I used Java for Dummies all in one desk reference as my way into Java. Its a book I would definately recommend to others - it contains servlets, applets and JSP tutorials that are clear and easy to understand. Plus its cheap on amazon lol. regards
"For Dummies" books are dumbed down so much that it's virtually impossible to properly learn a technical subject like programming from them. What's worse is that the authors themselves tend to need further instruction before they're qualified to teach. In other words, "For Dummies" books are written for dummies, by dummies.
As for Head First Java, I found it painful to read and lacking in practical exercises and example code. I'd recommend Core Java, volumes 1 and 2.
The HF series are weird like that. You either love them or you hate them :)
Given the sales volume and excellent reviews (plus my personal experience, I have several of them and browsed HF Java before giving it to someone else) it's an excellent series for most people.
Core Java is good too, but not recommended for people with no prior OO or programming experience.
Also excellent is the courseware for Sun's SL275 course, but of course that's only available to people who actually attend the course (recommended but expensive).
I initially learned a lot from Core Java2 v1 and v2 also. I haven't read Head First Java, but I've heard good things about it. I have read Head First Design patterns and thought they did a great job on that one.
> You either love them or you hate them
Bang on target.
I have seen people either worship those Head First books or avoid them like plague. The funny sketches found in all Head First books can be a good motivator or a complete turn off depending on your reading habits. Some people find it disturbing to find irrelevant images being presented before their eyes while some people think of it as a good means of learning a concept.