I'm finding the design aspects offered by CSS more interesting than XHTML, which (tho necessary) seems boring by comparison. CSS is cool, cuz it lets you do cool things.
Most agree it's best to learn HTML/XHTML first. W3Schools lists both these topics before their tutorial on CSS. Many books (such as this one) tie the topics together, feeling they go hand-in-hand.
During academic years, my strategy was to master the basics. Advanced topics then come more easily. That's still my strategy.
While researching what books might be helpful, I found *two* stood out:
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The Head First book has an Amazon.com Sales Rank of 1154 (at time of this writing, rankings fluctuate constantly). The Castro book comes in slightly higher at 1110. Both are Amazon BestSellers.
The Head First book has 140 reviews, of which 119 (85%) score a (perfect) 5-stars rating. Casto's book, on the other hand, has a whopping 546 reviews, with 423 5-star ratings (77%)...
... tho I think some of these reviews refer to editions prior to the Sixth, cuz some of the reviews pre-dated October, 2006, when the Sixth edition was published.
Only negative I can see is neither book is published this year. But right now, I feel nailing the basics is more important than learning the latest cutting edge stuff. If you want a Basics book published in 2007, here's one (June), but it has no reviews.
Seems like you can't go wrong with either of the two books I've highlighted (if you're interested in nailing down the basics).
The (fatter) Head First book reportedly goes into more detail, and supposedly is written (along with the *entire* Head First series) using techniques that demonstrated to help you learn better (based on the way the brain operates).
Here's a list (crafted October 2006, from a web designer named Anissa in Los Angeles) that puts those two books at the top (and lists several others).
In an effort to save trees, I've found the Head First book at the Huntington Beach Public Library. Might check it out tomorrow (if you don't beat me to it, that is).
The Castro book I located here at the (closer) Newport Beach Public Library, where I'm first on the wait list. (It's due back in a few days.) Here's a great link to help you find books at libraries near you » WorldCat (still in beta).
For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » best books learning web site design development xhtml css
Update » I drove to the local Borders bookstore, and handled both books. Cracking the covers, I definitely prefer the style of the Head First book. FWIW.
Also drove to the Huntington Beach library. If you are not HB resident, costs $25/yr to become member, which you need to get library card in order to check-out books. Nicest library I've ever seen, btw. Big, modern, spacious, well-lit, natural light, clean, lotsa helpful people, plenty of plants.
I know a girl who lives in HB. Will have to call & get her addy .. or maybe I'll just buy the dang thing (kill a tree), since a new copy can be had for only $21.65 + $4 S&H (no tax). I'd rather get a used copy (save a tree), but right now it looks like new copies are cheaper. Go figure. Hopefully that will change.
Does anybody else wonder if guys are buying these books (Head First series) due to title's subliminal innuendo? =) I can almost hear her saying, "Honey, you can work on that web site later..."
Gotta admit, the title has a certain, uh .. allure. And they got a girl on the cover (76-KB) .. and she is looking up to you. Come on, now. Got my attention. Would love to have sit-in on the design-marketing meeting for this book.