Wicked Cool PHP
William Steinmetz with Brian Ward

One of the best ways to learn a new programming language is to find existing code and modify it – not only do you begin with a working product rather than from scratch, you see standards, shortcuts, and myriad different ways of doing things. The risk run is a lack of reliability – there are few guarantees offered with most code, and there’s always the possibility one will learn bad habits. PHP in particular includes plenty of pitfalls for new programmers, and there are plenty of ways for a neophyte to drop the ball with serious consequences if guidelines aren’t set from the beginning.

Enter the hybrid introductory lessons/cookbook. Wicked Cool PHP, from No Starch Press, is a fantastic book if you’re picking up PHP from a beginning perspective. The programming tasks outlined are fairly common ones, but are solved elegantly and proper information is given along with the examples. The book contains all that a new user needs to know about securing PHP (quite a lot) without departing from its recipe-like model of task, design, and code. The authors begin with sending email and using the session and continue through input sanitation, SOAP, and templating. Implementation-neutral database use is touched on, and the projects begin to get fairly ambitious towards the end.

Again, strongly recommended for new and enthusiastic PHP coders, who might save considerable amounts of time learning by an innovative walkthrough paradigm.