Go Build Your Own Boat!
I started out with the big books like Chapelle and Stewards. Being a complete novice that was a mistake. Ninety percent of the time I didn't really know what they were talking about. Harold Payson, however, takes you through the whole process from start to a finish in a very clear manner - without spending a 1000 words on the finer points of various fasteners (for example). You get the whole picture quickly - even if you want to design your own boat rather than just build to someone else's blue prints. If you are looking for your first book on building your own boat THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD START!