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eBook review: Grokking Magento – Basics & Request Flow

With an abundance of Magento development resources geared towards beginners, intermediate to advanced content lacks severely. Not suited for rookies, the first book in the “Grokking Magento” series puts some weight on the other side of the balance.

The author

Nicknaming himself as a web craftsman (Netzarbeiter in German), Vinai Kopp (@VinaiKopp) is what you call a senior Magento developer and community man. Starting out in early 2008 with Magento development, Vinai is currently active as consultant but also still actively develops for the Magento platform.

The “Grokking Magento” series is a joint venture between Ben Marks (@benmarks) and Vinai. The plan is that each book in the series is authored alternately.

Content overview

The “Grokking Magento” series is intended as accompanying learning material for the Magento Certified Developer Exam (MCD) and is heavily based on the Magento Certification Study Group Moderator Kit (Study Group Kit) and Magento Certification Study Guide (MCSG).

The title of the first book in the series is “Basics & Request Flow” – drawn from the first two chapters of the MSCG – and has 10 chapters divided over 110 pages. Currently only available in ePub format, Amazon distribution should start in the near future. At the moment of writing the book can be purchased through Vinai’s website for a close $20 (€15).

Each content-chapter in the book takes an original exercise from the study group kit, analyzes the problem, provides a scenario for the problem and then, by research through the Magento code base, helps the reader with providing a solution. Though the book has “basics” in its title, by no means this book should be bought if you want to get started with Magento development. The book assumes you already have intermediate experience with the Magento platform and PHP in general.

Reflection – research – solution

The book follows a cycle which most people will be very content with. Instead of providing textbook-solutions like the study kit does, “Grokking Magento” helps the reader dive into the exercises. If you hate the idea of being taught in a “this is how it works, deal with it” way, this book is for you.

By properly reflecting on the exercises and researching what is needed to provide the solution, readers will have a much better understanding and gain than if they were to be given the solution ready for consumption on a tray. Due to the nature of such an approach, a lot of information will be introduced which might not have any relevance to the developer certificate subject material.

It does however help with seeing things in a broader context. And, whenever the concepts discussed are not required study material for the developer certificate, Vinai is clear in it being nice-to-know rather than mandatory information (he labels it as Magento trivia).

Standalone

Though “Grokking Magento” has strong roots in the Magento Certified Developer Exam, it doesn’t mean you cannot use this book if you are not interested in taking the exam. The book touches upon the core architecture a lot and helps the reader with understanding “why” (research) things work instead of leaving that out and going directly to the “how” (solution) part.

This in combination with all the case studies in the book, should give the reader a lot better mindset as a programmer in general. Because the exercises discussed in the book can often be generalized to a broader problem – “rewrite X in Magento” instead of “rewrite the sales/order model” – this book can even be approached as reference material.

Conclusion

We are really happy to see that there are still people delivering great resources for the Magento platform. We are even happier when we see that people have the courage to ignore the basics – which have been covered numerous times before – and tackle the more advanced material.

Though “Grokking Magento” heavily relies on the Magento developer certification program, we couldn’t find a reason why this book couldn’t be used without the intent of taking the exam. It touches upon a lot of valuable concepts which are also very usable outside the context of an exam candidate.

If Vinai and Ben manage to keep up the quality, we are excitingly looking forward to the estimated eleven other books to appear in the “Grokking Magento” series.