Thanks for the links. The performance article has given me stuff to think about and about a year ago I downloaded Eckel's books and completely forgot about them.
Just thought I'd mention: I went to the local bookstore and picked up Head First Design Patterns and so far I've really enjoyed reading it. At first I thought it was a joke but I can't put it down and I'm actually learning.
On the topic of books for anyone new to java take a look at "Core Java2 fundamentals Volume 1, 7th edition" by Horstmann and Cornell. It serves as an excellent introduction to the language and contains alot of the details other books are missing.