I recently bought "Blueprint Crochet" by Robin Chachula. This book sets out to teach you how to read crochet symbols through detailed text, diagrams and funky projects.
I decided to start with the Madison scarf, using Colinette Point Zero in colour "Zebra" and a 5.5mm hook.
It's a mad combination! I admit it!
But it was also very forgiving of mistakes which don't show up in the busy-ness of black and white floral motifs. Just as well, because I found this quite a steep learning curve. I got a bit lost when the author pushed me a little bit too hard too fast to follow diagrams instead of relying solely on the text. And all the terminology was American (so a double crochet was what I would call a treble!) which tripped me up from time to time.
However, it is a great book for someone who already knows the basics of crochet, to push their creative limits a bit further. There are some small projects at the front, like the Julie Cuff, (pdf link to free pattern!) to get you going.
Deeper in, there are some very cool bolero patterns - one I really really like which looks like wrought iron (Katie Bolero) and a longer top based on unusual not-granny's-squares (Paige Sweetheart Top). Other things are not to my taste (a yellow crochet dress? Hmmm. Maybe not!) but I am excited enough by the whole concept to overlook the odd blooper.
Because lets face it - if I master the language of crochet symbols, the wonderful world of Japanese crochet patterns is opened up to me - wow! I can't wait!
Off to start another funky accessory.... and dream about making something bigger!