The Art of SEO is exactly what I was hoping it would be... a dense, detailed exploration of the basics and best practices of SEO. As many starting SEOs know, there is lots of free information all over the web about various tactics, but the lack of a single comprehensive source to look something up in makes it occasionally frustrating trying to find the best tactic or to find a simple explanation of an SEO concept. That's why I wanted to buy a nice, thick book on the subject, in hopes that its authors and editors will have organized a comprehensive source to serve as both a learning tool and occasional reference guide, including a little bit of enlightening info about almost everything you can think of in the practice of SEO. This book accomplishes that, giving you advice that can be trusted, so you don't have to take the risk that a piece of info on some forum post is going to give you the right direction.
I bought this one because Rand Fishkin was involved as one of the authors... his video presentations and blog posts on SEOMoz, along with the rest of that site's contributers, already represent the most central and credible source of good SEO info on the web. The book follows suit in presenting clear explanations, and solid tactical advice on hundreds of areas, with just enough detail to help you talk like an expert, without bogging you down in trivia or tech-ese. A complete beginner might want to start with a more introductory text, or just stick to the web for awhile with the free stuff, as this book does presume a certain degree of knowledge. But if you know a little SEO and are web-savvy, this book will become your right-hand SEO guide.
One complaint that must be noted... the book's index is not nearly as complete as it should be - many terms that I just want to jump to and read about are not in the index. There is some amusing irony in the fact that a book about search is... uh... hard to search in. The Table of Contents makes up for this a bit, as it's relatively easy to scan that section and figure out where you need to go, but it would be better to have a more comprehensive index, because this is not a book you'd be likely to read cover to cover...it's more likely to be used again and again as ideas develop and questions arise. Maybe they will take care of that in subsequent editions, which will surely be necessary for a book covering a field that is constantly changing.
The Art of SEO is a thick, small-font reference guide covering everything that a quasi-professional or even current expert would want to have at hand, and the charts, tables, and resources are extensive and helpful. I don't expect the need to buy another book on SEO anytime soon, as this one gives me much to chew on.