Thinking in Java is a printed version of Bruce Eckel's online materials that provides a useful perspective on mastering Java for those with previous programming experience. The author's take on the essence of Java as a new programming language and the thorough introduction to Java's features make this a worthwhile tutorial.
Thinking in Java begins a little esoterically, with the author's reflections on why Java is new and better. (This book's choice of font for chapter headings is remarkably hard on the eyes.) The author outlines his thoughts on why Java will make you a better programmer, without all the complexity. The book is better when he presents actual language features. There's a tutorial to basic Java types, keywords, and operators. The guide includes extensive source code that is sometimes daunting (as with the author's sample code for all the Java operators in one listing.) As such, this text will be most useful for the experienced developer.
The text then moves on to class design issues, when to use inheritance and composition, and related topics of information hiding and polymorphism. (The treatment of inner classes and scoping will likely seem a bit overdone for most readers.) The chapter on Java collection classes for both Java Developer's Kit (JDK) 1.1 and the new classes, such as sets, lists, and maps, are much better. There's material in this chapter that you are unlikely to find anywhere else.
Chapters on exception handling and programming with type information are also worthwhile, as are the chapters on the new Swing interface classes and network programming. Although it adopts somewhat of a mixed-bag approach, Thinking in Java contains some excellent material for the object-oriented developer who wants to see what all the fuss is about with Java.