I've always got questions from folks about how I learn and keep up to date on everything.
Well, some time ago, I was in a position that I was going to have to support Windows NT 3.1 when it was released. This was back in my days of PSS.
So I had to learn Windows NT 3.1. Everyone learns differently. I like to read, some people like to attend classes, others watch webcasts, others like to try things out, etc.
I picked up a book called Inside Windows NT 3.1. That book didn't show any user interface pictures, didn't talk much about APIs, but did give a very thorough treatment of the architecture of the up-coming OS, down to the smallest details. I read that book 3 times. It was incredible. I think that the understanding that book gave was what made supporting NT possible for someone like me. Understanding what was going on under the hoods made all the other stuff on top of it seem, well, almost trivial. When presented with a problem, I was able to link it (most of the time) to the internals. It put stuff in the right context.
I've never had the chance to meet Helen Custer. If I do, I'm going to be sure to thank her.
The same was true with .NET. I attended a Microsoft Technical Briefing (MTB- the name for our old internal technical conference) and in the bag we got there was a free chaper of "Essential .NET Volume 1". It was the same thing all over again.
I encourage you to grab the full book through your favourite online retailer, however, YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE FREE SAMPLE CHAPER FROM THIS LINK. I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE THAT YOU READ THIS!!!
Understanding the core of .NET is important for building good systems. This is one of the best coverages I've seen.
Read and be merry (or Mary, depending).