Pointed out to me by Jethereal, Universe Today is offerring a book online for free download that lists 365 Days of Skywatching, so I figured I'd do my first book review!
Plotner, Tammy. What's Up 2006: 365 days of Skywatching. Universe Today, USA, 2006.
This 400+ page virtual book is designed to be kept on your hard drive and individual pages printed when needed.
Twelve pages of foreword discuss background information for the beginning observer, such as what equipment is recommended, night vision adjustment, and light pollution. It does not unfortunately discuss tips on how to stay warm, which any observer not in the tropics will tell you can be a daunting and critical task. I find this lack to be quite surprising in what is meant to be a beginner's observational book. Perhaps in Ohio, where Plotner is from, winter nights do not et quite as cold, but considering that tonight's forecast for Toledo (Jan 7, 2006) predicts it will go down to 29ºF, that is unlikely. While Plotner may have simply overlooked warmth, a further reading of the book indicates that she did not truly have a beginning audience in mind.
The meat of the book has each page dedicated to a day of the year 2006. Each night, a few paragraphs describe good sources for you to look for, appropriate to that date. Examples include many Messier objects, the brighter of the NGCs, and meteor showers. Directions for finding the objects take the typical form of star hopping: "locate Theta Ophiuchi and head south-southeast less than a finger-width. There you will find small, 9.5 magnitude globular NGC 6355." These directions are sufficient if the reader also owns a Norton's Atlas or equivalent set of star maps. What I was expecting from a book of this level was some simple star charts in addition to the written directions and photographs of the resulting object. While the book claims to contain them ("Thanks to the good folks at Sky and Telescope magazine, we’ve provided you with some “sky view” charts to help guide the way," pg I), they were not actually in evidence within the book, nor is there a clear link to where they can be found online.
Another challenge beginning observers face is that objects through the telescope are not as bright and crisp as objects in pictures. The book gives a head-nod to this fact with rare descriptions such as "skybright [light pollution] will make this huge, low surface brightness spiral difficult for even telescopes," (March 27, pg 89) but there is no acknowledgment that even the brightest objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy (M31, same page) will suffer from high expectations. The technique of averted vision helps when dim objects are hard to find, and although this is mentioned in passing in the text with certain faint objects ("NGC 2419 can be seen on dark sky occasions in instruments as small as a spotting scope - although you will need to avert your vision to see it," March 18, pg 80; also M13, July 29, pg 217, and others), no general instructions are given in the introduction.
At the end of the book there's an extensive list of observing resources from the internet, as well as brief biographies and descriptions of people and organizations contributing to the book (and of course their webpages).
This observational book appears at first glance to be a beginner's guide to observing with tips on how to buy a good telescope. However to the more experienced observer it is clear that there are large gaps and assumptions that the author made about her audience. I recommend this book for intermediate to advanced amateur astronomers, and professional astronomers who have limited experience with backyard observing. If you are a beginner, you would do well to start instead with a Norton's Atlas and 2006 Observer's Handbook, or a guide specifically designed for beginners, and slowly build up the skills and knowledge required as prerequisites to using Tammy Plotner's What's Up 2006: 365 days of Skywatching.
ETA: There is further discussion on the Universe Today / Bad Astronomy forums.