I have a friend who has a background in graphic design. She has taken a particular interest to web design. I am a software developer/system administrator, not a web developer, and I'm certainly not a designer; I couldn't design a good-looking site to save my life. However, I am aware of the technologies involved and the skills that she would need to acquire.
For the first book, I have recommended Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML for it's non-threatening, yet practical approach to teaching. This book introduces the reader to the modern technologies which are used by the browser to display web pages, and explains how to use them. As most of you know, that is only the tip of the iceberg.
Most sites today rely on some sort of back-end (CMS, et cetra). So, any web designer should be able to work with at least one kind of CMS. I think WordPress would be a great place to start (and who knows, maybe even specialise in) because it is highly scalable, yet easy to use for developers, designers, server administrators, and end users alike. It is used by individuals, small businesses, and enterprise. At the same time, it is simple enough to design for that I don't think it would scare her off with too much programming. Disclaimer: I use WordPress for most of my personal sites, so I am more than a tad bias. However, I'm not sure which book/tutorial to recommend to her for WordPress design.
Below is a list of books which I have found, and my thoughts on them:
Head First WordPress: A Brain-Friendly Guide to Creating Your Own Custom WordPress Blog - It explains in plains in plain English what WordpPess is, how it works, and how to use it. I love the format for this purpose, but it has a very short theme chapter. It may be good for supplementary reading.
Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog (Smashing Magazine Book Series) - It is well laid out, and up to date. It has an entire section on WordPress theme development. But, I would prefer a book which specialises in theme development.
WordPress 2.8 Theme Design - This book is written to be a step-by-step guide to designing, building, and tweeking a WordPress theme. But, it's a bit out of date. Could this be a problem?
Build Your Own Wicked Wordpress Themes - I have mixed feelings about this book. Is moderen, design orientated, and nice to look at. However, it bases much of of the work on the Automattic theme framework. On one hand, this minimises hand-coding, making it easy to learn and use, especially for someone without a background in programming. On the other hand, I'm concerned that such an approach might not prepare one for the "real world" of theme development, if one ends up applying for work at a design company, rather than doing freelance work. Is this a valid concern? How widely are frameworks used? As I said, web design/development is not my field, so I don't know much about the industry.
Any help is appreciated.