I'm often asked what books I would recommend to learn more about web design. You remember books, they are kind of like a collection of printed out web pages that you can read without needing a T-Mobile account whilst sipping an iced-latte at Starbucks. In the last eight years I've amassed a small library of tomes that deal with design and development on the web these titles are my core, the ones I refer to all of the time. They are arranged by subject somewhat in the order in which a site is created from concept to final product.
Advertising Campaign Planning by Jim Avery Yeah you read that right. I studied under Jim at college and read this book as it was being written. About 85% of this book can be adapted to the field of web design. And it's good study for how to write a great site proposal. Think of it this way, If your design/site doesn't reach its intended audience then what the hell is it good for?
Information Anxiety 2 by Richard Saul Wurman A lot of designers run right over Wurman on their way to stare at Edward Tufte's belly button lint. As far as I'm concerned Wurman's the godfather of information design and can trounce Tufte any day. Information Anxiety deals with how people perceive, use and digest information. It's easy to read, interesting to look at, and will give you an idea of what you need to do to reach your audience.
Web ReDesign : Workflow that Works by Kelly Goto, Emily Cotler Kelly and Emily have put together a great system for producing sites from concept to launch. ReDesign took over for David Siegal's classic, Secrets of Successful Websites from 1997 still a good read (if you can find it) but as web design has come along way so have the methods for designing them.
Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell , Kritina Holden, Jill Butler The subtitle for this book is: 100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design I like to call it Art School Talking Points. While one book can not replace art school, this is a good overview of the principals of design.
Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Muller-Brockmann Everything about web design is a grid. Sure there are exceptions but for the most part everything has to fit in cubes within cubes. Grid Systems is the most have tome for creating better site layout. And If you can find this book under $100 (and you can) then jump on it because even if you don't care for Grid Systems you can always Ebay it later and make some change. UPDATE You might find the book for under $100 at Hennessey + Ingalls in Santa Monica.
The Design of Sites by Douglas K. van Duyne, James A. Landay, Jason I. Hong This book doesnt' get enough exposure considering how well it's put together. This hefty volume is a catalog of best practices for every web design element you will ever have to create. It's like those huge three foot long catalogs that you always see at a car parts store, only without the custom metal binding thing. Think of this book as the Chilton's manual for web sites. Design of Sites also has it's own navigation system that allows for easy scanning.
Defensive Design for the Web by Matthew Linderman, Jason Fried I don't think this book needs much of an introduction considering how loved 37 Signals are. It's new, it's nice and small and it's packed with plenty of best practices for designing interactive site elements. There are some similarities with Design of Sites but there is enough room for both.
Designing Web Graphics 4 by Lynda Weinman When it comes to using colors in web design there is no better author to have on your shelf than Lynda. Co-creator of the web safe color palette, Weinman has been around since the beginning and that this book is on it's forth addition says a lot. Amazing really if you consider most web design related books become outdated after only a few years.
Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works by Erik Spiekermann, E.M Giner Typography is important, I shouldn't have to tell you that, and this is probably the best little book on the subject in recent years. Even if you're only dealing with the limited range of browser based fonts Stealing Sheep is a good read.
Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman What more can I say about this book that hasn't already been documented all over the web? Jeffrey's second book is really a must read for anyone who designs websites. It's a good overview of past methods and how to segue into designing using the latest in web standards. I would consider this book the bible of web design, especially for those who are starting out.
Web Standards Solutions by Dan Cederholm You can skin a site with stylesheets six ways to Sunday and still have it validate but that doesn't mean it's the right way to do it. Fortunately for us Dan's book has made life a whole hell of a lot easier to write better, proper code that not only validates but works in all browsers.
Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug There have been a lot of books written about web site usability but none come close to being as easy to read and follow as Steve's. It doesn't matter if you're the web producer for a Fortune 500 company or working from home in a spare bedroom, this book will help your designs achieve better functionality. Don't be fooled by all the other usability books out there, this is the one to have.
That concludes the list so far. I'd be interested in knowing how my list compares with others. I'm always looking for more books, you can never have enough of them.