I’m often asked, “which PowerShell book should I buy?” I’m obviously a little biased in some areas, because I’ve authored and co-authored books for specific purposes. But, setting that aside as much as possible, let me give it a try. These are all applicable to PowerShell v3.
If You’re Looking for a Freebook
PowerShell.org hosts a free pack of ebooks, which you can download from our newsletter sign-up page (there’s no actual sign-up required to download the books). There’s also a longer list of books, including free ones available elsewhere (which may require registration – we’ve tried to note when that’s true).
If You’re Just Getting Started
Learn Windows PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches was specifically designed for beginners. It assumes no prior experience, and requires only about an hour a day of your time – lunchtime would be perfect. Hands-on labs reinforce what you’re learning. This book doesn’t attempt to be comprehensive; instead, it’s intended to show you how to use PowerShell properly, and to give you an idea of the shell’s capabilities. You won’t learn Exchange or SQL or anything else – this is pure PowerShell, through and through. You’ll gain a foundation of the right way to use the shell, and that will ensure your subsequent learning can proceed faster and more effectively.
If You’ve Conquered the Basics
If you’ve mastered the shell’s basics, then you’re probably ready to start scripting. Learn PowerShell Toolmaking in a Month of Lunches is designed to help you with that, although I hesitate to call it a “scripting” book. Yeah, there’s scripting – but it’s just a means to an end: Toolmaking. Creating reusable tools that the rest of your team can consume. You’re actually taken through an entire progression, starting with a simple command and gradually evolving it, one step at a time, into a complex and powerful tool. Then you’re given a tour of other toolmaking features in the shell, along with plenty of hands-on practice and examples to ensure it all sinks in.
Need an In-Depth Reference?
I’ve got two suggestions: PowerShell in Depth is intended as a comprehensive, administrator-focused reference with tons of examples. By “administrator,” I mean that this book doesn’t dive into the more developer-ish topics that go with PowerShell. Want to do .NET programming in PowerShell? You can, but this book doesn’t cover it. There’s also PowerShell in Action, and although it’s presently v2-focused, it’s a notable book because it was written by the lead developer for PowerShell’s language. There’s a lot of fun facts and tricks in here that simply couldn’t come from anywhere else. It won’t help you learn PowerShell, but it’ll help you get more from PowerShell.
But What About…
That takes us into what I call the “domain-specific” realm – meaning, you’ve gotten the shell’s core functionality in your head, and you’re ready to start doing stuff with it, but you need a little help. Exchange Server. Windows Server. SQL Server. SharePoint. Whatever. We’ve got a pretty complete list of available titles, and you’ll notice that many of them have “Cookbook” in the title. That’s a good description of what they do: give you recipes for accomplishing specific tasks, along with (in many cases) explanations about why those recipes work the way they do.