PERL is actually an acronym for Practical Extraction and Report Language (hence the CAPS), and as you might expect, it excels in processing text and strings. Given PERL's reputation for "making easy things easy and hard things possible," the ready availability of PERL programming environments, the large and active PERL community, and PERL's suitability for web applications, it is an excellent choice as a first programming language.
As of version 5, (a complete rewrite by originator Larry Wall) the annoying differences between the Windows implementation and the "real" (*NIX) implementation of PERL have been eliminated. Therefore, Windows users can start working with the language immediately, confident that their work will be directly portable to *NIX servers. Unlike many languages, an excellent W32 PERL distribution is freely available from ActiveState, who also supplies several commercial products including a PERL plug-in for Visual Studio.
Programming Perl 3rd ed.
This is the indispensible and authoritative volume on PERL - the famous "Camel Book". Even if you find that "The Llama Book" better suits your needs, you should start with this one. A ten!!
Wall, Larry, et. al. Programming Perl current edition New York:
O'Reilly & Associates, 2000(?).
Sams Teach Yourself Perl in 21 Days 2nd ed.
Many Windows and Mac users prefer this book to "the llama" which presupposes some familiarity with *NIX (even though MacIntosh OS X includes a full Darwin BSD distribution) If sed & awk don't ring a bell, this is a good starting point for you.
Sams Teach Yourself Perl in 21 Days Lemay, Laura, et.al.
current edition Indianapolis, IN : Sams, 2002(?)
Learning Perl 4th ed.
"The Llama Book" is probably still the best introduction to PERL, although there are a lot of other fine introductory books available today. Many "newbies" seem to feel that it is too UNIX©-oriented, but the fact is the *NIX regular expression syntax is an inescapable and very powerful part of the total PERL package. If you get Mastering Regular Expressions, choosing another introductory PERL book is less of an issue.
Schwartz, Randal, et. al. Learning Perl current edition New York: O'Reilly & Associates, 2005(?).