Not having read all of them, I can't say, unequivocally, that this is the best PHP/mySQL intro book ... but, I suspect that it is.
After reading these programming tomes for 10 years, three types of writers come to mind:
1. a developer, who took time to write a book (often characterized by weak writing skills ... and foo-bar examples, illustrating nothing more than a lack of pragmatic imagination)
2. the constant writer, who rarely (never?) develops (e.g Hello World! demos) How unimaginative?
3. a true teacher, who has taken time to gather thoughts and put effort into the presentation i.e. TEACH
Larry Ullman strikes me as "a teacher". There are lots of well-conceived, nice touches in this book ... from the example code on SAME page as the walk-through explanations ... to the bold (often red ink) type, highlighting the subject lesson ... to the paper, itself (nice for writing notes and marking it up), a lifelong habit.
This book is a much easier read than its competitor, the Welling/Thomson book ... and about 1/3 less price, too - a nice bargain. I completed it in about a week and feel much more comfortable (dare I say confident?) with PHP, now. Thank you, Larry Ullman.
I don't recall a perfect book, though this one's shortcomings are slight. I was salivating, getting to the last chapter, "eCommerce", only to be disappointed when, 10 pages from the end of the book, the author declared that he wouldn't cover order processing, advising the reader to search the internet for examples. `sorry, but I don't buy books to be told to go search the internet. After wading through what seemed like a dizzying dozen variations on login forms, I would have gladly traded a half dozen login examples for more than a ... let's wrap this book up, quickly, coverage of shopping carts and I-commerce, the meat of the matter (... to my mind). Another indication of last chapter rush: not distinguishing between orders and order items (tables).
That said, don't let my slight disappointment dissuade you from acquiring this gem ... and diving into the facinating realm of LAMP. This book is carefully conceived and executed ... and, probably "best in class" ... a GREAT value, too.
GET IT !!!