First of all, congrats on deciding to learn the dark arts.  Ruby is my 
#1 recommended language for people who are serious about wanting to 
learn programming but have no experience writing programs.  The 
principals you learn in Ruby will make learning other languages much 
less difficult, and Ruby itself is a powerful and elegant language.

I agree that the pickaxe is more directed toward programmers looking to 
pick up a new language, but I'd also point out that it's probably one of 
the better reference materials out there once you have the basics 
understood.  If you can get the pickaxe in electronic format you 
probably won't regret it.

As far as avoiding books for being 'out of date', you don't really need 
to worry about that too much with Ruby.  The core principals of the 
language have remained unchanged since I picked it up several years ago. 
Once you learn the basics the rest is mostly just learning the names of 
all the tools that are available to you: the standard classes and 
modules.

Personally I'm the kind of person that takes things apart to find out 
how they work.  I started with Ruby by using the game-design platform 
RPG Maker XP back in 2004 (using the Japanese version, lol) and once I 
got the gist of the language I loved it so much that I installed the 
'real' Ruby and still use it for 90% of my automation and 
theory-test/rough-draft code even today. If you're interested in game 
design RMXP can help you play with Ruby while also exploring 2D graphics 
and general game-design concepts.

In terms of general advice in learning to program I'd say this:

*Sometimes you'll get frustrated.  This is to be expected.  You are 
training your brain to operate in a completely new way.  This requires 
complex processes to go on in there that take a certain amount of time 
to complete.  If you get upset or bewildered, take a half-hour nap or go 
make a sandwich.  When you return you will already be better equipped to 
understand.

*Don't expect to become a programmer overnight.  There's simply too much 
information to digest.  Expect it to take a few months to get a firm 
grasp on syntax and maybe even a couple years to really get good with 
your first language.  Don't be dismayed by that.  Enjoy the process.  It 
really sincerely is a fun process to go through if you don't come in 
with unreasonable expectations.

*Eventually you will find yourself crouched over a monitor in a dimly 
lit room with a small mountain of soda cans sitting next to you and a 
strange smell coming from somewhere.  You will realize that it is 2:30 
in the morning and that your personal hygiene has become sub-par.  Do 
not fear. This is the cusp of enlightenment.  Once you finish that 
script the sense of satisfaction you get from it will change you.  You 
will have become a true programmer.  There will be no going back from 
that point.  Now clean up your room and take a shower.  Honestly, some 
people...

*Ask for help when you need it!

*Always try for yourself first, though.

*Once you've got a few cool scripts running show them to more 
experienced programmers and ask for advice.  The things you learn can be 
surprising and add useful new viewpoints to your arsenal.

-- 
Posted via http://www.ruby-forum.com/.