As the WordPress platform has expanded, so too has the selection of resources for those eager to learn all about it. You’ll find no shortage of videos and forum posts on the topic, but for many, WordPress books provide the better learning experience.
- How will WordPress books be scored?
- Review of WordPress Explained: Your Step-by-Step Guide to WordPress
- Review of WordPress: The Missing Manual
- Review of WordPress for Beginners 2020: A Visual Step-by-Step Guide
- Review of WordPress To Go - How To Build A WordPress Website
- Review of WordPress for Dummies
- The Results: Best WordPress Books of 2020
- Shameless Plug: Our WordPress Ebook
- Which WordPress book will you read next?
If you’ve spent any time searching out the best WordPress books of 2020, you might have noticed a pattern. Whether you’re searching Amazon or Google, many of the same books hold the top spots in results. We’ll be reviewing five of those overachievers ahead.
How will WordPress books be scored?
Each of the five books we review will be scored in three categories. After a book has been scored in each area, it will receive an overall score based on combined points across all three areas. Books will receive up to ten points in a single category for a maximum overall score of 30 points.
Scoring favors WordPress books for beginners as opposed to those written for intermediate or advanced users. You’ll learn why this distinction is made as you approach the final WordPress book reviews.
We should also note that a book’s price will not affect its score. However, we will include a cost to purchase with each review. Most of the books we’ll review can be read for free as part of the Kindle Unlimited program. There are a couple of exceptions in this list, and we’ll point those out as we discuss a competitor’s pros and cons.
In order to create an even playing field, we’ll review the Kindle edition of all five books. While most, if not all, of them are available in paperback, a Kindle edition always provides better imagery.
We’ll assign a maximum instruction score of ten to all five works. In order to receive high marks, a book must explain WordPress tools and ideas in an effective manner. Lessons must be approachable for beginners, and those that are hard to follow will cost a book big points.
The best WordPress books include screenshots that you can refer to as you build your website. These images are critical to the learning process, so each work will receive points based on the number and quality of its screenshots.
Before an overall score is tallied, we will rate the depth of each WordPress book. To earn high marks in this category, a book must cover all essential WordPress features and concepts. An author that skips important tools will cost his book points.
The contenders will be assessed in no particular order. Without further ado, let’s review some WordPress books!
Review of WordPress Explained: Your Step-by-Step Guide to WordPress
Stephen Burge’s WordPress Explained: Your Step-by-Step Guide to WordPress is a quick read at just over 300 pages. It’s packed with information, but also includes plenty of screenshots that you’ll find useful as you explore WordPress.
The Amazon listing for WordPress Explained states that the book was published in 2017, but the copy you’ll receive is much newer. It has been updated many times since its original publish date, and all of the images and instructions inside are current. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all of Amazon’s top-rated WordPress books.
While Burge does a great job of showing you how to use WordPress, he doesn’t walk readers through the process of installing the platform to a hosting account. Likewise, the book doesn’t cover the actual purchase of your hosting account or domain name either. You’ll need both in order to make your WordPress website public, and it’s not clear why the author chose to omit these instructions.
Fortunately, the book does link to an article that offers some very quick and basic WordPress installation pointers. Among these is a link to a snappy WordPress sandbox environment that you can use to freely test the platform. And when you’re ready to go live, hosting providers like SiteGround will install the WordPress platform on your behalf.
Burge guides readers through the process of creating a website for the fictitious city of Wordville as he introduces essential platform tools and features. By the time you’ve finished the book, you’ll have successfully crafted blog posts, published pages, built menus, installed plugins, customized your theme, and more.
You’ll follow a seven-step approach as you build your first website. These steps include planning, content, plugins, design, users, launch, and maintenance. This concept of breaking the website development process down into smaller tasks will prove useful when you eventually create a WordPress website for yourself or your company.
Your purchase will include access to placeholder text and images that you’ll fill the Wordville website with. As a result, the WordPress website you build as you follow along should look very similar to the website Burge captures in his screenshots. This makes the process of checking your work at the end of each chapter much easier.
