I recently picked up “Make: Electronics” by Charles Platt from Amazon from $23 (vice $34 on MakerShed). It is one of the best introductory books written for those with little or no electronics experience. It is fantastic mix of theory and practical, and is all based on experiments that are well explained and illustrated. The book also does a great job of recommending tools, components, websites, and other books for the novice electronics DIYer. I find it be a terrific companion to two other books “Physical Computing” by Tom Igoe and Dan O’Sullivan and “Making Things Talk” by Tom Igoe. What sets “Make: Electronics” apart though is the attention to fundamentals, it does a great job taking you from the basic science of electrons and atoms, through the basics of voltage, current, power, resistance, capacitance, and inductance. It works through basic switch and resistor circuits, through transistor based circuits then onto to integrated circuits and finally a brief introduction to microcontrollers and basic software programming concepts. The only shortcoming is the lack of detailed microcontroller discussion, but that can be easily supplemented with the other two books I’ve mentioned. Speaking of microcontrollers, ff you are interested in the Arduino specifically, I would also recommend “Getting Started with Arduino” by Massimo Banzi. Lastly, another good book is “Encyclopedia of Electronic Circuits” by Rudolph Graf and William Sheets. So go check them out, they are all available on Amazon.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention the “Maker’s Notebook” also available on Amazon or MakerShed. This customizable notebook is more than your average graph paper notebook. It contains many useful references specific for hackers and makers. It is a great little book to carry around with so you can brainstorm your ideas anywhere you go.