How I wish there was a Matt Doyle's textbook back when I began learning PHP. Well, I guess, better late than never!
Having worked in technical education for many years, and more recently as a front-end web developer, I know how crucial it is for educators and web designers to have a good grasp of the workings of PHP. PHP is the most widely used programing language, developed from the ground up, to address the needs of the web browsing consumer.
Back in November 2009 while looking at new arrivals in the technology section at a local bookstore, I came across what I consider now, the ideal book on the subject of PHP. Beginning PHP 5.3 by Matt Doyle "speaks" directly to my urgent need to understand what PHP is all about. This textbook "magically" (to borrow a term used recently by Steve Jobs) has clarified my understanding of many concepts in PHP that for years I felt pretty fussy about!
In 800 pages, it does the best job I know on the PHP language basics, including an extensive treatment of PHP's advances in object-oriented programing. Even better, I now also have a chance with this book to be very much up to date on the newest features of PHP programming brought on by version 5.3. Advances like object overloading, abstract classes, interfaces, namespaces and XML parsers are treated by Matt Doyle in his characteristic down-to-earth style. What's more, he never forgets to illustrate further the various subjects treated in the book, with the most appropriate and simplest code examples available.
For schools with courses on programming, Beginning PHP 5.3 is, without a doubt, an excellent textbook. It even includes exercises at the end of every chapter, with the solutions at the end of the book.
As for me, I'm planning to donate my whole PHP book collection and just keep my copy of Beginning PHP 5.3 (together with its eBook version) for my own learning pleasure and ready reference.