Python’s open source framework Django is the most popular tool for backend developers. If you already know Python then Django can be easy to pick up, but it still helps to have resources by your side.
In this post I’ll share the absolute best Django books for moving from a complete novice to an experienced pro developer. This will take a lot of work and tons of practice. But if you challenge yourself and work through these materials you should learn how to build scalable Django apps with relative comfort and confidence.
If you’re just getting started with no prior knowledge I recommend Django Unleashed as your first intro book. The writing style caters to newcomers who need an easier introduction to the Django framework. Plus it’s a very detailed book totaling 800+ pages worth of tips and exercises for new Django developers.
The two best qualities of this book are the structure and the depth. When you start reading The Definitive Guide to Django you’ll notice it’s not like other books.
Both authors have years of experience in the Django environment and they know how to teach it. You’ll start by learning the basics of a Django web page including basic templates, forms, and function calls. Then you’ll dive into the MVC workflow and eventually move into the final stages of optimization and deployment.
With 500+ pages this is one of the most in-depth Django books you can get. It specifically targets beginners who have some experience with Python but little-to-no experience with Django.
Each lesson covers some basic theory followed by practice exercises to learn more. This book is a powerful intro to the framework and I would highly recommend it to anyone willing to put in the time.
But note that you’ll need to give a lot into this book if you want to see results. It’s not for the lighthearted beginner just tinkering with Django. This is for serious developers who want to move from initial conception to final production.
If you’re brand new to Django and don’t know where to begin check out Django Unleashed by Andrew Pinkham. Andrew has years of experience as a backend developer and currently specializes in Python/Django training for tech companies.
In this book he teaches all the fundamentals of Django starting with basic app organization tips and coding techniques. You’ll learn how to structure your folders with best practices that encourage growth.
Andrew covers a lot about MVC architecture and this is something you’ll need to learn if you work with Django. Every practice lesson employs the same MVC concepts and this book really hammers best design practices into your skull.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone with prior Python experience. It’s the perfect introductory book for any developer who knows how to write code, but may not know anything about frameworks of MVC development.
Some devs may be looking for tutorial-style guides and this is exactly what you’ll get in Django by Example. This is a pretty large book with 474 total pages covering dozens of unique exercises.
You’ll learn how to build Django apps that scale and run smoothly with JS/Ajax. You’ll also learn how to build with other server tools like Redis and Memcached.
This book goes a touch beyond what a beginner might need to know. The intro chapters are fantastic and the author does a nice job explaining the various coding patterns for Django development. However it’s easy to get lost in the later lessons that seem to go far beyond what a beginner should know.
I’d personally recommend this for intermediate-level developers who already know a bit about Django. The exercises get very challenging and they hook into many 3rd party platforms including custom APIs.
But if you’re hoping to challenge yourself with more advanced Django tutorials this book will not let you down.
For just diving into Django you’ll need a guide that’s simple to read yet technical enough to learn from. Django Essentials delivers this to a T with introductions to MVC, Django development, Django forms, and similar features.
Building on top of a framework like Django is more about saving time than mastering the language. You can already be a master Python programmer but you still might struggle to get moving with Django.
Thankfully this book makes it easy for anyone whether they’re a Python master or just getting started. Unfortunately the book is fairly short with only 137 pages total.
But what you get is a deep dive into MVC for Django along with common webdev solutions for database management and Ajax.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-read intro to Django I’d highly recommend this book. It’s not as exhaustive as other options but the writing style makes this a gentle intro for beginners.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with test-driven development then you’ll quickly fall in love with this book. Often abbreviated as TDD, this particular pipeline follows new features quickly and tests each one to check for potential updates or changes.
Test-Driven Development with Django introduces all the fundamentals of a TDD workflow while building on top of a Django environment. You should already be familiar with Django before picking up this book, specifically with MVC and initial setup.
The author Kevin Harvey has been working with Django for almost 10 years now. He’s a huge proponent of the language and really enjoys teaching others how to get started.
I would specifically recommend this book to someone who wants to learn TDD by using Django as the learning material. Since TDD is a workflow you can’t truly understand how it works without practice. This book thrusts you into the Django landscape and pushes TDD in a way that any developer can understand.
Scraping content from the web may seem like a shallow topic but the 250+ page book Web Scraping with Python gets into great detail about best practices and how it all works.
You’ll learn how to build custom scripts with Python that pull content from websites, either from an API or from the HTML. Both techniques are somewhat advanced so they require a bit of background knowledge in Python.
However you can quickly work through this book if you already have some experience with the language.
