I'm relatively new to Java, but not programming in general. I really like the look and feel of SWT apps over Swing. So my question is, should I learn swing at all, or should I just learn SWT right out of the box? As a newbie to Java, would the book be worthwhile?
My suggestion is that if you are going to work in desktop application field like crazy, then it's better to study SWT which is better in performance and so on... But if you just need to learn the concept of GUI and have no plan to earn your life as a desktop application developer, then why bother to study handy SWT?
As for me, I used to like Swing before and a part of my life had been spent as a Swing developer... I am not that sure for the future projects for me... That's why I consider to learn SWT...
I generally think, that you have to know (at least the main concepts of) different technologies to choose the one that fits your needs. So hava a look at Swing first (just a brief overview) an go on with SWT afterwards.
I am obliged to note that it is certainly possible to create well-performing GUIs using the standard Swing API. See here and here for some tips, and the Grand Canyon demo for proof (or IntelliJ IDEA, of course).