At the time of writing, WordPress Explained: Your Step-by-Step Guide to WordPress was hovering around the $10 mark. However, it’s also a part of the Kindle Unlimited collection. So if you’re an Unlimited member, you can read the book at no additional cost.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Burge’s example website and his seven-step process are perfect for those that are new to WordPress. If you already have a hosting account and are looking for a quick read, WordPress Explained is a great choice.
Cons: While the author provides a link for more information regarding your website’s domain name and hosting, none of this is covered in the book itself. This is an unfortunate omission since you’ll need both in order to launch your own website. Additionally, the book lacks an index, making its material harder to reference.
Instruction: The knowledge you’ll acquire as you build the book’s example website is easily applied to any WordPress site you’ll hope to build later. The instructions that are here are easy to follow thanks to the book’s placeholder content and Burge’s seven-step approach.
Illustrations: The screenshots in WordPress Explained were numerous and up-to-date. A small handful of images were stretched to the point of distortion in later chapters, but this takes nothing away from the learning experience.
Depth: It’s a shame that the author wasn’t able to touch on web hosting or the WordPress installation process in WordPress Explained. This is one of the book’s very few omissions, but it’s worth noting. That being said, the book does include an external link that readers can follow for more information on the topic.
Total Score: 23/30
Review of WordPress: The Missing Manual
Search Amazon for the best WordPress books for beginners and you’ll find Matthew MacDonald’s work in the top results. WordPress: The Missing Manual was published by O’Reilly Media and clocks in at just over 600 pages.
The Missing Manual was originally released in 2014, and unlike WordPress Explained, it hasn’t been updated since. This is true even of the Kindle version, and as a result, parts of the book can feel dated.
For example, several chapters cover the use and customization of the Twenty Twelve WordPress theme in great detail. Not only has this theme been superseded by many others, it doesn’t even ship with WordPress anymore.
That’s not to say that the book’s age makes it useless. In fact, the book serves as a reminder of how little the WordPress admin area has changed over the years. While the editor has been replaced entirely, other areas of the control panel are still fairly true to those captured in the book’s screenshots.
And what MacDonald’s manual lacks in up-to-date screenshots, it more than makes up for in depth. In fact, if you’re even the least bit familiar with WordPress, you may be put off by the amount of text that the author dedicates to basic concepts like web addresses and password strength. Novices, on the other hand, are likely to appreciate the fact that MacDonald leaves no stone unturned.
The book is divided into four actionable parts. Parts one and two will show readers how to launch a WordPress website. Part three covers plugins, the Media Library, user roles, and more as they relate to the self-hosted WordPress platform and the WordPress.com service. The Missing Manual is unique in that regard; it’s the only competitor to include additional instructions for the managed (and far less popular) alternative.
Part four kicks it up a notch as it explains how to apply a small handful of theme customizations with CSS and PHP, but don’t expect to finish the book with a strong understanding of these languages. Instead, you’ll copy, paste, and tweak ready-to-use snippets in a way that will show you how you could leverage these technologies with a stronger understanding of them.
The third edition of WordPress: The Missing Manual is in development and should hit Amazon very soon. In the meantime, the second edition costs roughly $16. The Missing Manual is not a part of the Kindle Unlimited program, but you can rent it at a reduced cost.
Pros and Cons
Pros: MacDonald touches on every topic imaginable as he guides readers through the process of building with the WordPress platform. These topics include everything from installation to the deep customization of WordPress.
Cons: The six years that have passed since The Missing Manual’s release have not been kind to example sites depicted in many of the book’s images, but the admin area screenshots still hold up. The book can get a tad repetitive as it attempts to drive its points home.
Instruction: WordPress: The Missing Manual is several years old, but many of the instructions offered throughout its pages are still applicable. Unfortunately, The Missing Manual’s instructions include a few typos that are hard to overlook. The author cites a bad admin area URL many times, and mistakes like these can slow the learning process for beginners.
Illustrations: You would expect to see more illustrations in a book of this size. While the images in the Kindle version were of a decent quality, many of them show their age in other obvious ways.
