Even though PHP was first released in the 1990s, learning the programming language in 2021 is still highly rewarding. Even today, it is widely used and in high demand in the job market. PHP is the technology that powers popular content management platforms like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. According to W3 Techs, PHP powers about 80% of websites on the internet. Today, we look at the most popular, most comprehensive, and best PHP books to read in 2021.
To learn a technology thoroughly and comprehensively, it is generally a good idea to pick a good book on the topic. In this post, we cover some of the best PHP books in the following three areas – core PHP, its frameworks, and special projects.
Table of contents:
Part 1: Core PHP
In this section, let us focus on books that build on the core strengths of PHP as a back-end programming language to create dynamic websites.
The Joy of PHP is a good book for beginners to web development, considering it starts with some basic HTML markup too. The book is exercise-oriented, where the reader learns by coding through the challenges as they read through the book. This book won’t make you an expert in PHP, but it does enough to bring you up to speed on dynamic websites using web servers and databases.
Learn PHP in One Day and Learn It Well is part of the Learning Coding Fast series. The focus of this book is primarily to build PHP concepts quickly, in a straightforward manner. Thought the book starts with the basics of PHP, it soon shifts gears to build your PHP environment. As the title suggests, you should be able to complete the tasks in the book and the final project within a day. If you are looking to get started quickly, you should select this book.
If you are looking for a comprehensive introduction to the PHP language, you should select this book. Programming PHP: Creating Dynamic Web Pages paints the context of why PHP is important to learn even today, before delving into complex PHP concepts. It covers the fundamentals of PHP, the basics of how the web works, relational databases, and then brings it all together to build dynamic websites.
Mastering PHP 7 is another comprehensive guide to PHP that first focuses on building the basic PHP skills and then mastering them. Since this book focuses on PHP 7 specifically, it dedicates a section to explain the particular changes that were introduced in PHP 7. This book, however, assumes that the reader is familiar with programming basics. In addition to creating dynamic websites in PHP, this book explores advanced topics, like serverless programming and reactive programming.
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In this section, we look at popular PHP frameworks that let you build scalable robust applications in short amounts of time.
Laravel is a PHP framework that stresses on simplicity and speed to quickly develop dynamic web applications. It has become one of the most popular PHP frameworks overall. The book explores each aspect of Laravel to ensure that the reader gets a strong foundation of the concepts, including the Laravel’s templating engine and ORM to manage databases. It goes beyond just creating your web applications by introducing file system management, unit testing, and working with queues and jobs.
Symfony is a PHP web application framework in the form of a set of reusable PHP components that enable you to create dynamic web applications, web and microservices, and APIs. This book, written by Symfony’s creator, Fabien Potencier, helps you build a web application in Symfony from scratch and deploy it to the server. It serves as a practical guide to creating modern applications in Symfony.
CodeIgniter is a popular lightweight, flexible, fast PHP framework based on the MVC development pattern. Professional CodeIgniter by Thomas Myer gives you an overview of the use of MVC framework in developing dynamic web applications, schema design for modern web applications, and the use of helpers in your project. This book teaches you CodeIgniter through projects like blogs and forums. Additionally, the book also gives you an overview of the Agile methodology.
“Building Web Apps with WordPress: WordPress as an Application Framework” by Brian Messenlehner and Jason Coleman
According to W3 Techs, WordPress powers about 40.6% of all websites on the internet today. Therefore, if you are learning PHP, you should consider WordPress development too. While WordPress started out as a blogging platform, it can be customized to build fast scalable web apps. In “Building Web Apps with WordPress,” the authors use WordPress as a traditional app development framework by applying custom themes to create views and leveraging plugins for backend functionality. The book explores integration with external PHP libraries, developing mobile apps, integrating payment gateways, and scaling up your site.
While you can use WordPress as an application development framework, you can extend the functionality of WordPress without changing WordPress core through plugin development. Professional WordPress Plugin Development introduces the reader to hooks, actions, and filters – the basics behind extending WordPress functionality through plugin development. Additionally, you get to learn advanced topics, like security management, improving performance, performing data validation, and executing SQL statements.
Drupal is a popular content management system, built with PHP and SQL. Just like WordPress, you can extend Drupal’s Functionality though modules. This book introduces you to the Drupal APIs for module development and explores the architecture of a Drupal module to create custom modules for your applications. Although it is not necessary, some experience with MVC frameworks helps readers to understand the fundamental concepts of Drupal module development.
PHP for special projects
In this section, we explore how developers use PHP to execute special and otherwise original projects.
Many introductory books explore working with PHP and SQL to create dynamic web applications. However, you may feel the need to increase efficiency by exploring it further when you are working on complex applications. PHP and MySQL: Novice to Ninja walks you through the tools and principles to create complex, but efficient, interactions between PHP and MySQL. You will learn database design principles and advanced MySQL functions through a project of working in a content management system.
While interactive scalable websites are still being built, there is a need for small, easy-to-maintain, and highly available microservices. Microservice architecture envisions a web application as a combination of many loosely coupled, independently deployable microservices. This book introduces you to microservices and then shows you how to set up your environment to build microservices in PHP. The book will teach you to design, develop, deploy, and monitor your microservices in PHP.
Many of the books on this list teach you concepts of PHP. However, PHP OOP focuses on learners who are familiar with OOP (object-oriented programming) concepts and basic PHP. It is a fairly short read that targets a niche audience. It introduces notions such as functional programming in PHP, dependency management, and unit testing.
This book is for developers who have a fair amount of experience in any other programming language. If you would like to learn PHP quickly, you can pick up this book by Logan Pratt. It covers all the important aspects of PHP and provides you with real-world examples. Thus, one is able to grasp the nuances of PHP quickly.
Final thoughts on the best PHP books of 2021
With new releases, increasing popularity, and new frameworks, PHP is constantly changing. You need to keep up with these changes to stay relevant. Books can introduce you to complex topics, though you need patience to complete a book through hands-on coding. In this post, we looked at the best PHP books in 2021 for developers of varying experience and expertise.
If you have any questions or there are some books that we’ve missed, let us know in the comments below!
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