Author: Jason Lengstorf
Publisher: Apress, 2009
Pages: 400
ISBN: 978-1430224730
Aimed at: Beginners wanting to learn PHP
Rating: 3
Pros: Introduces a large PHP example
Cons: Not suitable for absolute beginner
Reviewed by: Mike James

I suppose it all depends what you mean by “absolute beginners” but if it means that this book is aimed at readers who have no idea how to program then it isn’t going to work. There is no attempt to transfer any of the ideas of programming into the reader's mind and topics are tackled in an order that puts complicated things ahead of the simple just to be able to present a good example.

The book starts slow and steady enough but very quickly it starts to use jargon and concepts that just aren’t necessary. For example, why torture the beginner with mention of data types when PHP is a loosely-typed language – the time to introduce all of this is after the more difficult ideas of variable and flow of control have been mastered.

By page 40 we have reached strings, understandable and arrays – why so soon? Then we are looking at echo, print and printf – why burden the beginner with three ways of doing something when they are struggling to understand the first, then by page 50 we have conditional operators…

The book reads more like an attempt at the sort of presentation that a manual would use – more logical yes but not at all sympathetic to the path a beginner needs to take through the materials.

From the basics the book very quickly gets into MySQL and on into building a blog site using PHP. All good stuff but the absolute beginner will probably never get this far. On the other hand if you already program in another language or have mastered the basics of PHP you might find the content more manageable.

In short this is not a book for the absolute beginner but if you are looking for a book that has a big PHP example that shows you how databases and code can be used to create something that works then it might be what you are looking for – but an introduction to PHP it isn’t.