Maker Media has just published a new book called Make: Electronics, by Charles Platt, and it's the best electronics primer I've ever come across (admittedly, I'm the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Charles' friend, but I really do think it's the best).
Here's what Gareth Branwyn (the book's editor) said about it:
I'm thrilled to announce our latest offering from O'Reilly/Make: Books, Make: Electronics, by Charles Platt. This is a book that we've wanted to do for awhile. Many of us at Maker Media have had an interaction that goes something like this: You're at a talk, Maker Faire, or elsewhere, and someone spirits you aside, like they're going to confess to a petty crime or some marital indiscretion. What they want to whisper sheepishly into your ear is that they love MAKE, all of the excitement they see over open source electronics, and the cool kits we sell in the Maker Shed, but they have NO IDEA how electronics work, and the "beginner" books and resources they look at online zoom quickly over their heads and frustrate their efforts to learn. Ultimately, they find themselves too embarrassed to admit their lack of high-tech smarts or to ask questions (which is why they've taken you behind a dumpster to confess their ignorance).
So we decided to make it our mission to create a book that would patiently guide readers into the world of electronics in a way that was fun, clear-spoken, graphical, and experiential. Charles dubbed it "learning by discovery." He has you experimenting with parts right out of the gate, licking batteries (really), breaking and frying stuff, and then you learn what happened and why, the theories behind the parts and processes, and how to do the experiment correctly. For all of those would-be makers and wireheads who've been looking for a book that will finally let them in on all the fun, we made this one for you!
In 340+ pages, Make: Electronics takes you from the most basic aspects of electronic components and theory to essential techniques, such as soldering and using a multimeter, gathering basic tools and setting up a workshop, all the way up to working with integrated circuits, microcontrollers, and building sophisticated devices such as robots. The book is full-color, with hundreds of photos, illustrations, schematics, even fun cartoons. Charles Platt, being the true Renaissance man that he is, did all of this himself. So the book has something of a charming, handmade feel to it.
To give you an idea of what the book feels like, we've put together this 40-page PDF. It contains the cover, table of contents, two complete projects from the book, and the index.
The deluxe kit, shown above, has many of the tools you'll need to make the projects in the book.