Anyone who has been working on the *nix platform has had a brush with Perl, the scripting language whose acronym (depending on who you ask) could mean Practical Extraction and Report Language, or Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister. In either case, there is a distinct difference between learning to use Perl, and learning to use it well. In my opinion, the best way to learn any language well is to see how others have used it to solve problems. One of the foremost experts in the use of Perl, Randal L. Schwartz, has been writing columns since March of 1995 on the use of Perl in the real world, and has provided us with 6 books and over 200 columns with many examples on how Perl is used.
Perls of Wisdom is a collection of 65 selected columns from Linux Magazine, Unix Review, and the now defunct Web Techniques magazines, written between May 1995 and July 2004. In each column, Randal discusses some problem that he had to solve, or that someone else needed help in solving. He carefully discusses the problem, and then shows the Perl code needed to resolve it. Many of the columns are complete applications that can be run (with minor modifications) by the reader. (The listings are also available from the apress.com web site.) Each column has been reproduced as it was written in the original magazine, with "Randal's Note" prepended. Therein lies this book's best feature and greatest flaw.
In its entirety, Perls of Wisdom contains 65 columns, split roughly half-and-half between tutorials and fully commented programs. More than half of the columns show that Randal uses Perl for web processing more than for general scripting, data reduction and reporting. His tutorial articles are top-notch, but I have a quibble over his program articles, which are somewhat dated. There were a number of prefaced notes to the effect that today he'd do it differently with some new feature or CPAN module. I really wish he had actually updated the column to show the new coding techniques. The original code is interesting in the historical sense, but I wanted to see nuggets of Perl wisdom for me to use in my daily job. The writing style is fine; the bits of insight are useful, but many of the programs are too specific to problems you or I may never see, and were solved in code that's showing its age. I'm glad I got to read the book, but I think it only rates a 3 out of 5.