Adams books are I think for a very specific audience, yet so many well-meaning photographers often recommend it as the go-to book for beginners of black and white photography! (not that you are one). When I was new to black and white I bought "The Negative" like a good girl, and found it extremely obtuse and hard to follow (and this is after reading numerous photography books prior to this). I've since bought the whole series, and have tried, multiple times, to get something out of the books, but it's always ended in failure. I might try again in the future, but it's unlikely. When I moved to Japan 3 years ago, Ansel's books are some of the few photography books that I did NOT bring with me here. I've learned a lot more from books by Ralph Lambrecht, Tim Rudman, and Stevel Anchell to name a few. And don't forget the incredible resource that is APUG -- being able to discuss problems you are having here, in almost real time, is also very educational.