I've taught 3dsmax for 7 years. Ted Boardman's fundamentals books are good! I particularly like the old version 4 book (3ds Max 4 Fundamentals, Ted Boardman, New Riders Publishing) and you can buy it used at amazon for a few bucks. Another good one is 3ds Max Illuminated Foundation, Ryan Greene. Lastly, do the tutorials in the help section of Max - they are excellent as well. There is no need to buy the latest version books ($80+) when the old ones teach 90% of the exact same stuff for a fraction of the cost as long as you buy used at amazon or Barnes & Noble online. It is important to get the basics of modeling, lighting, texturing, and, animating down well before venturing off into the deep end.