Review: The Linux Command Line

No Starch Press recently released The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction (ISBN 1593273894) by William E. Shotts, Jr.

True to its name, the book is about using Linux from command line. It’s not an encyclopedia of Linux. It doesn’t explain how to install Linux, doesn’t go into system APIs, and says little about how to administer Linux. At the same time, the book is broader than just a book on bash. It’s about how to “live” at the command line.

The introduction explains the intended audience.

This book is for Linux users who have migrated from other platforms. Most likely you are a “power user” of some version of Microsoft Windows.

The book has a conversational style, explaining the motivation behind ways of working as well as providing technical detail. It includes small but very useful suggestions along the way, the kinds of tips you’d pick up from a friend but might not find in a book.

The book has four parts

  1. Learning the shell
  2. Configuration and the environment
  3. Common tasks and essential tools
  4. Writing shell scripts

The book could have just included the first three sections; the forth part is a bit more specialized than the others. If you’d prefer, think of the book has having three parts, plus a lengthy appendix on shell scripting.

The Linux Command Line is pleasant to read. It has a light tone, while also getting down to business.

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9 thoughts on “Review: The Linux Command Line

  1. Hello John,

    I’ve been lurking around your blog for quite some time, mostly for the Python posts.

    Recently, I’ve been trying to work my way into Linux.

    Would this be an appropriate book for someone coming from a completely unrelated field? I’m a linguist and have done some scripting with Python (I work with huge amounts of text data) and I have very basic notions of Linux. Would this make a good starting point for someone like me or should I go for a more “dummies” guide.

  2. irina: I think this would be a good book for a linguist. This is a book for beginners, not for dummies. It assumes you’re intelligent and have some experience computing, but you’re new to Linux.

    I quickly grow tired of “dummies” books because they’re constantly trying to be funny and are light on content. This book uses humor more tastefully and doesn’t let it get in the way of content.

  3. human mathematics

    irina: Ubuntu is quite easy. It lets one gradually transition into command-line usage.

  4. John: Regarding the “dummies” books, I never opened one for the humor but because most technical books were simply too technical for someone like me.
    When I started learning Python I benefited tremendously from resources like Learn Python the Hard Way or How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. So I was looking for something in the same style, ie. speaking in plain English and not too shallow.
    I’ll give this book a try, even though I’ll probably not be very fast (I tend to take a lot of time learning this things). If I find it helpful, I’ll come back with a comment around here in six months or so.

  5. human mathematics: I’m using Fedora at the moment simply because the people around me also use it. I might decide to play with Ubuntu and/or Mint later on, but only after I’m more confident in my skills.

  6. human mathematics

    irina: If you’re already using a Linux, there’s no necessity of switching to Ubuntu. Congratulations on getting started!

  7. Does this book touch on shells other than bash at all? It seems odd that books on this subject tend to only stick to bash; even though it’s the default, installing, say, zsh is fairly easy and zsh has enough improvements over bash to make at least looking at it worthwhile.

    (As for the C Shell family, I personally wouldn’t bother unless you know you’ll have to maintain pre-existing C Shell scripts, which you very likely won’t have to on Linux.)

  8. had also reviewed the book you recommend, The Linux Command Line, for O’Reilly, here, again a while ago:

    The link in that post to the original review on the O’Reilly site is now broken, after they reorganized their site and removed all reviews since they are now mainly focusing on “selling” their books via their Safari Online product, or via Amazon.

    But the same review is available at the post I linked above.

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