If you are from a C++ background then "Thinking in Java" is a good bet for you. Go to the BunkHouse at JavaRanch http://www.javaranch.com/bunkhouse/bunkhouseBeginning.jsp and read the reviews there. If you use a link from there to buy a book, JavaRanch will get a few pennies so that Paul W. can save up for an upgrade to this software that we are using. You probably need a starting book before you get to the Java Cookbook. While it is great for answering specific how-tos it was not meant as a basic beginners boook that covers all topics.
"JavaRanch, where the deer and the Certified play" - David O'Meara
I also come from a C/C++ background (and I'm also a Java newbie). I am close to taking the SCJP Exam, I got the book "A Programmer's Guide to Java Certification" by Khalid A. Mughal and Rolf W. Rasmussen as it was recommended to me by one of my programming professors. It's a great book coming from the background of C. Between the book and all the practice tests I've been taking (and the Rules Roundup), I'm just about ready for the Exam. Wish me luck!
Michael J Bruesch<br /><i>I code, therefore I am.</i>