Depth: If you’re new to WordPress and are on a quest to learn everything there is to know about the platform, this is a great place to start. Unlike WordPress Explained, The Missing Manual covers the very important topic of WordPress installation and even touches on the concept of deep theme customization.
Total Score: 20/30
Review of WordPress for Beginners 2020: A Visual Step-by-Step Guide
Next up is WordPress for Beginners 2020: A Visual Step-by-Step Guide by Dr. Andy Williams. As the title suggests, this book is up to date and reflects the somewhat recent addition of the block editor.
Speaking of the WordPress editor, WordPress for Beginners is the only book in this roundup to offer walkthroughs for both the classic and block editors. Unfortunately, those walkthroughs are brief. You’ll be made aware of common editor blocks and classic editor features as you read along, but it’s on you to figure out how they actually work.
You’ll find that this is the case for the majority of topics that Dr. Williams covers. WordPress books like The Missing Manual go into great detail as they guide readers through every corner of the platform. Conversely, WordPress for Beginners points webmasters in the general direction of important features then encourages them to explore those features on their own.
If you prefer to learn by absorbing as much information as possible before putting that knowledge to good use, this isn’t the book for you. But if you would rather learn by tinkering and getting your hands a little dirty, WordPress for Beginners may be right up your alley.
This rapid-fire approach to teaching results in a book that reads in only a few hours. You could probably knock the entire book out in a single afternoon even if you’re taking action as you read along.
Earlier chapters of WordPress for Beginners clear up confusion regarding WordPress.com vs WordPress.org and walk through the WordPress installation process. The process that Dr. Williams covers relies on the Softaculous autoinstaller, so if you hope to install WordPress manually, you’ll need to find those instructions elsewhere.
Dr. Williams provides plenty of sound advice regarding the purchase of the hosting account and the domain name that your WordPress website requires. While you won’t find recommendations for any single hosting provider within the book’s pages, you will find them in the article that Dr. Williams links to.
You’ll be shown how to install your first WordPress theme as soon as your empty WordPress website is ready. Instead of walking readers through the process of building a website with a boring default theme, Williams shows readers how to customize a more feature-rich theme from a third party. And of the three WordPress books reviewed so far, WordPress for Beginners is the second to build with the Astra theme. That says a lot about the versatility of this classic theme.
After you’ve installed your theme, you’ll learn how to customize it, how to install plugins, organize widgets, and more. It’s only after you’ve visited every tab of the WordPress admin menu that you’ll be asked to create pages and posts. WordPress for Beginners is the first book in this list to focus on content creation at such a late stage.
Chapters are very short and their writing occasionally dry, but they’re all packed with illustrations and screenshots. Most screenshots offer added visual aids that point readers to the exact buttons or features referenced in the neighboring text. WordPress for Beginners for Kindle is competitively priced at roughly $4.50, but Kindle Unlimited members can read it for free.
Pros and Cons
Pros: The vast majority of information is current and helpful screenshots are plentiful. Additionally, WordPress for Beginners is unique in that it introduces readers to both the classic editor and the block editor.
Cons: The author doesn’t devote a lot of time to any single tool or feature. If you’re a hands-on learner, this shouldn’t be much of an issue for you.
Instruction: Dr. Williams quickly but effectively walks readers through the process of selecting a good host, installing WordPress, and navigating the WordPress control panel. And as he does this, he’ll offer up some best practices for optimizing your website for both usability and search.
Illustrations: As mentioned in the pros and cons above, WordPress for Beginners includes plenty of high-quality screenshots. The author doesn’t provide many images of the public-facing side of his website, but these are far less important than the control panel screenshots you’ll want to refer to.
Depth: Dr. Williams offers a general overview of most WordPress features with the exception of user roles. If you plan on building a website that many writers will contribute to, you should look into other books about WordPress (like The Missing Manual) instead.
Total Score: 21/30
Review of WordPress To Go – How To Build A WordPress Website
Of the five best WordPress books for beginners (according to reader feedback), WordPress To Go – How To Build A WordPress Website is the shortest. Written by Sarah McHarry, the Kindle edition of this WordPress guide is just over 150 pages in length.
