Best PHP Books: My Top 5 Choices

March 28th, 2011 Leave a comment 3 comments
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PHP BooksProfessional PHP6Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic WebsitesPHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made EasyBeginning PHP and MySQL: From Novice To ProfessionalHead First PHP & MySQLDefault

Continuing with our best-five-book series, today we are introducing our pick of the top 5 PHP books. Obviously, PHP has been around much longer than our other review subjects such as Android or HTML5, and there is a greater general variety of books to choose from. PHP is, in many ways, unique in the land of programming languages and web-based application infrastructure. It’s a language that is changing rapidly (the most notable shift being from procedural to OOP in PHP5) but there are surprisingly few books and helpful manuals to help programmers adapt to these changes (as evident by the hordes of PHP apps out there that require specific version numbers to operate!).

To alleviate this, I’ve selected some PHP books to help PHP developers makes sense out of different PHP versions and flavors. Hopefully these books will find a home on your bookshelf as helpful additions to your PHP literature!

Professional PHP6

Professional PHP6 By Ed Lecky-Thompson, Steven D. Nowicki, and Thomas Myer

As always, Wrox’s Programmer-to-Programmer series does not fail to disappoint. Not for the reasons one might expect, however, from its title; though the title of the book is “Professional PHP6″, there is precious little here concerning specifics of PHP6. While this is due to the fact that PHP6 hadn’t even been released at the time of publication, the author does not make too much mention of PHP6 and someone looking for information will understandably be disappointed.

Despite the blatant false advertising in the title, however, the book itself is actually a very solid book concerning the ins and outs of PHP, including object-oriented ideas and aspects (with tons of in-depth examples!) that will transition very well into PHP6 whenever it happens to be released. Classes, names, iterators, etc. and so forth are all covered in the book, as well as best practices, ideas for design, and different ways to write efficient PHP code. While in this case you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, “Professional PHP6″ is dense and informative enough to merit a spot on your shelf!

Publisher: Professional PHP6
Amazon: Professional PHP6

Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites

Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites By Robin Nixon

There are a great deal of PHP books on the market, but many of them are not quite clear on how to use PHP to actually do anything practical on the Web. This is the beauty of Robin Nixon’s outing: the book takes 3 technologies that are commonly used on the Web and ties them together to actually have a helpful, informative, actionable guide to get you building dynamic websites on the Web.

Never heard of MySQL? No problem. Afraid of JavaScript? This book is there for you. The book is unbelievably full of examples and detailed step-by-steps to for building dynamic websites; the author presents real-world scenarios and examples that illustrate perfectly how to get your website to do exactly what you want it to do. While this book is certainly not for the PHP purist, as it gets into databases and JavaScript, anyone else will find the complementary tech examples and the clear, fluid writing style a perfect companion to their adventure in learning PHP.

Publisher: Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites
Amazon: Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites

PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy

PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy By David Powers

This book is astounding. There’s not really much else you can say about it; David Powers is an author who has that rare gift of making a book that has a very technical aspect to it extraordinarily clear, informative, and enjoyable. Much like the previous book in the list, Powers’ book is designed at writing practical PHP code that gets you going with your project and helps you to understand how PHP is used in a real-world scenario.

That said, the book does not have too much theory in it. For those programmers who already know how to use PHP and want to learn the in-depth workings of the language, this book isn’t a holy grail. For anyone newly approaching the language or looking to design a dynamic website for themselves, Powers’ book is a must-have; for everyone else, it certainly deserves a spot on your shelf (if only to give to someone new in their hour of PHP-learning need!).

Publisher: PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy
Amazon: PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy

Beginning PHP and MySQL: From Novice To Professional

Beginning PHP and MySQL: From Novice To Professional By W. Jason Gilmore

Must be a theme in this list, as I’ve selected another book with a rather duplicitous title; while the book’s title implies that it’s a novice book, the fact of the matter is that non-programmers need not apply. Though the book does not assume prior knowledge of PHP, it does assume an understanding of how programming languages in general work, skipping over a few different basic steps that might leave some truly beginning programmers completely in the dark.

That said, however, the book is wonderful at introducing PHP to someone already versed in programming. The true gem in this book is the vast amount of different PHP technologies that it attacks; from SOAP to PEAR to LDAP, the book gets into different ways of using third-party libraries, repositories, ideas, and tools to wrangle all the functionality you can from PHP, though it is less of a guide and more of a reference than the other practical books on this list. Things like Authentication, email, and LDAP connectivity, however, are just a few of the things covered in this book, and the vast practical knowledge this book brings to the table is worth the weight on your shelf!

Publisher: Beginning PHP and MySQL: From Novice To Professional
Amazon: Beginning PHP and MySQL: From Novice To Professional

Head First PHP & MySQL

Head First PHP & MySQL By Lynn Beighley and Michael Morrison

And now for the opposite recommendation: Experienced programmers need not apply!

A jest, to be sure; in all truth, however, this book is perfect for true beginners to both PHP and programming in general. The book does not assume that you know anything about programming prior to picking it up, and it guides you through learning a new language from the bottom up, including all sorts of necessary knowledge that are related to programming in general, not just PHP.

The tagline warning, however, applies here: don’t expect to get anything out of this book if you’re already an experienced programmer. If you aren’t, however, this book is perfect for wading in to the subject: it’s easy, fun-to-read, and does an excellent job at communicating basic programming concepts that many beginners sometimes have a hard time grasping! Definitely a book for anyone looking to learn how to program in PHP, and an excellent guide in getting up to speed with PHP!

Publisher: Head First PHP & MySQL
Amazon: Head First PHP & MySQL

Conclusion

And there you have it! While the mess of PHP books out there makes it difficult to find what you need, it’s not impossible; I hope that this guide has proved useful to those of you looking for PHP books, and that it helps you to fill the void of PHP books currently on your tech shelf! If you need more than just a book, consider enrolling in one of our PHP training courses!

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3 comments

  1. Elliott says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, I bought “arning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites” last week half way through it. One of the best purchases I’ve made this year!

    Thanks

  2. JC says:

    Solid list, I have PHP Solutions and it is my favorite by far!

  3. Anon says:

    The head first series is generally great. Head first PHP and MySQL is the exception.

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