In the comments to my last post, Jason asked me what books I would recommend. I'm assuming he was referring to real estate investing books. That's actually a fairly tough question. I've been investing in real estate for 8 years now. I started out by reading a bunch of books, but looking back, I realize I've gained the majority of my knowledge from experience and from reading other people's experiences via blogs and forums on the internet.
But if I had to pick a couple books for a real estate investor newbie, I would pick these two:
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. This was the book that launched his empire and really, the only one of the series that is worth reading now. (The rest of the Rich Dad books start repeating the same stuff over and over) There are questions about how true his story is and if "Rich Dad" was one person or an amalgamation of multiple people, but that doesn't really matter. There are two things to take away from this book: the difference between passive and earned income and the idea of having your money work for you. (And those two are really the same thing, when you get right down to it.) The book is almost completely bereft of practical, step-by-step instructions for investing in real estate and that frustrates some people. But I look at this book as more of an inspirational book than an instruction manual. Nowadays, Kiyosaki has moved on and his preaching has changed quite a bit from when I followed him 7 to 8 years ago. Back then (and this was way back when he would give presentations wearing Hawaiian shirts instead of suits), his persona was that of a rich guy trying to help the poor masses think like and get rich like millionaires. The last time I looked at what he was doing, I got the sense he was just another massively wealthy guy trying to convince his followers the standard Republican Party line of lower taxes is always better.
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I wrote about this book previously and there is a chapter or two specifically about how to increase the price you get for selling a property by carefully wording your listing. The thing to take from this book is that people don't behave rationally and there are all sorts of cause and effect relationships between events that you might not expect.
You'll notice both those books were originally published several years ago. I've stopped reading real estate books, for the most part. I read a bunch in the past and came to the conclusion that books about real estate investing, almost by definition, have to be somewhat generic. You won't find a book with step-by-step guides on how to do it. This is mainly because real estate laws and procedures are different in each state. If you are interested in buying properties at foreclosure auctions, for example, the methods vary wildly from state to state. The standard real estate contract varies by state and you need to become familiar with what is in the contract used in your state (or state where you investment property is located).
This isn't to say I think my real estate education is complete. I simply find I get more value from following blogs and discussion forums on the internet than I do from books. I list the blogs I follow in the sidebar. I'd start there. See if you can find some blogs written by people in your state or area and follow them for a while. Learn from their mistakes. Ask questions. The reason people blog is because they want to share their knowledge and experiences. They are usually happy to answer questions (within reason, of course).
The corollary to the above, of course, is you have to be careful whose advice you take. Like all things on the internet, you have no idea of the person's true knowledge or experience level. You don't want to end up following a Casey Serin. So be a lurker for a while. I read forums and blogs for a year before I bought my first property. Keep your BS-detector finely tuned.
Of course, the quickest way to get an education in real estate investing is to buy some real estate. That's the quickest, but not necessarily the cheapest :-)