When I was first shown around the Microsoft campus Learning Centre I stood, mouth ajar, in awe at the number of technical books on display and remarked "What an amazing resource!" My tour guide promptly corrected me, saying "The best resource in that library isn't a book, it’s David Stewart". Never a truer word said. At the helm of the Learning Centre, David has an encyclopaedic knowledge of technical learning materials and is always willing to offer advice and recommendations about what to borrow. We asked David if he'd mind sharing some of his recommendations with the wider UKMSDN community and, as always, he was happy to help.

Books

There are obviously so many titles in the marketplace that it’s sometimes difficult to know what’s worth reading and what’s not. Here are a few suggestions to give you a little guidance:

There are lots of great Microsoft Press titles covering all technologies. Use this page as your starting point for information. It might be worth mentioning here that if you only own one .Net book, then that book will probably want to be Jeffrey Richter’s classic CLR via C#. It is the most in-depth reference and essential reading for any serious .Net developer.

Jon Skeet’s new edition of C# in Depth has just been published. The first edition was very highly regarded and really ‘did what it said on the tin’ by getting under the covers of C# and offering some great tips and tricks.

Andrew Troelsen’s Pro C# 2010 and the .Net 4 Platform is a great reference giving you comprehensive information on all aspects of .Net and the C# language as well as related areas such as WPF, WCF and WF.

If you want to learn more about using MVC, then Steve Sanderson’s Apress book is a great place to start. He offers you information on not only ‘how it works’ but also some background on the architecture as well as guidance on security and deployment issues.

Azure is of course a ‘hot topic’ and there are two great books available to help you learn more about this. Sriram Krishnan, a key member of the product development team, has written an excellent O’Reilly book called Programming Windows Azure . This is very readable and will give you excellent guidance on how to build, deploy, host, and manage applications using Windows Azure. Microsoft MVP and founder of the Cambridge, UK, .NET user group, Chris Hay, and Brian Prince, a Microsoft Architect Evangelist who helps customers adopt the cloud, have written an excellent book called Azure in Action that will teach you about the architecture and design of Azure applications and is crammed with excellent examples to assist your learning.

Free ebooks from Microsoft Press

There are a number of free ebooks that have been recently been published. Here are some titles that should be of interest:

Programming Windows Phone 7, by Charles Petzold (a 24-chapter gift from the Windows Phone 7 team and Microsoft Press)

Moving to Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 (10 chapters by Patrice Pelland, Pascal Paré, and Ken Haines)

Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 (10 chapters by Ross Mistry and Stacia Misner)

Own Your Future: Update Your Skills with Resources and Career Ideas from Microsoft (8 chapters by Katherine Murray)

Elearning

Microsoft offers lots of great elearning. Courses vary in price depending on the type of course you want and also a number of courses are bundled into ‘collections’. You can purchase courses and collections here.

MSDN virtual labs - these are free, fairly short, typically less than 90 minutes

Channel 9 Learning Channel - covering videos, labs and samples across a number of technologies e.g. The Silverlight 4 Training Course includes a whitepaper that explains all of the new Silverlight 4 features, several hands-on-labs that explain the features, and a 8 unit course for building business applications with Silverlight 4.

Certification

Of course, many of you will have taken various Microsoft exams and attained various certifications over the years. The current crop of exams of course includes all the Visual Studio 2010 MCTS and MCPD qualifications, full details of which you can find here, including all the upgrade paths from earlier versions. Amongst some of the forthcoming exams are ones for Silverlight development (coming early next year) and also Azure development.

To make sure you don’t miss out on future opportunities to sit beta exams, make sure you are signed up to MCP Flash. You can also find out about the latest certification news, including program updates, training, exam availability and retirements, and special offers

For special offers on taking Microsoft exams, keep an eye out here .You’ll currently find an offer to purchase a Microsoft Certification Pack with Second Shots.