The first edition of McHarry’s work was added to Amazon in 2012 but has been updated since. The copyright notice near the back of the book implies that the book was revised in 2015, and the content suggests the same.
As you follow along, you’ll be asked to activate and publish with the Twenty Fourteen theme. The screenshots appear less dated than those in older books, but there’s also fewer of them. This doesn’t become a big issue until you’re asked to explore advanced features like the classic editor and the Customizer.
However, WordPress To Go does read easier than WordPress for Beginners 2020 (which is of a similar length). The author’s writing style is engaging, and she dives into the process of publishing with the platform much sooner.
WordPress To Go is divided into two halves, and each half contains ten chapters or lessons. The first ten lessons have been deemed “quick start guides” and the remaining lessons the “in-depth guides.”
By the end of the book’s first half, you’ll have been given a rough idea of how you might customize a theme from the WordPress control panel. Additionally, you’ll have added a little content and embedded some media using the older classic editor.
The second half of the book will quickly guide you through the processes of building menus, installing plugins, managing users, and encouraging discussion. The final chapters briefly touch on the concepts of backup, security, and SEO.
Overlooked concepts include lesser used features like post excerpts and WordPress screen options. Fortunately, McHarry touches on all of the most important WordPress topics, including essential WordPress tools and the initial setup process. In addition to the purchase of a hosting and domain name, McHarry walks readers through the process of installing WordPress with an autoinstaller.
At just $4 at the time of writing, WordPress To Go is the least expensive book featured here. That’s assuming that you’re not already a Kindle Unlimited member. If you are, you can read WordPress To Go for free.
Pros and Cons
Pros: As mentioned above, WordPress To Go is one of the most cost effective books about WordPress. Still, the author is able to deliver a solid guide that explores all aspects of WordPress at this low price.
Cons: Lessons are very short and were last updated more than five years ago. To make matters worse, the illustrations in these lessons are few and far between.
Instruction: Like Dr. Andy Williams, McHarry does a fantastic job of introducing WordPress features but spends little time explaining them. Plan for plenty of trial and error as you read through WordPress To Go’s twenty lessons.
Illustration: Like The Missing Manual, WordPress To Go is light on helpful imagery. Furthermore, the included images lack the visual aids you’ll find in screenshots that other WordPress books provide. These issues are compounded by the fact that the book itself is also lighter on instruction.
Depth: McHarry touches on all of the most important WordPress concepts. After you’ve launched your WordPress website, you’ll learn how to secure, promote, and optimize it with plugins.
Total Score: 22/30
Review of WordPress for Dummies
Last up is WordPress All-in-One For Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson. At over 800 pages (when reading on Kindle), it’s the longest of all the WordPress books featured in this list.
Not surprisingly, the book’s size makes for a long read. Expect to finish in twelve hours or more if you’re reading at a moderate pace and not taking action. Double that if you’re following along with the book’s instructions.
WordPress for Dummies was published in 2019, so its pages include instructions for the platform’s block editor. Likewise, screenshots are current and theme-related lessons focus on the widely available Twenty Nineteen theme.
It’s during the aforementioned block editor lessons that some readers may find themselves feeling frustrated by the book’s size. As if in an effort to fill space, the author dedicates multiple chapters to the editor’s many blocks and each of their settings.
If you’ve used the block editor before, you know that different WordPress blocks offer many of the same options. For instance, both audio and video blocks offer autoplay and loop settings. But instead of explaining common options just once, neighboring lessons needlessly describe the same very basic playback, alignment, and formatting options over and over again.
If you’ve read tighter books about WordPress and have struggled with them, the additional instruction may come in handy. But if you’re still shopping and are hoping to launch as soon as possible, other WordPress books for beginners will get you there much sooner.
Of the most popular WordPress books of 2020, WordPress for Dummies was, ironically enough, the hardest to follow. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of solid information inside the book’s pages. It’s just that many lessons are long-winded and structured in a way that makes them difficult to digest.
