settings and files across multiple environments, from local development to testing servers and production, while protecting your secrets (passwords, keys, etc).

Similarly, chapter 19 of Two Scoops covers what cases you should and shouldn't use the Django admin for, warns about using list_editable in multi-user environments, and gives some tips for securing the admin and customizing it.

Those are just two examples. The most recent edition of the book has 35 chapters, each covering a useful topic. It's over 500 pages.

Another great thing about the book is that the chapters stand alone - you can pick it up and read whatever chapter you need right now.

I'll be keeping this book handy when I'm working on Django projects.

High Performance Django

High Performance Django by Peter Baumgartner and Yann Malet is aimed at the same audience as Two Scoops, but is tightly focused on performance. It moves on from building a robust Django app to how to deploy and scale it. It covers load balancers, proxies, caching, and monitoring.

One of its best features is that it gives war stories of deploys gone wrong and how the problems were attacked and solved.

Like Two Scoops, this book talks about general principles, along with specific approaches and tools that the authors are familiar with and have had success with. It does a good job of showing the overall architecture that most high-performance sites use, from the load balancer out front to the database at the back, and listing some popular choices of tools at each tier. Then they go into more detail about the specific tools they favor.

It also delves into how to spot performance bottlenecks in your Django site’s code, where they’re most likely to be, and good ways to deal with them.

This is the book I'll be coming back to when I have a question about performance.


There are two things I want to say about books like these.

First, they are immensely useful to those of us who work with Django every day. There's a huge amount of experience captured here for our benefit.

Second, I cannot imagine the amount of time and work it takes to create books like these. When I flip through Two Scoops, not only is it full of useful information, almost every page has examples or diagrams that had to be prepared too.

Caktus has added both these books to the office library, and I've bought personal copies too (including all three editions of Two Scoops). I hope you'll try either or both, and if you find them useful, spread the word.

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