I read the reviews of the Professional PHP Programming book, and noted a lot of people said there were typos in that book, even though it was very good otherwise. As a PHP novice, I cannot afford to muddle through a typo-ridden book. So I looked at Web Applications With PHP 4, and that book was so advanced that the *first* chapter is titled "Advanced PHP" -- no install guide or anything else.
I don't regret buying it. It is written in such a simple, friendly manner, that I was able to breeze through the first half in about an hour. If you're good at HTML, and you're looking to get into programming, this may be just what you need. This book will teach you, in basic terms, how to create if-else statements, what the proper syntax is for PHP code, how it integrates into the HTML page, what variables are, how to capture form data and write it to a file or database, how to send email from a Web page, how to send HTTP headers (so you can set cookies and do redirects), and it will step you through building a shopping cart system.
Now, if that were it, this book would be a five star book. However, being that I do have some programming background, and did have some idea of what PHP could do, let me tell you why I gave it four stars instead of five. First, there are some technical inaccuracies, such as the statement that Netscape 3+ supports style sheets (Netscape 3 has zero support, it's only Netscape 4+). But that's not bad. Second, nowhere does she address the "gasp, mixing HTML and code" programming debate. And finally, as another reviewer said, this book really is just the essentials, and I think it's not even that. Because there is a whopping omission: how to create a file that pulls in other files, like Server Side Includes. While the book covers how to open a file and read/write to it, the book never goes into detail about just linking in a file. This is important, because it's a fundamental feature. In fact, PHP has two commands for doing it, and neither one is mentioned, not even in the commands listed in the appendix.
So, if you're new to PHP and new to programming in general, this is a good -- great -- introductory book. You could learn the basics of programming with this book, and put yourself into a better paying job! But if you have some programming background, or even some PHP background, this book isn't going to feel very thorough.