Blender Foundations: The Essential Guide to Learning Blender 2.6 by Roland Hess is one book I purchased nearly 2 years ago, started and never finished reading. Finally I decided to go back and finish it, as it’s been bugging me for a while. I have to say, this is a fine piece of text. It really takes you from knowing nothing about the software, to feeling somewhat knowledgeable on the topic.
The book is not especially long at around 400 pages, but there is a good amount of information between the covers. It goes over the basics of modeling with Blender, all the important hot-keys, basic navigation, and all that. The scene you create is not super fancy, but includes a lot of good stuff: handling different materials, lighting and shadowing, glass rendering, cloth and soft-body physics, character animation, etc. Some of the basic items are created from scratch (like a table and chair) however the character model is given to you later in the book. Still not maybe *everything* you could possibly know about Blender, but it does say “Foundation” and “Essential” in the title, and I feel it lives up to the name.
In terms of Blender itself, after reading the book and going through many of the exercises, I have a new-found respect for the software. Initially I expected it to be a cheap (well, free) version of Max or Maya, but I think it can stand on it’s own. While I mostly learned Maya in school, it never felt quite natural to me and I always seemed to favor 3DS Max. Since spending more time working with Blender and learning the hot-keys it seems like a really capable package. It might even like it better then the big guys. Sure, it may not have all the bells and whistles of something like Maya, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t accomplish some amazing things with the program. And, of course, it’s free and open-source which counts for a lot.
Overall I liked the book and the author’s writing style and think it’s a great introduction to a powerful piece of software.