PHP and MySQL Book Reviews for Nerds

PHP and MySQL Book Reviews

Today, PHP is the dominant scripting language for creating dynamic websites because it is:

  • Easy to learn
  • Easy to use
  • Powerful

You can use PHP to do just about anything:

  • Send emails from a web page
  • Process HTML forms
  • Store and retrieve data from a database like MySQL and others
  • Generate PDF files on the fly

I think the PHP books reviewed here, are worth reading.

What about the books that suck?

I come across many stinkers, to be sure. I just spare the authors the criticism and you the time – why talk about a crappy title?

As you might imagine, many of the books listed here cover the same material – there is only so much you can say about PHP and MySQL! That being said, I think each book does provide a different view of the subject that I believe would appeal to different people.

My suggestion would be to read the reviews and choose the book that best suits you.

Stefan Mischook


Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL

Publication Date: 2005

So what makes this book different from the others? In a word - simplicity.

This book, more than any other I’ve read on PHP, is geared toward the total beginner. All you need to know is HTML and you should be comfortable.

The book opens up with a good chapter on installing PHP and MySQL on both Windows and MAC - many times this can the hardest part when learning this stuff!

NOTE: I personally believe you don't need to learn how to install PHP since 99% of us will be using a hosting company that already has PHP and MySQL installed.

The author then does a good job in presenting the core concepts and techniques needed to effectively use PHP and MySQL using a series of easy to follow examples.

Rather than presenting the specification, the material is presented in a real-world context. That is to say, you are taught with examples of task that are commonly needed in the real world.

Things like:

  • Interacting with HTML forms
  • Interacting with a MYSQL database
  • Using include files

Besides being taught the details of PHP programming and MySQL administration, you also learn how to put together a PHP/MySQL dynamic website. So not only do you get the details, you also get a global picture of the process …how all the pieces fit together.

A great beginners book to be sure and there is enough information for you to be able to start building simple database driven websites.

Once completed though, I would then consider a more comprehensive book that will get you into more of the down and dirty details.


Publication Date: 2005

This is a good book … but not for novice programmers. If you don’t have at least some basic programming skills, then you need to consider another book that will bring you along a little more gently.

On the flip side, this book is great for people with some coding skills coming to PHP for the first time. It covers all the basic language features like declaring variables and functions, using arrays et cetera in a clear and concise manner.

Beyond the basic language features, this book does a good job exploring common task such as:

  • Parsing HTML forms.
  • Connection to a MySQL database.
  • Working with cookies and sessions
  • Handling dates and times
  • Working with XML
  • Working with files

You won’t learn everything there is about PHP with this book (not even close,) but you will have enough grounding in PHP to use the language in real-world projects.

Upgrading to PHP 5

Publication Date: 2005

O’reilly has a tendency to publish good books – this one is no exception.

Who is this book for?

Clearly this book was meant for the experienced PHP programmer, concentrating on revealing the new features of PHP 5. There are extensive discussions (coupled with good code samples) comparing and contrasting PHP 5’s OOP features to PHP's more traditional procedural methods.

Besides exploring core language features like error handling, streams, filers and iterators there are chapters on various extensions on XML parsing and SQLite among others.

As someone who spends more time working with Java and J2EE, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much further PHP 5 has matured – they even have reflection!

This is a compact book of about 300 pages that doesn’t waste any time getting to the point. I think it would make a handy reference as well as a good tutorial for experienced PHP coders wanting to explore some of the key features in PHP 5.

PHP and MySQL - 2nd Edition

Publication Date: 2003

An excellent book that teaches you both PHP and MySQL while showing you how to do things like build an building e-commerce store, reading and writing files to disk and sending and receiving email among many others commonly needed task.

The book starts out with an exploration of PHP and then jumps into MySQL, showing you all you need to know to get yourself up and running with the powerful and free database that is so commonly used on the web. Even if you absolutely know nothing about either of the two, this book can guide you along the way.

Besides the code, this book goes into the thinking behind making different types of web sites and web applications. You get easy to understand overviews that clearly provide a birds-eye-view of the various projects – invaluable to those who are just getting into the web application game!

Given that these two powerful and free packages (PHP and MySQL) are almost ubiquitous in today’s Internet, it is almost essential that you learn PHP and MySQL if you want to be a web developer.

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