As its subtitle suggests, the book is divided into eight “minibooks.” Each of these minibooks covers one or two WordPress concepts or features in great detail.
It’s not clear whether Sabin-Wilson wrote this book for beginners or for advanced users. Sure, you’ll learn to install and browse plugins, but not before you’re asked to apply advanced theme customizations with HTML and CSS.
Beginners will wonder why they’re asked to write code before they’re told how to publish posts (and rightfully so). And while experienced developers will eventually learn how to build simple themes and plugins, the basic code examples and explanations that precede the WordPress lessons will be of no value to those readers.
WordPress All-in-One For Dummies was $20 and change at the time of writing. It’s the only featured WordPress book that cannot be rented or read for free as part of the Kindle Unlimited program.
Pros and Cons
Pros: WordPress for Dummies dives very deep into every aspect of the platform. You’ll learn how to install WordPress, leverage plugins, and apply CSS changes to your theme (but not in that order).
Cons: Beginners will likely struggle to absorb the lessons offered in WordPress All-in-One for Dummies. The author asks readers to complete several advanced tasks before walking them through the basics of WordPress. Furthermore, WordPress for Dummies is twice the price of the next most expensive contender.
Instruction: The book provides plenty of instruction for those new to WordPress. Unfortunately, beginner lessons are regularly interrupted by repetitive descriptions and commentary on advanced concepts.
Illustrations: WordPress for Dummies offers surprisingly few screenshots for a book of its size. The provided images are helpful, but many screenshots focus too little on the elements being covered and are isolated from the corresponding instruction. Fortunately, the included captions provide plenty of useful context.
Depth: Sabin-Wilson leaves no stone unturned as she walks you through the WordPress platform. WordPress All-in-One for Dummies is without a doubt one of the most comprehensive WordPress books around. If the lessons in its pages were presented more effectively, WordPress for Dummies would be an easy recommendation for readers of all skill levels.
Total Score: 19/30
The Results: Best WordPress Books of 2020
It was a close race, but after tallying the scores, we’re left with a clear winner. Based on our own findings, these are the top WordPress books of 2020:
- #1 – WordPress Explained: Your Step-by-Step Guide
- #2 – WordPress To Go – How To Build A WordPress Website
- #3 – WordPress for Beginners 2020: A Visual Step-by-Step Guide
- #4 – WordPress: The Missing Manual
- #5 – WordPress All-in-One For Dummies
Interestingly enough, the shorter books earned higher overall scores. We found the tighter lessons were easier to digest and allowed for more hands-on exploration.
The information in WordPress Explained: Your Step-by-Step Guide was especially easy to absorb. The book’s author, Stephen Burge, brought a very unique approach to WordPress instruction. As he guided us through the platform, he had us build a feature-rich website for the fictitious city of Wordville from start to completion. As a result, we finished the book feeling as if its teachings would better “stick” with those that are new to WordPress.
That being said, the lessons in WordPress Explained are relatively short. Expect a little trial and error if you hope to master the platform by the time you’ve finished reading. Those wanting detailed explanations of all the platform’s many tools and features should turn to WordPress: The Missing Manual instead.
Shameless Plug: Our WordPress Ebook
While we’re on the topic of WordPress books, we would be remiss if we did not mention our own ebook. It’s called Easily Build Your Own WordPress Website, and you can get it here.
It reads about as quick as McHarry’s WordPress To Go and covers the same topics with only a few exceptions. It’s also 100% free! You don’t need a subscription of any kind to download it. Just head to the download page, fill out the form, and we’ll send a copy your way.
Which WordPress book will you read next?
As you’ve just learned, the various WordPress books of 2020 appeal to two different types of learners. If you’re hands-on learner, WordPress Explained will not disappoint. But if you would rather learn from a very detailed set of instructions, WordPress: The Missing Manual is better suited for you.
So which WordPress book will you be picking up? Regardless of the book you choose to read or the tutorial you choose to follow, we hope your exploration of WordPress is a fun and informative one!