That one was an eye-opener to me: Expert One-on-One J2EE Development without EJB
Author (Rod Johnson, a "Spring guy") has a distinct talent to clearly explain complicated matters. Coupled with his apparently enormous experience, it makes a killer mix that forced me to literally swallow the book - page by page, chapter by chapter. First five chapters were simply fascinating reading.
Chapters 6 through 15 cover a broad range of enterprise software technologies, practices and frameworks. AOP and DAO sections were particularly helpful. Web Tier chapter turned out rather difficult to read; it felt more heavyweight compared to the rest of the book. Testing and Testability chapter is excellent, it certainly shed some light on why author was as successful in leading Spring development.
Two closing chapters (Sample App and Conclusion) make a powerful coda to this middleware symphony, reinforcing opening theme of superiority of clean object oriented design.
Reading 'Last Words' brought back memories of listening to Beethoven's Ode to Joy (btw author's bio mentions that he's got a degree in Musicology)
"...We believe not only that J2EE development should be much simpler
than the mixture of drudgery and complexity it's often made out to be,
but that developing J2EE applications should be fun.
We hope you've enjoyed reading this book as much as we enjoyed
writing it. We hope that after reading it you'll be familiar with the
architectural alternatives to the traditional approach to J2EE
architecture. We encourage you to base your architectural choices on
evidence. While we hope we've been persuasive, don't take our word
without proof. Before committing to an application architecture,
verify that whatever approach you choose delivers on the goals for
your project. And have fun!"