Learning to code websites is a tough but rewarding goal. There’s a lot to learn and it takes quite a few months of practice to really get the hang of things.
But with the right learning resources, anything is possible, and that’s exactly why I created this guide. It’s a complete list of all the best books you can use for learning web development from start to finish.
These should pair nicely with my best web design books and they’ll take you all the way from coding simple interfaces to more complex usable websites.
The Best Frontend Web Development Books
Using these 3 languages you can build any website from scratch and get it working in all browsers. This is the best place to start and it’s crucial information for any aspiring developer. These are my top picks for frontend books regardless of your skill level.
Front-End Web Development: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide
I’ve used many of the Big Nerd Ranch Guides and they’re all fantastic. But the book Front-End Web Development by Chris Aquino & Todd Gandee is absolutely fantastic.
This book spans the gamut of everything you’d need to learn to code functional websites. Each chapter delves into detail on the basic frontend languages, how they fit together, and how you should practice for the fastest learning process.
I absolutely recommend this book as a staple for anyone serious enough to dive in. By the end you’ll have a solid grasp of web development and a deeper understanding of the entire coding process.
Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3
Responsive web design is the new standard for building websites. More than 50% of the world accesses the Internet on mobile over desktop and this demographic is climbing quickly.
In the book Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3 you’ll learn all the fundamentals of these two crucial languages: HTML5 and CSS3. They’re the backbone of any website and they pretty much dictate how an entire website looks, feels, and operates.
This lengthy guide goes beyond the basics covering how responsive design is the new normal for the web industry. You’ll learn the best tools & techniques to use for modern web development, along with how to plan your website with a responsive-first mentality.
This may be somewhat advanced for a complete beginner but it’s definitely a valuable resource to keep on hand. I’d recommend this book along with the next one as a pair of resources for learning HTML/CSS development.
HTML & CSS
If you’re looking for a more specific introduction to coding websites then HTML & CSS is generally considered de-facto intro reading material.
These two languages are by far the easiest to learn out of all the languages you’ll find in web development. They also make up the building blocks of every website, using HTML to create page elements and CSS to style them.
In this book you’ll learn the purpose of these languages and why they’re so closely related. Every single person learning web development should start with basic HTML and CSS. From there you can always expand but this is the best starting point for any beginner.
Many devs would agree that JS is much more like a programming language, so it’s a step up from the simpler HTML/CSS development work. When you write JS code you’re writing scripts to create behaviors on your webpage.
Definitely great reading material, but certainly not a great starting point for newbies. Make sure you already know how to code simple layouts before moving onto this book.
You Don’t Know JS: Up & Going
It’s a very short book with only 88 pages but it’s split into multiple titles. I actually recommend getting the digital version since you can download all the titles together onto one device and work through the lessons individually.
This series of books aims to improve your existing JS skillset by forcing you to think about the code you’re writing. How could it be more efficient? What are you doing that could be automated? Do you have any vulnerabilities in your codebase?
Just note this book is very large totaling over 460 pages. It’ll take a long time to work through everything but I absolutely think it’s worth the investment.
The Best Backend Web Development Books
The flipside of frontend development is the aptly named backend development. This code runs on the backend of the server where it’s not accessible to anyone.
Every major website you use including Google and Facebook have massive codebases on the backend. There are many different languages you can try, the most common is PHP since it powers over 80% of the entire Internet.
These books will help you get up-to-speed with PHP and a few other backend languages. But make sure you already feel comfortable with frontend coding before diving into the backend.
PHP for the Web
All of the Visual QuickStart Guides are fantastic on topics of coding & programming. Their newest edition of PHP for the Web covers everything you need to get started with basic PHP code(including the new PHP 7).
This book teaches you how to install PHP locally and how to build some really simple applications. You’ll also learn how to build custom web forms, how to store data in a database, and how to use all this information to create usable webapps.
Unfortunately this guide is very simple so it doesn’t get into OOP programming or any other advanced topics.
But this is actually a good thing for complete beginners who want a very gentle intro to the subject.
If you’re hoping to create dynamic webapps then this book is a must-have resource. It’ll teach you the right way to do everything while teaching you the 3 most popular technologies for the job.
Modern PHP: New Features and Good Practices
In the incredible book Modern PHP you can dive deeper into PHP to learn about object-oriented coding, custom classes, libraries, and best practices.
The authors does not mince words or hold your hand throughout this process. You should already know a good amount of PHP before picking this up, or at least be willing to research and learn as you move along.
You’ll learn a lot about database connections and how to sanitize/escape user input as it moves to the backend. Everything in this book is still considered “best practice” so it’s a fantastic primer for a semi-experienced PHP dev to enter the world of professional programming.
PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice
With the release of PHP 7 there’s a lot you should learn to build more optimize webapps. Most of the books in this list cover the fundamentals of PHP very well, and these fundies don’t change even in newer versions.
However PHP 7 is a lot faster and it’s good to know how to approach PHP development going forward. That’s why I absolutely recommend a copy of PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice by Matt Zandstra.
It’s currently in its 5th edition with 580 pages and tons of content on the newer PHP 7 release. You’ll learn about OOP techniques, common web architecture patterns, and how to properly solve problems with the best solutions.
Only pick this up if you’re really pushing to go further with PHP and might even consider PHP development as a serious career.
Learn Web Development with Rails
Some developers want to avoid PHP because it’s generally slower and less organized than other “real” programming languages like Ruby. However Ruby code is much tougher to learn so there are tradeoffs.
But if you’re willing to learn Ruby for building websites then you’ll eventually find Rails. It’s a free coding framework built to make Ruby code easier to manage & more organized for the web.
And if you’re completely new to RoR(Ruby on Rails) then I absolutely recommend a copy of Learn Web Development with Rails. This book caters to beginners who just want a solid place to start learning the Rails framework.
You’ll work through custom web applications that force you out of your comfort zone with detailed web projects. This book is absolutely massive totaling 800+ pages in change.
However there isn’t much else I’d recommend for a beginner who wants to push their Ruby skills in web development. This guide is lengthy and definitely challenging but absolutely worth the effort.
Two Scoops of Django
Another popular backend language is Python, although this is really just a full-on programming language. It can be used for anything from desktop software to mobile applications.
And much like how Ruby has Rails, Python has Django. This framework makes your task easier by simplifying the Python code you need for connecting to databases and building classes/methods/etc.
Two Scoops of Django is the strongest book on Django development covering all the practical aspects of building a Django website. It is not easy to work through and I absolutely recommend starting with regular Python before getting this book.
However if you’re adamant about building a Python-powered website then this book will help you get there much faster.
There are many other frameworks you could try but Django is the biggest with the most support worldwide. It’s practically a staple for any Python web developer and this book is my #1 pick for learning the ropes.
Node.js in Practice
If you’re brand new to web development I personally suggest sticking to PHP first. It’s the easiest backend language to learn and it’s the most popular out of everything.
But if you’ve got an itch for Node then this book will help you learn all the fundamentals plus a little more.
Picking The Best
It’s tough to whittle down this list since each person comes into web development from different skill levels with different goals.