While Apache is possibly the most popular and ubiquitous open source project it is certainly not the most simple. One module alone, mod_rewrite, causes me almost more problems and regex wrestling matches than all other products combined. The `httpd.conf' file is a long and critical one. In these circumstances the Apache Cookbook from O'Reilly might be a godsend. It is certainly a well-written, well-researched volume. Ken Coar has spent many years working on Apache and Rich Bowen has long laboured on the Apache documentation. They both know their stuff -- and if this is an example, both know how to write.
The book has twelve chapters, covering everything from installation and adding modules through to proxies and performance. The chapter on security is the largest, it covers the topics well. By contrast I thought the chapter `Aliases, Redirection and Rewriting' too short and could have benefited from some more `recipes', but that may be due to my own bias - mod_rewrite is not an easy topic, and as I've said it causes me a great deal of grief.
It is laid out in a similar way to the Perl Cookbook: each recipe has a `Problem' section followed by a `Solution' and then `Discussion.' In almost all the `recipes' the `Discussion' is longer than the `Solution,' and I often found it far more useful and informative than the problem and its solution.
The Apache Cookbook covers almost all aspects and all parts of the learning curve for Apache. That will either be a strength or a weakness of this volume for you; with such a large and complex piece of software as Apache a single book cannot hope to cover it in a great deal of depth. For me this book was not really a cookbook, more a good source of well documented examples from which to create my own recipes,
My biggest problem reviewing a book like this is that after several years building and configuring Apache (even on an infrequent basis) quite a lot of this volume seems simple. You may also find it the same if you are the sort of person who is not afraid to pore over the documentation, get your hands dirty and make a few mistakes. If you like some hand holding and are just starting with Apache you may benefit from all of it.
That's not to say that I didn't personally find large chunks of this volume useful. Certainly I've gone over several of the recipes and their excellent explanatory text to shed some light on previously dark corners of Apache, particularly as the authors cover both Apache 1.3 and 2.0.
O'Reilly have the usual web page with a Table of Contents and example chapter. The example chapter, on error handling is well chosen as it is typical of the others and useful but not the most useful chapter.
I have recently been thinking that tech books fall into various sorts and there is one sort I'd call `library books' - books you may not need to own, but will want to read every so often and would be good to have in your local or company library. Apache Cookbook is one of these, a book I'd recommend everyone coming to grips with Apache has close to hand, but it is not going to be constantly on your desk in the same way that Perl Cookbook might be for Perl programmers: to start off with, it's half the size and doesn't cover nearly as many topics. This one falls short of essential due to it's concentration on breadth. rather than depth. So my recommendation for this book is not that all Apache administrators should buy it, but you should have a copy close at hand.