The path to good homebrew is knowledge. So to that end, I would like briefly to review and recommend the two books which are, in my opinion, the "must haves" in the homebrewer's library.
The book is written clearly and the layout is easy to follow. There are great examples and photos throughout which the lead the homebrewer through every phase of brewing, from initial set-up to final consumption. Really, at least the early chapters of this book should ideally be read carefully a couple of times before the homebrewer forges into the hobby because it will cement the basic principles that will hold him good stead throughout his brewing "career". But even if you are an intermediate or advanced brewer, you should have this book. Palmer's grasp of the hobby is impressive and I guarantee that you will learn something, probably a lot.
Palmer also had a hand in this second volume, Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew, which he coauthored with award winning brewer Jamil Zainasheff. But as the subtitle of this book indicates, this is primarily a book of recipes, not a "how to" volume. Palmer's contributions of "how to" material in the first and final chapters are fine, but inadequate by themselves. It is the main body of the book, containing the recipes crafted by Zainasheff, that make this book shine.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes available in books and on the Internet for different kinds of homebrew. One of the potential problems with this embarassment of riches is that one does not always know whether the recipe is any good. And you don't necessarily know whether the recipe really conforms to its purported style.
I've brewed four or five of these recipes and they have all turned out quite good. Are they foolproof? Well, perhaps not. I brewed Zainasheff's oatmeal stout recipe and found it not nearly as "roasty" as I would have wanted. On the podcast for that style, someone wrote in with that very same observation. So here there is either some variation in the ingredients we're using (quite likely) and/or the recipe perhaps needs a little tweaking.
That being said, if I could only retain two books on homebrewing, there is no question that it would be these two. Get either one or both of them and you won't be disappointed.