As a new birder, the first book I picked up was a Sibley's Field Guide...but I wanted more and found it in a new book (March, 2008) that I've recommended to others. Their reactions have caused me to mention it here:
Finding Your Wings: A Workbook for Beginning Bird Watchers by Burton Guttman is a lovely, interactive book that teaches how to look at birds; how to see them and how to recognize different types of birds. While the book references Peterson Field Guides regularly, I used my Sibley’s and was easily able to complete the exercises and quizzes offered.
As a new birder, one of the most interesting concepts the author teaches is to study a bird’s silhouette, which strikes me as valuable when an awful lot of birds are viewed in just that manner. Another is his suggestion to study movement and jizz, the impression a bird gives with the subtle, characteristic combination of it’s size and shape, it’s posture and its ways of moving.
From what to wear and polite birding manners to how to buy binoculars, from types of bills to shapes of tails and what these things mean to the kind of bird that carries them and from behavior to habitat ...the author teaches how to really see birds.
A fine bibliography is included.
At Amazon.com from <$9 to $15.