You might notice this is not specifically a Django development book. But many of the techniques in this book directly apply to Django development for API calls. You’ll learn how to analyze data in Python, how to sort data meaningfully, and how to push content live into your own Python apps.
This won’t be a great book for Django-specific learning but it offers Python solutions for scraping web content that can easily apply to Django apps.
With an assertive 600+ pages I have to say Mastering Django Core is one of the best Django books for professional developers.
The ultimate goal of this book is to make you a professional Django dev with knowledge of the entire v1.8 codebase. This version will be supported for years and any newer versions will be built on this foundation.
Surprisingly this book is very beginner friendly. The early chapters introduce the basics of Django from installation to building your very first application. You’ll learn about design patterns and MVC workflows for structured webapps.
Each lesson covers a good amount of theory mixed with practical exercises to improve your knowledgebase. You’ll learn how to build apps with many database engines, how to customize routing, and how to build custom templates from scratch.
You can learn a lot from this massive tome of Django knowledge if you stick with it. Because of its size and scope many beginners will be turned off. But if you’re willing to push through I guarantee you’ll learn everything you need from this book.
Every developer knows the importance of reusable code and proper class architecture. These are just a couple examples of best practices that permeate the dev world.
Django Design Patterns and Best Practices covers all the best coding standards for the Django framework. Many of these ideas come from other technical workflows like MVC development. But templating and Django extensions all have their own design patterns to make development easier and fun.
This book places a big focus on unit testing and debugging. You’ll learn how to properly structure your code so that it’s easy to maintain, scale, and test before deployment.
Everything you learn from this book can apply to any Django app. But it’s merely a structured set of rules you can follow to aid in the development process.
If you’re just starting out I would recommend picking up an intro book like Django Unleashed. It’ll cover all the fundamentals you need to eventually move on to design patterns.
I waffle back and forth on this title because the content is really great, but the structure and detail goes all over the map.
In Lightweight Django you’ll learn more advanced techniques for building simple lightweight web applications. The authors teach from experience offering anecdotes and solutions where appropriate. You’ll learn about Django APIs and WebSockets along with other similar tools/libraries.
If you’re looking to build fast custom webapps with Django then this book will teach you the right way to do it. But you need prior experience with Python & Django or else you will struggle with these exercises.
I actually did a more detailed review of this book if you’re interested to read more.
If we’re talking about high-level Django books then Two Scoops of Django belongs right at the top of the list. It’s a 500+ page masterful guide to Django development covering tips, best practices, and security techniques for building scalable applications.
The book has over 30 different chapters with each one covering a different subject. These range from templating to unit testing and asynchronous development.
If you already have some Django experience then you’ll love this book. It gets right to the point and it’s super easy to jump between chapters to study whatever you want. And the authors have a natural straightforward style of writing that just connects well with developers of any skillset.
Once you’re somewhat comfortable with the basics of Django I would highly recommend nabbing a copy of this book. It’ll give you all the tips you need to become a true professional and help you build apps that can stand the test of time.
Just because you know how to build on top of Django doesn’t mean it’s easy to get a site running smoothly. Optimization for performance is a crucial subject and it’s something you’ll want to learn before launching your next project online.
With High Performance Django you’ll learn about the basics of NoSQL databases and how to handle Django caching. Which techniques will make your site faster? How do you reduce memory consumption on the server?
Both of these questions(and many more) can be answered in this book with repeatable solutions that you can follow on any future project.
The authors cover practical techniques and they’re not afraid to get technical with their solutions.
If you plan to build high-performing Django apps, especially for big data, enterprise, or ecommerce shops, then you’ll want a copy of High Performance Django on your bookshelf.
For a more Django-oriented structure you might try the Web Development with Django Cookbook offering snippets for Django 1.8+.
The book totals 380+ pages with over 90 unique recipes for common Django problems. You’ll learn how to manage custom forms and views, how to integrate Django into a common dev pipeline, how to solve security issues, and how to build a fun multi-lingual search feature with Haystack.
If you’re looking for common Django solutions this book has you covered. It is easily the best advanced cookbook full of recipes for solving even the most complex problems.
If you’re serious about coding over the Django framework you will benefit greatly from having this book at your side. It works as a desk reference and as a solutions resource whenever you’re facing a difficult development project.
Regardless of your current skillset there’s bound to be a book in this list to help you move forward with Django.
But if you’re an intermediate-to-advanced developer then you have your pick of the litter. From Django optimization to TDD workflows, all of these books will help you go far beyond your current level with new design patterns and challenging practice projects.